For a democracy to work effectively, it must have a civil and respectful public discourse.

When it does not, it becomes ineffective, as we have seen over the last few years in both Washington and Augusta. People want to see a spirited and articulate debate about the issues that concern them. Instead what they have been getting is a tsunami of finger-pointing, name-calling and a degree of polarization that is unprecedented in recent memory.

Gov. Paul LePage began his term of office with his arbitrary and provocative removal of the murals depicting the history of the labor movement in Maine, followed by his “kiss my butt” comment to the NAACP and continued with his condescending and malicious remarks about the leadership of the state Senate.

By his actions, he has made it clear that he is more interested in smash mouth, adversarial politics than in any genuine effort to address Maine’s problems in a cooperative and bipartisan fashion.

Now, the governor has established a new low-water mark for himself by suggesting that Sen. Troy Jackson “is the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.” When told that some people might be offended by his comment, LePage said, “Good” because he had “been taking it for two years.”

It is astounding that the governor of Maine, with its long and illustrious history of producing leaders like Joshua Chamberlain, Edmund Muskie, Olympia Snowe and many others, would use a phrase alluding to sexual assault in a public comment about a political opponent.

Surely this must be the breaking point. The people of Maine can no longer go on thinking of their governor as anything but a crude and mean-spirited bully.

Our state, its people and its reputation deserve better.

Rist Bonnefond

Fayette