What was Governor LePage thinking?

This story doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of play on the media – at any rate, I haven’t found anything on it without looking for it, except for a brief mention by Bill Maher.
Gov. LePage of Maine quietly had a set of paintings* taken down from the walls of Maine’s Department of Labor, reportedly because he received an anonymous fax saying that they reminded the sender of North Korean propaganda. LePage himself said that they were too one-sided, and fostered an anti-business attitude. He also quietly changed the names of rooms there from ones honoring labor leaders, including Franklin Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary, who had ties to Maine.
this has sparked a tremendous backlash, with lots of coverage if you look for it:


My question is – why did he do this. Even he admittedly regrets doing this, or at least doing it now, because it’s obscuring other issues. But this looks exactly like a provocative move, intended to upset people. Why the hell do something like this otherwise? It has no practical aspects and clearly only has symbolic value. the minuscule value of being able to brag to someone that you took down what you perceive to be anti-business art doesn’t seem at all worth the chance of a spectacle like this, where not only are you political opponents pissed, but you have the art establishments, the Federal agency who funded the art installation, and even Senators in your own party complaining about it.
So was this an unintended screwup? Or a deliberate move whose ultimate purpose I can’t see yet?

If he did it quietly, it seems apparent that he wasn’t doing it to upset people.

IMO it was a huge political misstep, not only because it was an unnecessary slap at labor but because the paintings had historical value apart from their pro-labor theme.

I had heard about it when it happened but then all the news seemed to die down; I’m glad the issue is still being talked about in Maine at least. If he regrets it now, is it too late for him to reverse the decision?

A genuine hatred of labor? He IS a Republican.

As a political move, it was a screw-up. Business leaders tend to be a clear-minded and goal-oriented special interest - they want specific acts of legislation enacted not meaningless gestures like this. So all this did was anger one interest, organized labor, without scoring any points with another.

If LePage had done this on his own initiative in the opening days of his administration, I’d give him the benefit of doubt and figure he was doing it out of personal conviction. I’d disagree with his beliefs but I’d admire the fact he was willing to state those beliefs even at a political cost.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. LePage apparently didn’t think the paintings were a significant issue until somebody wrote to him to complain about them. So it looks like he caved in to a single complaint without realizing his actions would trigger a much larger number of counter-complaints.

More than likely he didn’t know of them before somebody complained. I doubt he’s visited the Department of Labor offices more than once or twice, and even if he visits all the time, how often do you really look at the artwork on the walls of government buildings?

Does his presumed hatred of labor require him to do this considering the risk vs reward? That’s what I ask in the OP.
Somehow I can’t see him as hating labor – he grew up in an impoverished house, according to his Wiki page, and was homeless for two years, then held a lot of what I can only call shit jobs. You’d think if anyone would appreciate labor, it’d be him.

Was this action “strongly suggested” by a backer, or something? It just seems a weird thing to do at the start of his governorship, unless he’s taking a page out of Machiavelli, who suggested doing a lot of unpopular things at once, since they wouldn’t be remembered later on in his career.

(That’s not a slight at either LePage or Machiavelli – but I;'ve read The Prince many times, and I recall that advice.)

But usually politicians make an effort to conceal their genuine hatred. They may consistently vote against the interests of some group but they don’t go out of their way to flaunt it. The smart move for somebody in LePage’s position would have been to enact pro-business laws (thereby pleasing business interests) and make some symbolic pro-labor gestures (which he could use to claim he cared about labor interests).

Nope. Ideologically driven hatred seldom does much of that.

You would, but you’d be wrong. The American hatred for the poor and working class is endemic among the poor and working class themselves.

Remember Ashcroft covering up the breasts of the female statues at the DOJ? I doubt this isn’t any different or any more rational; it’s just that one guy has an anti-labor fixation, the other a fear of breasts.

I think LePage is a rare case where the guy is honestly just an asshole. Not only did he take it down just because he hate labor and loves business but when asked about people protesting the decision he said, "“I’d laugh at them, the idiots. That’s what I would do. Come on! Get over yourselves!”

He also announced that he wasn`t attending a MLK Jr Day event and that the NAACP could kiss his ass.

I don’t like to simply call people I disagree with assholes, but LaPage seems to genuinely just be an asshole. For instance, I think refusing to attend MLK Jr Day celebrations is weird, but unremarkable if you have the sense to lie and say you had a scheduling conflict. Saying the NAACP can kiss your ass, you’re either insane or an asshole.

I agree. It just comes off as a really petty move. And it smacks of the type of bullshit sensitivity conservatives are always accusing the left of pushing.

Also, according to the OP, he pulled the paintings down because of an anonymous fax. If he’s willing to cave in to one anonymous request without much apparent provocation from anybody else, that doesn’t speak well of his governing abilities (of course that’s assuming that he’s telling the truth about the anonymous fax, and wasn’t pressed by backers behind-the-scenes to do this).

The illogic. The painting is pro labor and is in the Department of Labor building. I doubt the anti-laborites set foot in that building. It was a stupid move . It was playing to the rich and powerful though.

While I agree that this was a stupid and petty move on LePage’s part (along with changing the names of conference rooms from labor heroes to something else), I wanted to correct something someone noted above. These are not historic murals…they’re not WPA projects like the post office murals. They were done in 2007.

It’s all fine though. According to the article,

Presumably, once the Republican Committee got their hands on the murals, they’d set them up somewhere where they could shoot at them and piss on them. Just to complete the symbolism.

That was me, and thanks for the correction. I noticed they were more recent when I read the full article in the OP. I guess I could argue that if they were left in place, they’d be historical some day!

The WPA connection was my first impression when I first heard about this, too. It’s a natural connection to make.

I believe this was mentioned on the Daily Show.

I didn’t post this in the Pit because I had a legitimate question to ask. Please don’t drive it there.
I admit that I’m not of Gov. LePage’s political stripe, and don’t at all approve. But that’s not the issue. My question was – What End is Achieved by Doing This Now? as things stand, this is the most minor of things that LePage wants to get done. Even he is now saying that he wished he hadn’t done it, at least now, because it’s taking away too much attention. So why do it? I can’t buy that it was intense personal animosity towards labor – that’s absurd. If he had that little control he probably wouldn’t have held office as long as he had, or gotten as far as Governor (and before you start bringing up other unlikely governors or those you dislike, seriously consider your response. Don’t make this a Palin-fest).
So why do it? Did the Price of Failure not enter his political calculus? Was this a debt he really had to pay off? Was it the Machiavelli Principle? With all that Tea Party agenda to enact, why take time out to perform an act that cannot help but galvanize and possibly unite your foes?

I’d guess that the “anonymous fax” wasn’t really anonymous, but rather was a request from an important donar or other type of political patron. LePage figured that no one beyond a couple activists would notice if he complied with the request, so doing so to keep his supporter happy was an easy no-brainer.

LePage is your father’s Oldsmobile kind of Republican, he’s stuck in the Fifties when editorial cartoons frequently depicted Big Labor as a cigar-chomping thug of definite but indeterminate ethnic derivation: you couldn’t be sure what ethnic derivations, but it was something ethnic, not “like us”.

You stil see bits of it, now and then, like the RNC headlining Gov Walker for standing up to “Big Labor thugs”. Puppy Dopers are not likely to hear the dog whistle, its like a dumb racist joke about Stepin Fetchit, gone, but not forgotten.