Gridlock groove

Politics + Other Mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  October 31, 2012

Everything at the State House is about to come to a halt.

By "everything," I don't mean bickering, insults, and libelous accusations concerning lurid connections between the opposition's alleged exercise regimen and its members' sex lives.

That'll continue as usual.

What's going to vanish is any possibility the Maine Legislature will pass meaningful legislation.

The state representatives and senators we'll be electing on November 6 may have all kinds of ideas for bettering the economy, the schools, the environment, the business climate, the tax structure, and the regulation of hidden video cameras. But whether they're Democrats, Republicans, Greens, independents, or whatever weird sect Andrew Ian Dodge belongs to, all their proposals will be tossed in the recycling bin and re-pulped into high-quality stationery suitable for gubernatorial vetoes or court injunctions.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Since most new laws are a burden on society, there's considerable merit to anything that prevents them.

There's also the entertainment value. Nobody wants to watch a Legislature full of bipartisan goodwill, striving to achieve compromises that will benefit everyone.

Well, boring people like Eliot Cutler do. But most of us prefer chair-heaving, fist-throwing parliamentary bodies, such as Taiwan's, or debate aided by rocket-propelled grenades, as is the norm in Syria.

You want polite? Watch the Golf Channel.

But back to Maine and the new Legislature we'll be choosing next week. Chances are good the Democrats — in spite of having no clear agenda, no real leaders, and not enough voters north of Bangor to form a decent rugby scrum — will take control of at least one chamber, probably the House. That means the party of the ass will be in position to block any initiatives proposed by Republican Governor Paul LePage.

Meanwhile, the GOP — in spite of having blundered through the last two years, suffered through Charlie Webster as its spokesman, and achieved a lower level of popular support in southern Maine than the average Zumba instructor with an illegal sideline — is likely to retain its majority in the state Senate. That puts the party of pachyderms in position to thwart Dem efforts to reverse what little Republicans were able to achieve since 2010.

Having the Democrats running part of the Legislature also removes one of the few remaining restraints on LePage's tongue. Until now, his staff has (mostly) been able to keep him from criticizing the way legislators operated, because his own party was primarily responsible for making things work. Or not.

If the opposition takes over in the House, LePage can unleash his considerable reserve of vitriol on the Democrats for everything from being obstructionists to allowing the national anthem to be played off-key. Not only is that sort of verbal sandblasting useful for firing up his right-wing base ahead of the 2014 elections, it's also a sensible strategy for restoring GOP control.

Here's an example from ancient history.

In 1994, the electorate didn't seem to know what it wanted. It elected independent Angus King (I wonder whatever happened to him) as governor, allowed the Democrats to retain control of the House, and gave Republicans a narrow majority in the Senate.

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