What is it about the Republican Party? Every time the Grand Old Party gets its chance to lead, it jinxes itself, seemingly destined to repeat old mistakes and to blow new chances.

Here in Maine, it turns out that I witnessed a preview six years ago, when I first met then-mayor of Waterville Paul LePage. While working with him, I found him stubborn, but personable; I liked him. We found much agreement on major issues, but it was obvious early on that the campaign for governor would be exclusively his, and that those who disagreed with him on the conduct of the campaign would always lose the argument. I decided to leave his campaign team early, and I’m sure that LePage simply considered me disloyal.

Describing himself as “Front Page LePage,” he bragged about how he ruled the Waterville City Council by simply vetoing everything. Little did I know how prescient my political consulting experience with him would turn out to be.

It all seems familiar now: the stubborn dismissal of helpful advice, the record number of (unsuccessful) vetoes of everything, the derisive, bombastic, embarrassing front-page rhetoric (attracting national attention) and punishment for those whom LePage felt were disloyal to him. A leopard unable to change its spots.

The governor has displayed for all to see an unfortunate personality that has managed to wound the Maine Republican Party. He has divided the party to the point that even Lance Dutson, the Republican pro, who was dispatched to Maine by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins during LePage’s first election campaign, has all but given up on him. Dutson helped save LePage’s faltering first campaign. If the governor has lost people like Dutson, the schism is complete and the Maine Republican Party’s future becomes ominous.

Because of the governor’s lack of judgment, we await the outcome of an investigation into whether he has used his position illegally to visit retribution on his political enemies, even to the point of costing one his new civilian job.

Impeachment is discussed openly, although I hope that doesn’t happen. LePage is a man of faith with a devoted family, and he does love his state and country. He is just incapable of making the transformation from Lewiston brawler to Maine’s chief executive.

I supported LePage’s first election and accurately predicted both LePage victories at the polls, so I find no satisfaction that what I sensed about the man’s personality in 2009 has all come to pass.

The Republican-controlled Senate has done an excellent job, but LePage is forfeiting everything by his personal actions, including insulting constituents, and is spoiling chances for welfare reform and income tax relief — his major goals.

On the major issues, LePage is a true conservative governor, therefore his unwillingness to conduct himself civilly is a terrible waste for a political party and a state that needs a governor who will stand against the progressive-liberal rising tide.

LePage’s hope and promise have been wasted. That is a tragedy. The governor has become a wounded warrior, suffering self-inflicted wounds, from which he and the Maine Republican Party may not recover.

What a shame that the slogan of promise, “People before politics,” has given way to, “It’s all about me.” Voters gave LePage an opportunity, twice. Each time it has been squandered.

A great personal story has become a political tragedy, and I am truly sorry.

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

On the national stage, the Republican race for president is led by least-likely candidate Donald Trump, who threatens to rip the national party apart. “The Donald” daily attacks one of his fellow Republicans with the worst vitriol imaginable. Even a war hero like John McCain hasn’t escaped his angry campaign.

Then there’s tea party Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas calling Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

To make matters worse, Jeb Bush approves transgender Americans for military service.

So far, 16 Republicans have announced their intentions to seek the GOP nomination for president. The winnowing process begins on Thursday with the first debates on the Fox network.

Given our faltering economic conditions, extreme weakness on national defense, lax border security leading to burgeoning illegal immigration, lack of support for law enforcement and our police, along with the drift of immorality in America, it is imperative that the next president be conservative and tough.

Hillary Clinton, one of the most vulnerable Democrat candidates for president in some time, watches and waits for the Republicans to self-destruct.

Will past be prologue, again?

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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