Gov. LePage is fond of saying that America is not a democracy but a “representative republic.”

If you are trying to figure out what he means by that, the dictionary won’t be much help. It defines a republic as one of several forms that a democracy can take, so they are essentially the same thing.

But put down the dictionary and watch how LePage navigates the current budget crisis. That will tell you everything you need to know about his political philosophy.

The governor has forced state government to the brink of a shutdown and has threatened to use whatever means he can muster to delay a new budget from going into effect, even if lawmakers can reach a last-minute deal.

LePage is not trying to avoid a shutdown – he is actively manufacturing one. And that’s because LePage’s republic is a place where the majority does not rule.

Here, the minority can win if it applies maximum leverage to the spot where it will inflict the greatest amount of pain.

In this case, all it takes is the willingness by enough elected officials to cause chaos in the courthouses, padlock the state parks and interfere with hospitals and child protective workers. They are betting that they can make Mainers give in and demand that their representatives in Augusta give up.

It’s not as if the governor has a lot of other choices.

He didn’t have the votes in the Legislature that he would have needed to pass income tax cuts or his version of education reform this year.

He couldn’t get enough signatures to send welfare reform and tax cuts to the voters on the 2016 ballot, and he couldn’t keep a majority of voters from approving Question 2 at the polls, creating a surcharge on the top 2 percent of income tax filers to raise money for schools.

But to shut down the state government July 1, all he needs are 51 votes in the House of Representatives, and as long as they stick together, he can block any compromise not to his liking reached by House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, and Senate President Michael Thibodeau, a Republican.

The governor and his allies are trying to convince wavering House members that if the government shuts down, most people will blame the Democrats. But that would be a risky supposition.

The Democrats did not refuse to negotiate – the governor did.

The Democrats did not force the resignation of the state’s budget director two weeks before the shutdown deadline – the governor did.

And the Democrats did not reintroduce unpopular and unworkable policy demands at the last minute, the way that the governor did by making an already-rejected pilot program for a statewide teachers contract a nonnegotiable condition.

Last week, Gideon and Thibodeau were reportedly only $25 million apart on a deal: a difference of less than three-tenths of 1 percent in a proposed $7 billion budget.

If Maine government goes over the brink, the blame will not be on the presiding officers. It will rest on Gov. LePage and the members of the House who backed him.

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