Editorial: Resonance

Posted Monday, July 7, 2014 in Opinion

Editorial: Resonance

In politics, and to a lesser extent in life, a throw-away moment resonates. It might not seem like a big deal at the time; it might seem like some flak made a mistake (and usually falls on his or her sword immediately after). But even though the party thinks it can explain it, even though somebody other than the candidate took the blame, it doesn’t go away.

We can all think of those moments. Muskie crying in the cold New Hampshire night; Mondale saying that he would raise taxes (but so would his opponent); McCain seemingly forgetting how many homes he owned; Bush pere not knowing that groceries were totted up by scanners nowadays; Romney’s 47 percent talk to his 1 percent base. 

Things like that resonate and refuse to go away because they validate and confirm what people were already thinking about the candidate. Muskie is too emotional. McCain is not only out of touch, he’s really too old. Romney doesn’t care about the poor. 

The person with the strongest resonance usually loses.

LePage is having such a resonance now. It doesn’t matter that it’s Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance who brought it to light, although the apologists are trying to make the fellow traveler argument. Mike’s not running for anything. LePage is.

LePage’s resonance goes like this. 

LePage says and does some pretty outrageous things. Those things kind of upset people who aren’t apologists for LePage or members of a small minority of supporters who think that his “plain speaking” — read, “plain rudeness” — is just dandy, and who glory in his seeming inability to at least attempt to play a statesman on TV. 

Everyone else, though, is suitably appalled and embarrassed for LePage and for Maine when he makes comments that make rational folks wince. 

Last week’s brouhaha is over LePage’s meetings with an anti-government group that is tied in some way to a national extremist group that has done real violence. Maine’s aging little guys probably aren’t any sort of actual danger to the public, but their nastier brothers elsewhere have shot police officers, blown up federal buildings killing hundreds of people, and taken millions of dollars fraudulently. That brouhaha is resonating. Loudly. 

Our Constitutional Coalition guys are probably just talk, but you never know. 

And LePage is probably just talk, too, but you never know. Back in May, LePage received a memo from these guys about the “1776 and 1865 options” (1865 is the year Lincoln was assassinated). On the same day, he quipped, in response to being told that he couldn’t have a television that displayed messages outside of his office, and that he was not welcome to bloviate at a committee hearing that was about to adjourn, “The minute we start stifling our speech, we might as well go home, roll up our sleeves, and get our guns out.”

Just like they did in 1776, and another tiny, seemingly inoffensive group of little men did in 1865.

Sic semper tyrannis, folks.

Again, we’re pretty sure it’s just talk.

But it resonates because, well, what if it isn’t?

LePage has “quipped” about anal rape; he’s compared the IRS to the Gestapo; he publicly told the President of the United States he could go to hell. He called state workers “corrupt.” He’s called seniors on Social Security and towns expecting their share of revenue sharing “welfare recipients.”

LePage is getting resonance on this because people already think he’s more than a little unstable. That’s not Mike Tipping’s fault; it’s not the greater media’s fault. It’s not Adrienne Bennett’s fault for not being able to go back in time and erase some of LePage’s comments.

Only one person caused the vibrations that created this resonance, and it’s Paul LePage. He needs to own it.


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