Total recall? Just wait for the next election

So we can all agree that the far left dream of impeaching the governor was a tremendous waste of time, right?

Good. Because it was.

And the irony of the entire charade was that it basically amounted to political retribution against a politician some members of the Legislature did not like, for the crime of allegedly engaging in…political retribution against a politician that the governor didn’t like.

A rally supporting the impeachment of Gov. Paul LePage at the Maine State House earlier this month. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

A rally supporting the impeachment of Gov. Paul LePage at the Maine State House earlier this month. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

But the ridiculous is not over, friends.

In the wake of impeachment’s failure, Rep. Justin Chenette (among others) have called for the institution of a recall process in Maine, whereby the people of the state could essentially vote to kick out of office an elected official they recently voted in before the expiration of his or her term of office.

“Establishing a recall process for any elected official, the governor included, is the best way to get the public to hold government more accountable without disrupting the important work taking place,” said Chenette in a statement.

But don’t let Mr. Chenette’s calls for accountability fool you. Recalls are an unmitigated disaster and serve absolutely no purpose aside from arming political leaders with yet another tool to engage in partisan recrimination and threats, grind government to a halt, and make an already absurd level of partisan bickering worse.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a tad sensitive to the issue of recalls. I happened to witness firsthand the disgusting, shameful farce that was the 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, when union interests and liberal Democrats foaming at the mouth with anger tried to oust Gov. Scott Walker.

That anger wasn’t for abuse of power or criminal activities. It was for pushing forward with a political agenda they disagreed with.

You likely remember this period of time. Labor protests. An occupation of Wisconsin’s state house. Attempts to recall judges who upheld Walker’s policy agenda. Attempts to recall state senators who supported Walker’s policy agenda. It was pure chaos.

I was working at the Republican Governors Association, and the fight to defend Walker was basically a holy mission for us. We put basically everything we had into helping Walker beat the effort to recall him, and my experience in that fight taught me that recalls are poison to the political process.

Proponents, like Chenette, will tell you that it is an important mechanism for holding elected officials accountable. If they engage in behavior detrimental to the state (according to whomever is doing the recalling) the process can give the people a chance to kick that person out of office.

But there are two ways of kicking someone out of office already.

The first is at the next election. If you don’t like what a person or political party is doing in office, you are afforded an opportunity to think better of it and throw them (or their political successors) out of office in favor of somebody who would be, in your estimation, better. If you lose that election, then clearly your fellow citizens do not agree that the person or party in question was harmful to the citizens they represented in office.

The other, which Democrats just tried (and failed) to use, is impeachment. If, for instance, a governor or other elected official is corrupt or engaging in criminal activity (or a variety of other standards below that), the people of the Legislature can remove that person from office in punishment for their transgressions. That protects the people of a state (or other jurisdictions) from criminal behavior, and the elective process allows them to reconsider after a term of office and hand power to someone else.

Injecting a recall into the mix basically gives political enemies the power to attack a leader they do not like and forces them to prematurely run for re-election, making a “term of office” completely meaningless.

The Wisconsin recall cost tens of millions of dollars on each side, led to widespread political recrimination and bitterness, forced the people of Wisconsin to live in a state of constant electoral uncertainty, and empowered future angry partisans to seek retribution for political disagreements in the future.

Is that what Maine needs? More partisanship? More bitterness? More elections? More money being spent on attack ads on your television? All when there are already mechanisms to defeat political leaders that step over the line?

I’m sorry, but no.

If you don’t like Gov. LePage, either impeach and remove him — which you clearly failed to do when it was attempted — or wait your turn at the next election and explain to the people of Maine why a liberal Democrat would be a better option.

Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.