AMHERST – How sweet it is! Despite the best efforts of the chattering classes in Maine’s academic and media elites to smear Gov. Paul Le-Page as a know-nothing tyrant, our conservative governor is now more popular among Maine voters than President Barack Obama.

All the cheap shots and liberal mud-slinging from the dinosaur media apparently have had little or no impact on the governor’s approval ratings. This is wonderful news, and if they’re paying attention, conservative office-holders and candidates can learn some valuable lessons.

In a Critical Insights poll of likely voters, LePage’s approval numbers surged more than 50 percent between May and October (from 31 percent to 47 percent), during which time he was subjected to daily doses of ridicule and mockery on the pages of every daily newspaper in the state. Undaunted by the hammering, LePage forged ahead with cleaning up the mess he inherited from the previous governor. Because he has done what he said he would do without regard to what might be popular at the moment, he has set an example that members of his own party in the Legislature would be well advised to follow: Don’t worry about your poll numbers. Just do the job you were elected to do, and the poll numbers will take care of themselves.

The partisan divide over tax policy is a case in point.

Hardly a day goes by that left-wing politicians and their stenographers in the old media cite polling data purporting to show that large majorities of voters believe the rich aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. The notion that just about everyone who isn’t rich wants the rich to pay more taxes is virtually an article of progressive faith. LePage defied liberalism’s faith-based foolishness and the bleating of his partisan critics with a budget that cut Maine’s top income-tax rate and reduced the inheritance-tax burden on Maine’s wealthiest families.

Even Rep. Emily Cain, minority leader of the House Democrats, voted for the tax-cutting budget but still insisted that she and her party just hate these tax cuts.

There are a couple of lessons here. First, bold leadership like LePage exhibited often reduces your critics to incoherent babbling. Second, never let the liberal media tell you what most voters think because most voters pay no attention to what leftist scribes and talking heads say.

LePage also taught us that Maine’s public-sector labor unions are all bark and no bite. All the sound and fury over the removal of a second-rate piece of government-subsidized “art” from a state office building came to naught. Maine’s dying daily newspaper industry kept this silly non-story on their front pages for weeks on end in a determined effort to undermine and discredit the governor. The outcome? At the end of the day, his poll numbers are way up, while the dailies continue to shed readers, revenue and influence.

The governor has also come to the defense of state employees whose paychecks are being looted by union bosses in Augusta. Year after year, thousands of state employees exercise their constitutional right not to join the Maine State Employees Association, which is affiliated with the notorious Service Employees International Union. Under the previous governor and Democrat-controlled Legislature, state workers who choose not to join were forced to contribute collective-bargaining fees to the union. What’s more, the state began withholding these funds from employees’ paychecks and turning the money over to the MSEA/SEIU.

This money-laundering scheme was enacted on a straight party-line vote in the middle of the night with no public hearings or debate. Thank you, Maine Democrats.

LePage wants to protect state workers from payroll plundering and end the state’s role as collection agent for union bosses. The reform bill (LD 309) was carried over to the January 2012 session of the Legislature after Republican legislators caved in to union threats of mob action at the conclusion of public hearings last June. We will know in a few months whether the Republican majority understands what’s at stake: defunding the left’s political attack machine.

The much bigger picture here is that our country and our state are at a crossroads. Our heritage of limited government and economic freedom is under attack by statists who believe America was flawed from the beginning and that they with their superior intellects are on the cutting edge of history, destined to usher in a more just, more humane and more progressive society.

The good news is that the statist ruling class is in retreat after the biggest landslide election of our lifetimes one year ago buried liberal politicians up and down the ballot from sea to shining sea.

Next November we will know just how serious the American people are about taking their country back.

– Special to the Press Herald