LePage’s meltdown deflects from his own culpability


If you’re looking for worthwhile commentary on LePage in the broader context of race, Shay Stewart-Bouley has already expertly delved into this. You can read her recent posts here and here.

But this is one thing that’s been bothering me since last week’s meltdown.

What strikes me about each of these explosions is that no matter how terribly LePage comes off, the governor is still a pro when it comes to putting the opiate crisis in an inaccurate context that is beneficial to him. In other words, by relying on the racial and racist anxieties that exist in our primarily white state, LePage does a great job of separating the crisis from its history and context.

By evoking caricatures of black and brown invaders, LePage succeeds by erasing the fact that this crisis is the logical conclusion of the absolutist anti-regulation policies fetishized by the Tea Party—the “movement” largely responsible for his win. He distracts from the fact that much of the blame for the crisis we know today is on pharmaceutical companies [namely Purdue Pharma] that both lied about the addictive properties of their drugs and took advantage of otherwise unregulated prescription markets in the 1990s and 2000s (in the age before monitoring programs). The present crisis is built upon a foundation of OxyContin abuse, made possible by “white collar” criminals. The eventual dependency on the drug, and the elicit market creation built upon it, helped to hook and prop up entire regions gutted by economic crisis, the largest of which—the so-called Great Recession—owed a great deal to fetishes for total deregulation in exchange for “self-regulation.” None of this is to mention that “tough on crime” attitudes, which LePage has pushed for heavily to date, are notoriously unhelpful in the context of connecting addicts with the treatment they need.

(For an amazing and eye-opening background on the crisis, it’s relationship to the rise of OxyContin, and many of the other themes here, Sam Quinones’ Dreamland is an absolute must read.)

The crisis is the logical conclusion of the Tea Party’s vision of America, which is not surprising when you consider that the so-called movement was not a movement at all, but a corporatist front group masquerading as grass roots activists.

Which somehow makes the already vile and ridiculous racist (not “racial”) barbs worse. The vision that LePage endorsed, embraced and ran on, the one that helped to make his career possible, is part in parcel with the philosophies and approaches that helped to make possible and accelerate the crisis we know today. Instead of taking responsibility for that (I won’t hold my breath), he has repeatedly deflected the responsibility to anecdotal people of color, using language that makes being here more dangerous for them. He has then justified these meltdowns by suggesting that being acknowledged as racist is as bad as being on the receiving end of racism. And we millennials are pummeled for our supposedly paper thin skin.

This is next level white supremacy. LePage shouldn’t resign; he should be impeached. Overt, out-of-the-way, deflective, and politically opportunistic racism is unacceptable, especially in 2016. And shame on the complicit and spineless GOP for deciding to not even humor holding him accountable.

IMAGE CREDIT: BDN file by Ashley Conti.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.