I went to two meetings last week. Conveniently, both were at the same time and in the same place.

One was a town hall session with Gov. LePage, where he sat on stage at USM in front of a couple of charts and grumbled to 50 or so people about some of his favorite topics: taxes, education and the high cost of energy.

The other meeting involved about two dozen protesters who came out to oppose the governor, not so much for what he was saying, but for who he is and what he represents.

It wasn’t exactly a meeting of the minds. LePage would rattle off a few talking points, then one of the protesters would stand up and yell at him, sometimes using salty language – including the three-syllable epithet that the governor left on Rep. Drew Gattine’s voicemail last summer (and I don’t mean “socialist”).

Then, as the protester was escorted from the room, LePage would get back to why we need lower taxes for “job creators” or how much nicer the world would be if we could get discount hydropower from Quebec.

The two meetings were taking place in the same hall but in alternate universes: one where Democrats, unions and the media were stopping the governor from turning Maine into an economic powerhouse; the other where The People were ready to overthrow the system – not by replacing conservative politicians with liberal ones – but by rejecting centuries of white supremacy and corporate greed.

This wasn’t a debate, it was a battle over reality.

And it was one that the governor appeared to be winning.

It’s hard to know what the protesters thought they were going to get from this exercise, but if they wanted to see LePage lose his temper and howl like Rumpelstiltskin, they had to be disappointed.

Just two years ago, LePage stomped off a stage at UMaine-Farmington because a couple of very polite students in the back row held up a sign that called him “Maine’s shame.”

But last week, he sat calmly while he was called “transphobic” and accused of “making war on black and brown people.”

If you were new to the scene you might have been impressed with his patience. He was the reasonable one (talk about an alternate universe!).

He even sounded like an indulgent dad, saying, “It’s one thing to scream and holler and be disrespectful, but you should have your facts straight.”

Then somebody laughed. OK, it was me.

I couldn’t believe that a governor who’s never met a fact he couldn’t mangle would try to get away with saying something like that in public. But LePage and the people who attended his meeting nodded their heads in approval.

So for the record: The governor did not have his facts straight at USM last week. He said too many not-straight-facts to list here, but here are a few that he has said before, been corrected, and continues to repeat.

Asylum seekers are all illegal immigrants. (No, most are legally present, waiting for a court date.)

Fifty-four percent of Maine high school graduates have to take remedial work when they go to college. (At UMaine the real number is 12 percent, which is lower than students who need extra help in the rest of the country.)

Maine would not be eligible for the enhanced federal match if it expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Yes it would for the vast majority of new enrollees. This claim is so exaggerated it qualifies as a bold-faced lie.)

And in addition to these well-known non-facts, LePage threw in a couple of new ones, like:

The homestead tax exemption is anti-business. (Huh?)

Maine’s population is declining because people are moving away. (Maine has no natural population growth. One hundred percent of what anemic growth we do have comes from people moving here.)

Anyone with access to Google can quickly fact-check these statements, but that’s not really the point, is it?

The governor is not trying to be a “Jeopardy” champion. LePage’s appeal has always been that he is a fighter, and a fighter needs someone to fight against.

The protesters needed someone to fight against, too, and LePage fit the bill, but they couldn’t find a way to mix it up with him.

You can’t blame them. In the seventh year of the LePage administration, no one has really figured out how to lay a glove on the guy.

So the result was two meetings instead of one, involving people who shared the same time and space, but not much else.

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter @gregkesich

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: