Elections have consequences

In this column, I’ve been writing an awful lot about what the new administration of Gov. Janet Mills and her allies in the Legislature have been doing.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the foolish financial decisions being made in Augusta, highlighting the fact that those decisions will likely cause tax increases, and at the very least are necessitating the preservation of Maine’s already absurdly high tax burden.

Before that I wrote about the grotesque decision by Mills and legislative Democrats to pursue taxpayer-funded abortions in Maine, thereby forcing people who believe that abortion is a barbaric practice to actually underwrite said barbarism.

Prior to that, I highlighted the bloated nature of Mills’ budget, and the arrogance of certain members of the Legislature in their attitude toward people — like me — who would like to see some of Maine’s record-breaking revenue go toward tax relief.

Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a May 6 event in the State House. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Then there was the time I talked about the lack of wisdom in the proposal for changing Maine’s system of awarding electoral votes toward one that gives them to the winner of the national popular vote, thereby surrendering Maine’s influence and hastening us toward mobocracy.

And, of course, who could forget the time I called Mills’ budget a “reckless orgy of spending.”

These complaints of mine are certainly not all that there is to complain about in Augusta. Vaccine bills, throwing away Columbus Day, instituting a massive new government entitlement, ending common sense welfare reforms, and any one of hundreds of ideas that cause me to rip the remaining bit of my hair out.

Everywhere you look, you see the newly empowered governor and her majorities in the Maine House and Senate rigging the system to benefit the electoral prospects of Democrats, funding special pet projects and favored interest groups, and recklessly spending money at an almost incomprehensible clip. The list is endless.

What don’t you see? A focus on jobs and the economy. Fiscal restraint and responsibility. Reform of government. Tax reform. Limits placed on the role of government in our lives.

And each and every one of those things was predictable. Indeed, the Democrats told you that they wanted to do all of this. This isn’t a surprise.

Yet, it seems a surprise to many. The level, even among some Republicans, of bewilderment that is present in Maine as we all watch the aggressiveness with which this radical agenda is being pursued is off the charts.

Indeed, even a lot of moderates and independents seem surprised. They wanted to turn the page on former Gov. Paul LePage, in some ways, and so they turned to those who opposed him. Yet in many instances they did so without fully grasping what those people wanted to turn this state into.

People may have had LePage fatigue, but as somebody who has actually polled on the issues facing Mainers, most of the LePage legacy was, and remains, popular. People support taxes being lower. Reforming welfare was perhaps the most popular thing he ever did. Most people believe in controlling spending and living within our means as a state. Making Maine more friendly for business is something we generally all support.

So why did we turn our backs on all of that, and turn to those who believe in none of it and actively seek to raise taxes, loosen restrictions on welfare, spend indiscriminately with no mind toward the future, and hamper business growth?

Was it because they think we should give up our electoral votes, spend taxpayer dollars on abortions, and spend ourselves into oblivion?  No, of course not. Mainers voted for what they perceived as new and different, even if it was neither.

You have to hand it to the Democrats, though. They understand that this is an opportunity that is fleeting and unlikely to come again for a long time, and so they are making the most of it. They are passing as much of the liberal wish list as humanly possible in this session, because they know the pendulum swings back, and this moment will be gone.

It is a lesson I wish Republicans had understood when they took unchallenged control of government in 2011. Back then I kept hearing the same thing: “We need to prove we deserve to govern. We need to be cautious. Careful. Fair. We can’t go too far, too fast.”

As a result, they took a pass on their only real chance to make permanent, lasting, and wholesale change. And they lost the next election anyway.

When that pendulum does swing back and they get that chance again, I hope they remember these two years, and learn by example. Elections have consequences.

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.