A remarkable outpouring of letters to the editor have appeared across the state recently, from Mainers and outsiders alike. They’ve been part of a outcry of disgust, frustration and anger at Gov. Paul LePage’s latest offensive behavior.

In a sense, those letters – and the chatter you hear about the governor almost everywhere you go – signal a turning point for LePage. He still has the support of a core of conservative activists. But he’s lost the public as a whole.

One particularly surprising letter was from a prominent leader of a chamber of commerce in southern Maine. Normally you’d expect the head of a business organization to defend a Republican governor and his policies of lower taxes and creating a business-friendly environment. But in yet another indicator of LePage’s fall, this writer took the governor to task for hurting our economy with his words.

Other letters have been from former Mainers or from people who have visited Maine in the past. They’ve each expressed, in their own way, a profound sense of affection for Maine, mixed with bewilderment at how we could have elected a man who is so obviously profane and – let’s be polite about this – ill-informed.

Many of those writers confirmed two things that some of us have been saying for years. The first now seems obvious: LePage is a troubled man who is way over his head in the job of governor. The other hasn’t been as easy to see but should be of greater concern to all of us.

LePage, as with any governor, is our voice to the world. He’s our cheerleader, lead salesman and chief negotiator. In a very real sense, how a governor presents himself goes far beyond internal politics and clashes between parties. It goes to the heart of all of our efforts to grow a new prosperity in Maine.

LePage has begun to personify Maine to the nation. He’s replacing our brand of wholesomeness, honesty and welcoming good nature with something that makes us look like a place defined by hatred, bigotry and stupidity.

When LePage embarrasses himself, he is also damaging our reputation across the country and the world. That is particularly significant in a state that is dependent on tourism, and it inevitably weakens our already-fragile economy.

It wasn’t so long ago that Mainers could take great and justified pride in the leaders we elevated and presented to the nation: Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell, Bill Cohen, Olympia Snowe. Even when we didn’t agree on all issues, they and countless others served us with distinction, character and honesty.

None of them got his or her ideas from fringe groups. None supported biases with made-up facts and conspiracies. And none succumbed to the ever-present allure in politics to dehumanize those who disagreed with them.

What to do about LePage is no longer simply a political concern. It’s now essential to our economic future that we stop the damage as soon as we can and begin to repair the wounds that have been opened.

How that can be done is a topic for another day, but this much we know. We need leaders who are motivated by a love of Maine, not a hatred of others. We need leaders who embrace and understand the future rather than fear it. And we need leaders from across the political spectrum who care less about partisan vendettas and more about a winning economy for Mainers.

To get that, we’re going to need to raise our standards for leaders, which have been steadily declining. Never again can we propel to office someone who rages against the very government he seeks to lead. Nor can we put into office someone who reflects our worst instincts rather than our best. No more excuses for the likes of LePage. No celebrations of ignorance, denials of obvious bigotry or obsessions with destroying opponents.

Maine is crying out to all of us to be rescued. It cannot withstand more of this. The consequences of another eight years of internal destruction will be catastrophic.

What Maine needs can come only from the people of Maine standing up to reclaim who we are. We need an uprising of goodwill, common sense, nonpartisan openness and real competence – an uprising that signals to the world that a new chapter is beginning in Maine. And that we are, as we were before, a welcoming place not just for businesses, but also for visitors and new neighbors from everywhere.

Once this election is behind us, let’s get to work.

Alan Caron is the owner of Caron Communications and the author of “Maine’s Next Economy” and “Reinventing Maine Government.” He can be contacted at:

[email protected]