Paul LePage is constantly showing us things we have never seen before.

On Thursday, our destination is the Maine House of Representatives for the presentation of an order to begin impeachment proceedings against the governor for the reckless way he wields power in Augusta.

No Maine governor has ever been removed from office, and vote counters say that this one won’t be either. There probably aren’t enough votes in the House to impeach him, and if there were, an acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate is a near certainty.

A victory on any of those votes would give LePage and his supporters something to celebrate, which is why Democratic leaders in the House tried to put a lid on the impeachment talk last week, hoping to come up with a face-saving rebuke that could get a majority vote.

They may be right politically, but that doesn’t make them right. There is real value in having an impeachment debate, regardless of how the vote turns out.

To vote on Portland Rep. Ben Chipman’s proposed order, House members would have to answer this question: Did Gov. LePage cross a line when he told an independent nonprofit that he would put them out of business by withholding state funds if they hired Maine House Speaker Mark Eves for their top job?

Other charges include his decision to sit on voter-approved bonds, his pressuring Department of Labor hearing officers to make more unemployment decisions go the employers’ way and his personally intervening in a Maine Human Rights Commission case on behalf of a friendly businessman.

Not on the list – but on everyone’s mind – is the governor’s attempt to turn the drug war into a race war, publicly telling the world that “these types of guys” travel up to Maine to sell heroin and “half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave.”

That won LePage high praise from David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who devoted much of a recent episode of his white supremacist radio show to support the governor’s position. “You are probably picking yourself off the floor to think that an elected governor in the United States of America would actually talk about this horrible destruction and defilement of young white women,” said the awed Klan leader.

So, if the question is whether the governor crossed a line, and if the answer to the question is “No,” it would be valuable if the governor’s supporters could explain exactly where that line is.

Is there anything short of criminal activity that would make a governor unfit for office?

Would his surrogates have had to threaten to break someone’s legs at Good Will-Hinckley for LePage to have crossed the line? Would Mark Eves have had to end up in a trunk, not just unemployed, before impeachment was a realistic possibility?

And is it really OK for an official who is elected to serve everyone — not just the white people — to say things about race that a Ku Klux Klan leader finds praiseworthy?

These are important questions, and whether LePage stays in office or not, they ought to be answered, because the governor’s behavior sets a standard.

There was a time when the phrase “kiss my butt” would not appear in this newspaper.

Same with references to “giving it to” anyone “without the benefit of Vaseline.” And if someone had said that an opponent was “blowing smoke up” anyone’s “backside,” the editors would have run for a euphemism.

But all those phrases have made it to print, all inside quotation marks and all attributed to Paul LePage.

People can coo about his blunt talk and his rough-around-the-edges delivery, but they can’t deny that the governor has lowered the bar for civil discourse in Maine.

What he does matters more than what he says and will set the bar for the rest of his time in office and for a long time to come.

Voting for the impeachment order probably won’t result in Gov. LePage’s removal, but it would at least make clear how far is too far for a chief executive to go in our system. And if nothing else, it would force other politicians to make clear how far they are willing to go to support this governor.

“If you are afraid to confront him, it will only get worse,” said Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship who has been a leader of the impeachment movement. “(House members) are going to have to push a button on Thursday, and they are going to have to ask themselves, ‘Do I want to stand up for this guy?’ ”

And knowing which members are willing to do that would make the impeachment vote worth having.

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

[email protected]

Twitter @gregkesich

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