Trump, LePage personal style undermines good government

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican moderate, supports Sen. Jeff Sessions, a GOP conservative, for appointment as U.S. Attorney-General, even though she and Sessions disagree on some key issues.

Some Democratic senators, who would not vote to confirm him, say Sessions is a decent and courteous man who keeps his word. That’s praise from the opposition and indicates he will take office without great difficulty.

The Sessions situation reveals one of the most basic truths of American politics today. Voters want their governments, at all levels, to work and produce positive results. They give Congress extremely negative ratings, because it is tied up in partisan wrangling and fails to make needed decisions.

When elected officials adopt a cooperative attitude, the likelihood increases of government acting for the public good. By refraining from a outright hostility to Sessions, Democrats improve their chances of at least getting him to listen to their concerns on issues that come along during his term.

Politicians are people. Insulting them makes it more difficult to get them to consider your views or make concessions to you later. They may hold a grudge or simply ignore you. Your original insult and your current concern might deal with entirely different issues, but you may pay for having been offensive.

Trump should learn from Obama’s Affordable Care Act experience. That landmark legislation, was passed without a single Republican vote and by using a parliamentary gimmick. The GOP will now use the same gimmick in their attempt to gut the ACA.

Obama did not need GOP support, just as Trump will not need Democratic support. But, by spurning any accommodation with Republicans, Obama lost the possibility of their future help in improving the ACA. If fact, he handed the Republicans a campaign issue, forcing him to defend a flawed law.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell had made a statement suggesting his Republicans would do everything to bring about Obama’s re-election defeat, which may be what undermined any chance of bipartisan cooperation on the ACA.

If Obama had stepped back and allowed some Republicans to amend the original legislation, the ACA might have been open to bipartisan efforts to fix its problems. Now we can see if Trump and the GOP do better.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the U.S. Senate, recently said his party would cooperate with President Trump, provided the president adopted the Democrats’ proposals. That is hardly the path to producing positive results.

Trump, who clearly marches to his own drummer, has the opportunity to bypass partisan posturing that prevents compromise. But he needs to stop launching personal attacks, be consistent and stick to the facts, and start dealing with Democrats.

Much the same is true for Gov. LePage. Like Trump, who resorts reflexively to Twitter to vent, LePage does not always keep a lid on his feelings toward his political opposition. Like the incoming president, he may resort to name calling or attacks on what he believes to be the motives of others, especially Democratic leaders.

Not only do his words make it less likely the opposition will cooperate with him, but it drives such a deep wedge between him and others that the government itself may sputter along rather than functioning well. He denies himself the chance for true leadership, when his bludgeon doesn’t work.

While Trump remains to be tested, it is quite possible to see the disadvantages for LePage. He makes some serious proposals meriting consideration, but gets in his own way if he attacks the views and motives of others. Governing is not an I-win-you-lose game; it is serving the people by good public policy.

LePage, governor of the poorest New England state, understandably wants to keep electric rates down by limiting their use to subsidize renewables. That’s reasonable and deserves consideration by both the governor, concerned about rates, and politicians protective of the environment.

Some of his tax reform proposals are in line with serious thinking about tax policy. Increase the items covered by the sales tax, because there’s no proof that would lower sales. Reduce top income tax rates that discourage investment in Maine.

The governor throws issues to the Legislature and then resorts to something like open warfare to get his proposals adopted. To their credit, both parties struggle to find solutions, often inspired by his proposals, but yielding less than he wants. He needs to be involved in the negotiations and to compromise.

Success in the political process, so desperately desired by voters, can only be achieved if leaders’ attitudes change.

Gordon L. Weil

About Gordon L. Weil

Gordon L. Weil is a former local, state, national and international organization official. He is an author and newspaper columnist.