2013-11-08 / Columns

Politics & other Mistakes

Can this marriage be saved?
By Al Diamon

“If you vote for Paul LePage,” my wife said in that carefully restrained voice she uses whenever I’m in big trouble, “I will divorce you.”

My wife is not fond of the Republican governor, his conservative agenda nor his Tea Party style. She can’t understand why, with a year to go before the next gubernatorial election, I would even consider casting a ballot for LePage.

“I’m not kidding,” she added in a tone that conveyed the distinct impression she wasn’t kidding.

What had I done to cause my spouse – who normally regards my many foibles much the way Mainers regard inclement weather, as an unalterable fact of life – to throw down such an ultimatum? It’s not as if I showed up at the breakfast table one morning wearing a T-shirt that proclaimed “LePage in 2014: We Know He’s Awful, But Have You Looked At The Alternatives?”

Although, it is pretty close.

What I actually said was, “Considering who else is running, it’s not out of the question that I could vote for that boob.”

That’s not as if I committed adultery or something.

To set the record straight, it’s unlikely I’ll be voting for LePage in next year’s election. Given the choices we’re being offered right now, it’s a better bet that I’ll do what I did in 2006 and 2010: waste my ballot on some no-chance-of-winning minor candidate or leave that section blank. My wife has conceded that either of those alternatives would be suffi- cient for her to rescind her threat of leaving me, although I’d still have to sleep in the guest bedroom for a month or two.

Where my wife and I differ is that I think much of LePage’s basic agenda is sensible. State government is too big and too expensive. Taxes are too high.

The costs of programs such as Medicaid are growing at an unsustainable rate. We have an excessive amount of debt. Decades of over-regulation have made it tough for businesses to function.

Our schools spend too much for too little return. And the administrations of previous governors, notably independent Angus King and Democrat John Baldacci, have ignored these problems to the point where they threaten our economic future.

My wife has a different view of these issues. Which is: She thinks LePage is a “pig.”

That’s way worse than a boob.

Any attempt at debating the merits of my concerns has tended to revive discussions of unpleasant topics such as the division of community assets (“You get the taxidermy and that Mason jar full of Malibu Barbie heads, and I get everything else”). Consequently, when in my wife’s presence, I tend not to mention that both of LePage’s announced opponents, independent Eliot Cutler and Democrat Mike Michaud, are running on platforms that basically call for returning Maine to the old way of operating, wherein difficult issues are either dealt with through unworkable solutions (school consolidation, jail consolidation) or ignored (hospital debt, retirement system debt).

I wouldn’t even consider bringing this subject up with my life partner, but since LePage first announced his candidacy four years ago, he’s been consistent in most of his positions to the point of bull-headedness.

Meanwhile, Cutler has taken no stands on many important issues (funding jails, rolling back environmental regulations), squishy stands on lots of others (health care, economic development) and changeable stands on a few others (raising the minimum wage).

Michaud has spent the past few months furiously backtracking on his decades-long opposition to abortion and gun control, while offering exactly no fresh ideas on how he’d confront the major issues facing the state.

There’s no question that both Cutler and Michaud would do a better job of handling the politics of governing. They wouldn’t arbitrarily alienate members of legislative leadership by suggesting those esteemed officials preferred their sex rough.

They wouldn’t habitually make outrageous and/or erroneous statements and afterwards claim they were only joking. They’d know better than to take vacations during legislative sessions. But are mere displays of an adeptness for public relations suffi- cient to convince me to choose one of these weasels over the incumbent pig?

If I want to stay married, they are.

LePage may have been right about many of the issues confronting Maine, but he’s done a lousy job of actually governing. Which, as the name implies, is sort of a governor’s principal responsibility.

Cutler and Michaud may be correct in asserting that they’d be better at managing the state’s affairs, but their carefully rehearsed vagueness about how they’d make the tough calls causes me to wonder if they’d make them at all.

We don’t need four more years of bumbling in the Blaine House, but we also don’t need somebody who pretends everything will magically work itself out. Which was the platform of both Cutler and Democrat Libby Mitchell in 2010.

Even so, my wife voted for Mitchell.

Maybe I should have threatened to leave her.

Advice on maintaining marital bliss can be emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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