To protect fragile economy, report argues Maine must do more for workers / by Evan Popp

A recent report found that although Maine bounced back quickly from the pandemic-induced downturn, that recovery has masked “continued underlying weaknesses in the economy.” 

Challenges identified in the Maine Center for Economic Policy’s annual “State of Working Maine” report include that many jobs continue to lack basic labor protections — even as workers increasingly assert their power and demand improved standards — and that wage growth has been stymied by high inflation. 

The study, authored by MECEP economist James Myall, found that Maine has enjoyed a near-full recovery from the economic shock created by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with employment almost back to pre-pandemic levels and the state GDP higher than before the crisis. Myall credited the recovery in part to an aggressive fiscal response by the federal government, which provided states and people with funds during the pandemic through various programs.

In all, Maine’s economic bounce back from the crisis was much faster than the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008. After that crisis, the state’s employment and GDP levels lagged behind pre-2008 levels until 2016, which Myall attributed in part to austerity policies, which took place primarily under the LePage administration.  

Still, the report found that the recovery from the pandemic is fragile and has hidden several warning signs for Maine’s economy. 

Inflation blunting impact of wage growth 

One significant problem is inflation, which is higher in the U.S. than at any point in the last 40 years. While a strong labor market has improved wages for Maine workers, the report found that the “rapidly rising cost of living has dulled the benefit” of that higher pay. For example, although wages for middle income workers in Maine have increased by 18% in the last three years, inflation has risen by nearly 13% over that same period. That creates an actual wage growth of just under 5% for workers during that time, which Myall writes is “much more modest than the substantial increase indicated in many news headlines.” 

Wages not rising enough to significantly outpace inflation is of particular concern in the child care and direct care industries, the report states. People in both occupations have been chronically underpaid for years, leading to a shortage of such workers. The market has failed to rectify the problem, Myall said, calling for intervention from the state to raise those workers’ wages and provide subsidies for those who need to access services. And while the state has acted to increase child care and direct care employees’ pay, Myall argued it might not be enough to attract workers to the industry, especially given the continued issue of inflation. 

Those in the industry are also calling for better working conditions to attract more potential employees. 

“Our early childhood education system is sinking. There are so many families in Maine with no options for child care,” Terri Crocker, the owner of Creative Play Childcare in Bath, says in the report.  

Given the economic landscape, the Working Maine study makes several recommendations to improve workers wages against inflation. The first is to preserve and expand the state’s minimum wage, which is currently tied to the cost of living. However, MECEP has found that by going beyond that and raising the minimum wage to $16 an hour by 2025, Maine would increase pay for over 350,000 workers and make strides in addressing economic inequality. 

Myall also recommends paying direct care workers adequately and requiring employers to be transparent on job applications about the wages that potential workers can expect to receive. 

Worker protections must be strengthened 

Another challenge to the seemingly strong economic recovery is that labor protections remain scant for too many workers, according to the report. Myall notes that the pandemic caused many workers to reevaluate their relationship to their job, resulting in a significant number leaving for new positions. The amount of Mainers quitting and being hired for new positions recently hit its highest point in two decades, the report found. Higher wages are the prime motivation for workers switching jobs, along with affordable health care, more predictable hours and paid time off. 

Given this amount of labor “churn,” Myall argued there is more to be done to improve working conditions for Mainers. Some moderate improvements have been made over the years, including when Maine’s paid time off law took effect in 2022. That law caused the number of Mainers who get paid time off to increase from 33% in the five years preceding the pandemic to 54% this year. 

Still, that means a substantial number of Mainers continue to face the potential of financial struggles if they have to take time off for illness, caring for a loved one, or other reasons, Myall pointed out. He argued that the paid time off law should be broadened to encompass more workers and should also include provisions to protect against retaliation, which the statute currently lacks. A bill to bar retaliation by employers against workers who use paid time off was vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills in 2022. 

An additional recommendation for improving labor standards is to create a fair workweek standard, which would require business to create predictable schedules for workers. Unpredictable schedules, Myall states, have been shown to negatively impact workers’ bottom line as well as their physical and mental health.

A recent rally in support of Chipotle workers in Augusta | Maine Service Employees Association, SEIU Local 1989 via Facebook

Another policy that would improve workers’ lives is paid family and medical leave, which allows employees to take time off work for a longer period of time. That differentiates it from paid time off, which covers short-term leave. Maine will have a chance to create a paid family and medical leave system in 2023, either through legislative action or via the ballot box, as advocates (including Maine People’s Alliance, of which Beacon is a project) are gathering signatures for a potential referendum. 

In discussing how labor standards can be improved, Myall noted the increased leverage workers have right now, as businesses and other employers seek to fill positions. 

Much of that power has manifested in increased unionization activity in Maine and nationwide, as workers seek to form collective bargaining units in various industries, including at stores operated by corporate giants such as Chipotle and Starbucks. Worker power has reached heights not seen in decades, MECEP found. 

“Now that the country has seen how valuable we are, it’s time for us to demand that we are cared for as well as workers in any other industry,” Brandi McNease, who helped lead a recent unionization campaign at a Chipotle in Augusta, said in the report. 

Still, the study found that “as much as worker power has increased, it is still eclipsed by the clout of many corporations and businesses,” with employers often fighting back hard against unionization efforts. 

To address such challenges, the report recommends that policymakers guarantee the right to unionize in Maine without interference by bosses. Myall also calls for an improvement to the bargaining power of public sector unions in Maine. Arbitration decisions on wages and benefits for workers in such unions are not currently binding, which allows employers to often ignore workers’ demands. Public sector union workers in Maine are also not allowed to strike, which undermines their leverage, Myall argues. 

Finally, the report recommends that agricultural workers be allowed to form unions. Such workers have long been denied basic labor protections, including the right to form a collective bargaining unit or even be considered employees under state wage and hour laws. A bill passed by the legislature that would have allowed farmworkers to unionize was vetoed by Mills in January.

Structural barriers keep too many out of workforce 

Another issue Maine faces is that some people can’t participate fully — or at all — in the labor market. Some barriers to employment that Mainers face include health issues, caregiving responsibilities, fewer labor opportunities in rural areas and continued structural racism, according to the study. There are jobs available for such people, Myall found, and including them in the labor market would improve the economy without lowering wages for existing workers. 

One indication of Maine’s problems with full workforce participation is that there are fewer prime-age people — 25 to 54-year-olds — participating in the labor market than prior to the pandemic. That dip has not manifested fully in Maine’s overall employment numbers since older workers are staying employed longer, the study found. 

Myall states in the report that a reduced number of prime age people in the workforce often indicates that “people are either discouraged about their ability to find a job with a sustainable wage or in some way prevented from working (for example, a health condition, lack of child care, or transportation issue).” 

Furthermore, asylum-seekers are currently barred from requesting a work permit for 180 days, preventing another segment of people from joining the labor force. 

“I want to have a house and take care of myself, my friends, and my family. It’s difficult to support myself without working,” Gervin Kah, an asylum-seeker in Maine, said in the report. 

To address these issues in the workforce, the report argues that the state has to help prime age people return to the labor force while also supporting older Mainers who want to keep working and allowing those who want to retire to do so with security. 

There are a number of policy recommendations that could help with this goal, including continuing public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, encouraging employers to make accommodations for those with long COVID, increasing access to health care systems (including mental health services), creating a comprehensive subsidy for child care, maintaining funding for free community college, and enforcing anti-discrimination laws in the workforce. 

“Maine lawmakers have the opportunity to build on the momentum begun by workers themselves and reshape the economy in a way that works for all of us — an economy that fairly compensates workers and ensures all work is respected with fundamental rights,” Myall writes.

Photo: A sign at a rally earlier this year to support the Maine Medical Center nurses’ union | Beacon 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at

Beacon, October, October 19, 2022,

Maine Opinion: LePage’s hateful plot to undermine public education in Maine

Top photo: Former Gov. Paul LePage | Beacon 

Originally published in the Beacon,

It’s no secret that Paul LePage is no fan of public education. As governor he called Maine teachers “a dime a dozen” and told an audience of business people that “if you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck — you can go to the public school.” 

LePage has always been upfront about his obsession with privatizing and defunding public schools. He has called for vouchers that would allow for education funding to be diverted to subsidize private religious schools, home schooling and for-profit online education.

As governor, he ignored the 2004 voter-mandated law to fund the state’s share of education at 55% (Gov. Janet Mills has finally honored that commitment) and shifted millions of dollars in costs onto local school districts. The former governor also applauded a recent Supreme Court decision to strike down Maine’s law banning public funding for religious schools, stating that it was “time to let the parents decide their child’s future, not educational bureaucrats.”

The former governor’s fondness for private religious schools is rooted in his own experience attending parochial school in Lewiston, where he claims the combination of strict discipline and corporal punishment made him a better person.

“We don’t have that in public schools. So faith-based schools have a different way of teaching, and it worked for me,” he once said in a radio interview in 2012. 

“It wasn’t the religious part of it that was good; it was the brothers being stern and — look at my knuckles — they still show that they were hit a few times,” LePage added.

Rather than addressing the key factors that worsen academic performance — like social and economic conditions, poverty, unequal school funding and lack of early childhood education — LePage and his fellow school privatizers are more interested in putting all of the blame solely on teachers, school boards and administrators for low student achievement. Instead of improving public schools, LePage seeks to punish them by diverting public education money to private schools. This further reduces the amount of funding available for local public schools and disadvantages low-income students and children with disabilities and higher needs. As disability advocates point out, private and religious schools can legally reject students with special needs and voucher programs don’t cover expenses like transportation and other services those students need.

The racist roots of the school choice movement

Having more educational options sounds like a positive thing, but in reality studies show that this doesn’t improve student achievement overall. Instead, it further balkanizes and segregates the student body by allowing more elite schools to cherry pick the most privileged and highest achieving students who have more resources to supplement private school educations. This is no accident.

As Duke University historian Nancy MacLean has documented, the “school choice” movement was a direct reaction to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision that struck down racial segregation in public schools in 1954. School vouchers were developed by Southern states to avoid court-ordered racial integration and allow white parents to send their children to private schools known as “segregation academies” that could discriminate based on the color of one’s skin.

Based on extensive archival research, MacLean has exposed how the conservative economist Milton Friedman “taught white supremacists a more sophisticated…court-proof way to preserve Jim Crow” by providing a justification grounded in the free market ideology. Friedman argued that breaking the “government monopoly” over education would promote “competition.”

The school choice movement was later picked up by well-funded conservative think tanks and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded bill mill that creates “model legislation” for Republican state legislators. LePage, who was deeply involved with ALEC as governor, described himself as a fan of Friedman and even once declared July 31 to be “Milton Friedman Day” in Maine, citing the economist’s support for “school choice.”

Creative Commons via Allison Shelley, The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

But despite a decades-long corporate-funded effort to undermine public education, polls consistently show Americans broadly support it and overwhelmingly reject school privatization schemes. That’s why school privatizers have been diligently working to erode confidence in public education by demonizing teachers and stoking fear and paranoia about the teaching of LGBTQ content and “critical race theory,” or “CRT,” an academic concept addressing institutional racism that is generally not taught in K-12 schools.

This latest manufactured moral panic can be traced to a right-wing propagandist named Christopher Rufo of the conservative Manhattan Institute, who launched the war against CRT and supposed “grooming” of students by sexually predatory public school teachers. Rufo uses CRT as a catch-all term to describe any lessons that include studies of race relations and racial equity that make white people uncomfortable. In capitalizing on white racial anxiety in reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, Rufo says he purposely uses the term “critical race theory” because it’s the “perfect villain” and comes off as “hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist [and] anti-American” to average white middle-class Americans.

LePage and the bigoted anti-CRT mob

In his campaign appearances, LePage has made it clear that he will continue the war on public education by putting gag rules on teachers and censoring what students can read. As he told an audience last year, “I can’t wait to attack the school system, because man, this critical race theory. They’re taking down statues, burning down buildings, killing Americans.”

Earlier this month LePage echoed calls from the far-right when he said he wanted to remove “pornography” from school — a label anti-public school crusaders have used to describe books that contain LGBTQ subject matter — and hinted at pushing legislation to support efforts by parents to ban books.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve seen one here in Hampden and one down south in Bonny Eagle, where people were threatened to be arrested, thrown out of meetings. That is inappropriate,” he told an audience at Husson University. “So, the governor’s office’s role is to pass legislation that allows school boards to hear from the parents, and the parents and the school board should determine what goes into the libraries.”

LePage is apparently referring to the antics of a far-right agitator named Shawn McBreairty, who has been repeatedly banned from entering a number of schools across the state after spending the past two years harassing teachers and school boards over CRT and books containing LGBTQ subject matter. McBreairty first received national notoriety after receiving a criminal trespass order from SAD 51 schools — which encompasses schools in Cumberland and North Yarmouth — for repeatedly violating district rules. 

In 2020, McBreairty became convinced that the school was calling residents of Cumberland “white supremacists” and teaching “critical race theory” after it released a statement denouncing white supremacy and committing to racial equity in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In violation of school rules, McBreairty padlocked a sign to a school fence, disrupted numerous school board meetings and distributed flyers denouncing school officials to Greely High School students. At one point he even put a billboard-sized sign of a school board member’s face on his lawn that he claimed was surrounded by rat traps.

McBreairty cast himself as a free speech martyr in an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, implying, falsely, that he was prohibited from attending his daughter’s graduation for battling with the school for holding what he described as “anti-white training.”

After that appearance, McBreairty rocketed to right-wing stardom and became a chapter leader of the “No Left Turn Education,” one of the largest organizations fear mongering about racial equity in schools. The group and its founder have compared educators to Pol Pot, Vladimir Lenin and Adolf Hitler and claimed that “black bigotry towards whites” is a “very real problem.” But McBreairty was too much of a loose cannon even for that group. No Left Turn later fired him in 2021 after he pled guilty to improperly influencing a Cumberland school official by threatening to release a recording of the deceased father of a school board member if they didn’t resign.

McBreairty on Fox News | Image via video

Since then, McBreairty has been working as the special projects director for former state Rep. Larry Lockman’s white supremacist organization, known as the Maine First Project. Lockman has spent the past 40 years attacking LGBTQ rights and people of color. Lockman, who once wrote a homophobic book titled “The Aids Epidemic: A Citizens’ Guide To Protecting Your Family And Community From The Gay Plague,” regularly promotes white supremacist “Great Replacement” conspiracy theories and accuses pro-immigrant lawmakers of waging a “war on whites.” LePage has long supported Lockman and his hateful agenda, having endorsed him for state senate and stood beside him during his campaign roll out in 2019.

Most disturbingly, McBreairty and Lockman frequently name individual teachers in their defamatory accusations on conservative radio shows, podcasts, newsletters and on social media. One of McBreairty’s favorite targets is 2022 “Maine Teacher of the Year” Kelsey Stoyanova, an eighth grade teacher at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden. Students have described Stoyanova as passionate about instilling a love of learning and making all students feel valued and accepted. 

“In Ms. Stoyanova’s classroom, you feel seen, you feel heard, you feel loved,” former student Roz O’Reilly told the Bangor Daily News. 

However, McBreairty, who doesn’t have any children in Hampden schools (or in any K-12 schools), has accused Stoyanova of “hyper-sexualizing” students and promoting CRT because she released a reading list for students that included Black and LGBTQ authors.

Ironically, McBreairty and Maine First Project actually promoted a child sex offender whose  transphobic positions they agreed with. Last spring, Maine First Project platformed a self-described “ex-transgender woman” who is a convicted child sex offender and a life time registrant on the sex offender registry.

Fighting back against the anti-teacher witch hunt

Fortunately, McBreairty and Lockman have been generally unsuccessful in taking over school boards, as right-wing cranks who oppose diversity, equity and inclusion have fared poorly in Maine. As one recent poll shows, most parents like their public schools and teachers and support them by wide margins.

However, the fury and fearmongering of a vocal right-wing minority is having a meaningful impact with conservative voters. One recent poll found that while Democratic support for public schools has increased during the pandemic, Republican confidence in public schools has plummeted to an all-time low. Last spring, Maine Republican Party convention delegates even passed McBreairty’s “Don’t Say Gay” resolution to ban CRT and sex education in schools and limit what school staff can say about gender and sexuality. 

Free public education is one of our most valuable institutions and a cornerstone of our democracy. Its mission is to provide every young person in the nation with an equitable, inclusive and quality education that fosters a life-long love of learning and gives students the knowledge they need to be active, informed participants in the democratic process. While public education may not completely live up to its ideals, we need to continue working to strengthen and improve it for future generations of young learners.

Our educators pursue teaching not to get rich but because they have a passion to shape young minds. It’s not an easy job, though. It involves providing differentiated instruction for diverse learners, endless paperwork, early mornings and late nights preparing lessons, disciplining students, dealing with bullying and problems at home, and spending money out of one’s own pocket for classroom materials due to lack of funding.

The stress of working through the pandemic along with the constant smears, personal attacks and demonization of their profession is driving good teachers out, with more than a half-million leaving the profession since the beginning of 2020. Although these far-right activists are small in number, they have become very influential in our politics and it’s clear that if LePage is elected governor, he will continue to empower them and legitimize their bigoted grievances. 

If you value public education, racial justice, LGBTQ rights and the separation of church and state, sitting back and rolling your eyes at these antics is no longer an option. We need to organize and fight back against this elitist, hateful agenda and send LePage back to Florida in November.

Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

Meet the Maine corporate interests funding anti-choice candidates / by Dan Neumann

In their latest campaign finance filing the Maine Association of Realtors reports giving the maximum individual donation of $425 each to 16 state lawmakers seeking re-election. All are Republicans and all 16 have been endorsed by the Christian Civic League of Maine, the state’s leading opponent of abortion rights which recently celebrated the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The realtors aren’t alone. Local insurance agents, contractors, dentists and other corporate groups are some of the leading funders of anti-abortion candidates. If Maine Republicans win a legislative majority and enact their plans to repeal abortion rights, it will have been made possible in large part because of this continued local corporate support.

“It’s just pure capitalism — just caring about money and not caring about anything else,” said Aspen Ruhlin, an abortion rights advocate with the Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor. “Because, contrary to what some people may say, corporations aren’t people, so they don’t have values.”

Anti-abortion extremist candidates

In the wake of the repeal of Roe and with decisions over abortion rights in Maine falling to the state legislature, Maine Republicans have continued to shift toward extremism. The party launched a platform in May that specifically calls for a repeal of abortion rights in the state.

Despite these new and higher stakes, corporate and industry donors have continued to back candidates regardless of their extremist anti-abortion stance. 

The realtors have long been one of the top corporate contributors to Maine Republicans and Democrats. In addition to their individual contributions to individual GOP campaigns, the lobby group has donated $36,545 to the Maine Senate Republicans’ election fund and $22,500 to the House Republicans since 2013. During the same period, realtors have given $87,250 to Democrats.

Some of the candidates they back have publicly declared extreme anti-abortion positions. 

“I go a little further than some pro-lifers,” said Rep. Peter Lyford (R-Eddington) in a YouTube interview with Christian Civic League policy director Mike McClellan. “I don’t believe in abortion at all. […] The doctor may say, ‘Well, I think the mother’s going to die.’ I believe there will always be someone there to take care of the child.” 

Lyford is running for an open seat in Senate District 10 against Democrat Ralph Cammack, a former deputy fire chief in Brewer. In 2020, realtors gave $400 to Lyford ahead of his re-election in the Maine House.

Whatever serves their agenda

Members of the Maine Association of Realtors, from the group’s Facebook page.

Beacon asked the realtors association if they agreed with the GOP’s anti-abortion platform. Chief executive officer Suzanne Guild said their only consideration is what most serves their agenda. “The Maine Association of Realtors PAC makes candidate funding decisions based on policy issues solely related to the real estate industry and real property ownership,” she said.

Ruhlin noted that groups like the realtors association often give to both parties. “There’s very much a thinking that if you play both sides, you always win,” they said. “Companies aren’t people, but they’re run by people who hold a lot of power. With that power comes a lot of privilege and they feel completely untouched by these abortion bans.”

Another local business group, the Maine Insurance Agents Association, has also given to Republicans endorsed by the Christian Civic League. A top recipient of the association’s donations is Sen. Stacey Guerin (R-Penobscot), who has participated in Maine Right to Life’s annual “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, where protestors encircle the State House to pray for the overturning of Roe.

In 2013, Guerin spoke at the rally and encouraged attendees to support a slate of anti-abortion legislation sponsored by Republicans that year, including a bill to deny public funds for Planned Parenthood programs. “Maine needs you and the babies need you,” she said.

Guerin has received $800 from insurance agents since 2013, most recently getting $300 in May before the primary for her re-election in Senate District 4. 

Another frequent attendee and sometimes speaker at the anti-abortion “Hands Around the Capitol” rally, former Gov. Paul LePage, was endorsed on Tuesday at a campaign stop in Windham by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Maine. One of the association’s top contributors is Cianbro, the largest construction company in the state.

At the event with the builders association, gubernatorial candidate LePage tried to obsfucate his anti-abortion past when asked by the media if he would move to ban or curb reproductive rights in Maine. “I don’t have time for abortion,” the former governor said, belying his more strident statements from previous years, such as declaring at 2016 rally, “We should not have abortion.” 

Lyford and LePage are among the Republican lawmakers highlighted in a video published by the Maine Democratic Party this week highlighting member of the GOP’s extremist positions on abortion rights.

The builders association has given $9,500 to the Senate Republicans’ election fund since 2013 and the Retail Association of Maine has all Republican PACs listed as their top payees, doling out $21,300 over the last decade to House and Senate fundraising efforts. 

Other top industry groups that have frequently given to the Maine Republicans include Central Maine Power’s parent company Avangrid, which has given the GOP $30,700 over the past decade, the Maine Credit Union League ($38,500), the Maine Dental Association ($13,250), and the Retail Lumber Association of Maine ($9,500). These donors have also given money to Maine Democrats.

On the federal level, former Rep. Bruce Poliquin has refused to say if he would support a federal ban on abortion if relected in November. 

During his two terms in Congress, Poliquin was largely funded by Wall Street investors but has received substantial backing from Maine corporations as well, including from the Central Maine Motors Auto Group ($13,800), the Quirk Auto Group ($11,900) and the Twin Rivers Paper Company, which runs a paper mill in Madawaska ($11,400).

Dan Neumann studied journalism at Colorado State University before beginning his career as a community newspaper reporter in Denver. He reported on the Global North’s interventions in Africa, including documentaries on climate change, international asylum policy and U.S. militarization on the continent before returning to his home state of Illinois to teach community journalism on Chicago’s West Side. He now lives in Portland. Dan can be reached at dan(at)

Maine Beacon, July 8, 2022,

Opinion: QAnon conspiracist Christiane Northrup jumps into GOP primaries / Andy O’Brien

Photo: Second District candidate Liz Caruso and Dr. Christiane Northup and the Maine Republican convention. 

QAnon influencer and best selling author Christiane Northrup of Yarmouth has turned her sights to the federal and local primary and general elections this year in effort to unleash an “army of angels” to vote for political candidates who sign on to an agenda rooted in apocalyptic conspiracy theories. 

In 2021, Northrup co-founded the group Maine Stands Up, an organization focused on eliminating vaccine mandates and public health measures. For the past year, she and her group have been carrying on a campaign to organize a reactionary movement uniting crunchy back-to-the-landers and New Age wellness types with Christian dominionists, far-right militias and Republican politicians. It’s a campaign that is already yielding results. 

Recently, the organization announced that former Governor Paul LePage and Republican congressional candidates Ed Thelander and Liz Caruso are among the 50 candidates who have signed on to MSU’s “The People’s Platform.”

While it’s easy to write off Northrup and her followers as a bunch of fringe kooks, the organization has sprouted numerous chapters all over the state, from Aroostook County to Kittery, to elect candidates that align with their hateful ideology. As we enter election season, we need to understand who these people are and work hard to prevent them from gaining political power.

At a church in Augusta this past February, the celebrity doctor delivered an unhinged sermon drawing on Christian Nationalist ideology and far-right conspiracies. She repeated misinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the supposed dangers of vaccines. Using pseudo populist rhetoric, she spun dark tales about the “Great Reset” conspiracy — a paranoid and contradictory belief that a secret cabal of left-wing Marxists and billionaires with the World Economic Forum created the COVID-19 pandemic as part of a plot to install an authoritarian one-world government run by powerful capitalists and socialists. Northrup blames the current housing crisis on the shadowy left-wing capitalist oligarchy and claims that a representative from the World Economic Forum “came down from Davos” to ask a friend in Owls Head if the organization could rent all of her short term rentals for “illegal immigrants.”

“Don’t do it,” Northrup instructs the audience. “Don’t sell your house to one of these people!”

She invokes a version of the right-wing  “UN Agenda 21 conspiracy” that the World Economic Forum’s “15-minute communities” plan — to reorganize urban space around work, home, community and amenities — is actually a nefarious plot to pack people into “little stacking boxes” and brand them with QR codes to track their every move. Someone from the audience shouts out that a recent state law to reform zoning laws to allow for more residential housing is a part of the Davos conspiracy.

Northrup rails against phantom “deep state infiltrators” in our midst and asks Republican House candidate Guy Lebida of Bowdoin, who is in the pews, to “get all of the photos of the World Economic Forum people in Maine” and put them in his conservative newspaper. On the Maine Stand Up website, the organization targets members of the “Portland Global Shapers Hub” — an initiative of the World Economic Forum “to engage young people in solving communal problems” — as the shock troops trained to carry out the “Great Reset” and “end our civil liberties and medical freedoms.”

Northrup goes on to compare public health protections to slavery, quoting a Black friend who says Black Lives Matter “is a crime against humanity.” After she calls on the churchgoers to use their “spiritual authority and through Jesus Christ” to “take down the demonic” in Augusta, she pauses to gleefully tell an anecdote that the governor’s security team won’t let her go into the atrium of the Blaine House because there are too many windows and they are concerned about her safety. This draws boisterous laughter from the audience.

In contrast to demonic globalists, Northrup says, the conservative movement is actually a spiritual path rooted in love. That’s why, she tells the flock, we must “fix bayonets” like Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, unleash the army of angels and vote out the “demons.” She doesn’t just disagree with her liberal and left political opponents, she calls them “cockroaches” and a “regressive species,” to exuberant applause. Then building to a crescendo, Northrup launches into an apocalyptic sermon.

“I want a tidal wave… billions of them starting with the coast of Maine…. taking down the demonic starting with Augusta and all of the woke people and all of the Klaus Schwabbies on the coast of Maine,” she said, referring to the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, “take them out and send them back to hell where they came from and bar them from ever returning as the tidal wave goes out from Maine, as Maine goes, so goes the planet and we go all the way across the planet to California.”

Yoga teachers, wellness gurus and Christian nationalists

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Northrup — a former obstetrician-gynecologist, a women’s health guru and frequent Oprah guest — has drifted further and further to the right, using increasingly violent and dehumanizing rhetoric to target her opponents. She delivers her rambling daily communiques to thousands of followers on social media in a calm and soothing manner, but her sweet, touchy-feely demeanor belies a message that is full of hatred, rage and fear.

Over the past year, Northrup has traveled all over the state speaking at a variety of venues, from local Republican committee meetings and evangelical churches to more crunchy, bohemian events including a booze cruise, the “Soul-Stice Showcase” and a “Healing Arts Fair.” She has appeared alongside anti-Semitic QAnon influencers, anti-LGBTQ activists, a far-right sovereign citizen sheriff, anti-immigrant activists, Christian nationalists and Republican anti-vaccine legislators like Reps. Heidi Sampson of Alfred, Tracy Quint (Hodgton), Shelley Rudnicki (Fairfield) and Laurel Libby (Auburn).

At a water fast retreat, Northrup sent “blessings” to her fellow “patriots” who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. She is scheduled to speak alongside QAnon influencer and National Security Adviser to former President Donald Trump Michael Flynn at the “ReAwaken America” megachurch tour, which aims to spread Christian nationalism and fake election fraud conspiracies.

Some of her followers — which include yoga teachers, homeschoolers, alternative health entrepreneurs, wellness obsessed fitness buffs and homesteaders — were once liberal leaning, but have since become radicalized by the pandemic and vaccine mandates. Now, many have fully bought into Q-adjacent conspiracies that cast progressives, racial justice activists, medical professionals, scientists, the media and Democratic politicians as willing participants in a global conspiracy to control, subjugate and even wipe out God-fearing white Christians.

Northrup, like many of her right-wing comrades, has repeatedly alluded to a final showdown between the “light workers” and the “demons.” In a recent video with cancer-denial activist Jeff Witzeman overdubbed with a soft slide guitar, she rhetorically asks, “Do I get to pick the firing squad to kill these demons?”

She continues: “If you were a New Age person and you read books like ‘You Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought,’ you would be afraid that that thought is going to somehow lead you to ‘oh, oh, oh – cancel, cancel, cancel, I had a bad thought, I wanted to harm that person.’ No. I like those thoughts. I listen to Zev Zelenko say, ‘I am all for love and forgiveness and if anyone comes near my children, I will have no problem putting a bullet in their head.’ I want people to own that part of themselves because that is righteous anger. It is a cause of health.”

LePage and other Republican candidates back extremist agenda

Former governor and Republican candidate Paul LePage reads over the Maine Stands Up “People’s Platform” at the Maine GOP convention in April 2022.

At the Maine Republican Convention in April, Maine Stands Up member Katlin Hilton reported that she was able to convince LePage, First District Congressional candidate Thelander and Second District Congressional candidate Caruso to sign the Maine Stands Up “People’s Platform.”  LePage first asked for a slight language adjustment around the food sovereignty provision.

“The next day I went back and showed Governor LePage that we took what he said to heart and made the change,” wrote Hilton on the organization’s website. “Without me asking, he said he would now sign it! So I gave him the pen and the rest is history!”

Unfortunately, Maine Stands Up has not released the platform and would not respond to messages seeking a copy, but Hilton wrote that she and her husband developed it with a group of “republicans [sic], Christian’s [sic], alternative media sources, legislators, and house representatives.”

Maine Stands Up has also endorsed Republican anti-vaccine activist Brogan Teel of Brunswick for State Senate District 23 and Caruso in her Republican primary against former Congressman Bruce Poliquin. On its website, the organization called Caruso “a fearless advocate for medical freedom,” having worked on the failed people’s veto referendum campaign to repeal a law requiring public school students to receive their childhood vaccines. While Caruso has been considered a long shot candidate, she has received strong grassroots support for her hard right politics and there’s evidence Poliquin is getting nervous. 

In her speech at the Maine GOP convention, Caruso pledged to stand “strong against the liberal intellectual elite” and alluded to the Great Reset conspiracy as she railed against President Joe Biden’s desire to participate in the World Economic Forum with the “globalists,” which is a dog whistle to imply they are Jews. She described the Democratic president as a kind of Manchurian candidate — an enemy who is “tearing apart America from the inside,” undermining American sovereignty, “eroding national pride,” destroying the U.S. currency, “culturally deconstructing our society,” and “creating confusion as to what it is to have American values or to be an American.”

“It’s a battle of God and freedom versus evil and tyranny,” Caruso continued, “where a globalist regime and treasonous administration is usurping the government from its citizens, causing civilizational chaos, a crisis at every turn and weaponizing agencies and unelected bureaucrats from the citizens they were to serve.”

Caruso pledged to the audience that she would “fight hard to end big tech censorship and overtly biased press.” In recent interview on Newscenter’s 207 following the mass murder of Black shoppers and workers at the hands of a white supremacist gunman in Buffalo, New York, Caruso said she doesn’t “believe we have a problem with white supremacists just because [the Neo Nazi terrorist] was white” — despite the fact that his message clearly explained racism was his motive.

There is a word for a hyper-nationalist, anti-immigrant, authoritarian movement that promises to “end” a free press and presents its enemies as subhuman “cockroaches” who need to be destroyed before they destroy the nation. It’s called fascism. 

We’ll find out soon enough whether Caruso is successful next Tuesday, but in the meantime Northrup’s neofascist group is holding regular meetings across the state in Yarmouth, Kittery, Portland, Union, Unity, Brunswick, Farmington, Lincolnville, Auburn, Belfast, Kennebunk, the Caribou/Presque Isle area, Owl’s Head, Ellsworth, Saco, Greenville, Harrison, and Augusta. Everyone who is concerned about the fascist threat to our fellow humans and our democracy, needs to do their part to prevent these people from winning in November.

Andy O’Brien is the communications director for the Maine AFL-CIO, a statewide federation of 160 local unions representing 40,000 workers. However, his opinions are his own and don’t represent the views of his employer. He is also a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.

Maine Beacon, June 6, 2022,