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Post by T on Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:16 am

If I were a Republican . . .
By Bob Neal, The Countryman - February 18, 2018

When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, George Will, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, wrote that Reagan had won because Republicans had ideas and Democrats had none.

That column was a dope slap. I had thought of Republicans as stick-in-the-mud do-littles and Democrats as people who thought up ideas, workable and not. But as I mulled Will’s column, I realized that he was right. I didn’t like all the ideas, but the Republicans at least had some. Smaller government, accountability, self-sufficiency for those capable of it, American leadership, personal responsibility, lower taxes. Democrats, in the meantime, seemed mostly mired in their one idea, find a problem and throw money at it.

Thirty-seven years later, Republicans, too, have run out of ideas about governing and have stuck their sticks back in the mud. If I were a Republican, I’d be angry as hell.

A few Republicans still mouth the Reagan litany, but most wouldn’t let him or his ideas in the door. He was too liberal, or too willing to compromise on the un-Republican idea that half a loaf is better than no loaf. I grew up poor, so I’m familiar with sandwiches made with no loaf. I’ll take half a loaf, thanks.

Look at Maine. In 2010, Paul LePage came into office with Republicans controlling the Legislature, 78-71 in the House and 19-15 in the Senate. And an achievable agenda.

Now, says I the Republican, we can get to the important issues of the day in Maine. Reduce the nearly highest-in-the-nation income tax rate for the middle class. Reinvest in infrastructure, so folks can have jobs, rather than drawing maintenance entitlements. Drain the swamp at the Department of Health and Human Services. Fix an education system that had fallen from when Maine’s fourth-graders topped the nation in math (1993) to less than an also ran. Welcome business in Maine, which has a well-justified reputation as a lousy place (some studies say second worst in America) to do business.

LePage got a bit of his agenda through. Top income-tax rates fell a tad. He paid hospitals the debt the Baldacci administration had left, and hospitals are an important piece of infrastructure. Then, he tripped over his own tongue. He began picking fights with the Legislature, going after Republicans and Democrats alike. He wouldn’t deliver the state-of-the-state address, sending a letter instead. He forbid administrators to testify to the Legislature. He said dirty words in public, setting a fine example for youngsters. Not that kids didn’t already know from school how a bully acts.

His ideas for fixing the DHHS turned out to be, basically, to tinker with EBT (food stamps) in a move that the feds, who send the EBT money, said was illegal and to spend other federal money for purposes not intended by the donors.

His major education reform, putting teachers on a statewide contract paid by the state to stifle competition for teaching talent among school districts, went nowhere. It was a hard sell, at best, because the teachers’ union opposes it. But he never really tried.

LePage hung out signs declaring Maine “Open for Business.” But when a Norwegian company tried to set up a wind-power business in Maine, the business-friendly guv kiboshed it. He has done all he can to block energy diversity, an area in which Maine could thrive because of our hydro, wind and solar resources. And where is the broadband internet service that would boost all businesses in Maine?

A few Maine Republicans have stood up to LePage and continue to press for doable conservative reform, among them three senators: Roger Katz (Kennebec), Tom Saviello (Franklin) and Michael Thibodeau (Waldo). In the House, the guv’s toad, Ken Fredette of Newport, has forged a coalition that upholds many LePage vetoes.

LePage is not the only reason I would be angry as hell if I were a Republican. The national Republican Party started dipping its toes in the toilet years ago. When Trump emerged to lead them, they jumped to his command.

From 2015, when most GOP leaders found Trump laughable and said so until 2017, when Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, said the tax bill Congress passed in December, “could not have” happened “without exquisite presidential leadership,” federal Republicans have sold their souls.

It doesn’t matter whether the issue is Trump or Trumpism. Either way, the Republican in me would be angry as hell. Trump has destroyed what used to be the Grand Old Party. Except for tax cuts for the rich, he has shredded the GOP program. Michael Gerson, a conservative columnist at the Washington Post and a former staffer for George W. Bush, wrote this week that, “Trump is a figure of monumental smallness.”

The only Republicans in Congress to challenge Trump publicly fell on their swords to do so. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona blasted Trump (or Trumpism) in announcing their retirement. Sen. John McCain, whose brain cancer has kept him away from the Senate lately, remains among the few sane voices in Washington.

Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes write in the Atlantic for March that Trump’s two greatest sins against America are that he undermines the independence of our justice system and that he encourages enemies to interfere in our affairs. Moderate conservatives both, Rauch and Wittes urge Americans to vote only for Democrats in 2018 so the lap dogs pay a steep price for lining up (on their knees) behind Trump.

I’m with them. In 2018, I will not support any candidate of either party — realistically, that means only Republicans — who does not renounce Trump. I am that angry at my former party.

Bob Neal was enrolled Republican from 2006 until Trump. He is now unenrolled.

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