Get your popcorn ready. We’re about to witness an extraordinary performance of political acrobatics in Augusta, as the two parties fly through the air, somersaulting over their past positions on taxes.

All because of Gov. LePage’s tax reform package, which is causing plenty of restless nights for legislators in both parties.

There’s a short period of time after every election when the victors, buoyed by the voters’ support, tend to believe that they are not only adored, but also invincible. Then they walk straight into the incoming fire. Those moments produce a mix of bold initiatives, bad ideas and poor execution. We’ll soon know which this is.

If LePage succeeds in doing something that past governors from both parties have been unable to do, his reputation as a “change agent” will be solidified. If not, he’ll be reduced to talking about welfare and immigrants, having expended most of his political capital.

LePage’s challenges are formidable. In order to achieve his goal of lowering income taxes by raising sales taxes and making larger nonprofits pay property taxes, he has to persuade Republicans to abandon their long-standing resistance to any new taxes. Then he has to convince Democrats not to oppose the ideas they promoted four years ago, which were killed by Republicans.

Let’s start with the first problem. Republicans have spent decades arguing against tax increases of any kind. Most of that posturing is really about protecting the rich and powerful from any distress, without having to say so. Still, it’s become the rhetorical glue of the party.

Now they have a recently elected, true-red conservative telling them to forget all that “no taxes” nonsense in favor of a “smarter taxes” strategy to lower income taxes.

LePage’s initiative perfectly illustrates the limits of the “no taxes” position, which are imposed by simple math and common sense. Unless you can reduce government to the point where it will fit into a teacup – a wistful but irrelevant daydream of many conservatives – you can’t get meaningful income-tax reductions without adding taxes somewhere else. Given that many Republicans came to power by opposing all taxes, that’s going to be a tough sell.

It doesn’t get easier from there. LePage also has to bring along at least some Democrats if he expects to withstand the onslaught of attacks from people who want to protect the status quo.

Here, LePage has three problems of his own making.

 First, he isn’t particularly adept at reaching across the aisle, being a “my-way-or-the-highway” guy. That style will get you small victories, when the deck tilts in your direction, but it seldom produces lasting systemic changes.

 The second problem is that he’s spent the last four years hurling insults at Democrats, who, like most people, don’t usually respond to such things by rushing toward you with outstretched arms and warm hugs.

 Finally, and because of those two other things, Democrats are hardly in the mood to see LePage succeed, especially if they get little of the credit.

None of this is easy for Democrats, either. Despite having proposed many of the same ideas four years ago, Democrats are gearing up in opposition, locking arms with legions of beleaguered interests, including hospitals paying million-dollar salaries to their top execs but paying no taxes to support the police officers and firefighters in their local communities.

Some Democrats have predictably dusted off the “tax cuts for the rich” argument, which seems to be a staple of opposition to any across-the-board tax cut. If you follow their logic far enough, it leads you to deny tax cuts for working people in order to punish millionaires. Nevermind that they get the same percentage cut: The actual dollars aren’t the same!

Using math in that way would get a kid a stern lecture in grade school.

The absurdity of the argument can be best seen when put in another context, outside of government. Imagine that you and I were rushing to Mardens because they’re having a big sale, with everything in the store 10 percent off. You spend $200 and get $20 off. I spend $100 and get a measly 10 bucks back.

Angered by the injustice of it all, I immediately begin picketing the store for favoring the rich.

What a show this is going to be.

Republicans are being asked to support ideas they once opposed, and Democrats are arming themselves to oppose ideas they recently supported. Both sides will naturally say they’re nobly fighting for the little guy.

Meanwhile, real tax reductions for middle-class and working Mainers will almost surely be trampled during the show.

Alan Caron is a partner in the strategic consulting firm of Caron and Egan. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]