Gov. Paul LePage has said that Donald Trump should pay him “for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.” But if things keep going the way they are, Trump should ask for some payment of his own.

During a week when many conservatives were seen speeding away from the trash fire that is the Trump campaign, LePage not only stayed put along Trump’s side but continued to throw gasoline as well, aping some of the candidate’s most ridiculous and damaging attacks while putting a local spin on others. It’s a further sign that inflammatory and divisive politics are becoming normalized, and it shouldn’t be tolerated, in Maine or anywhere else.

The bulk of the comments came at a press conference last Tuesday, which LePage called to clarify remarks made a day earlier in which he said the United States needed Trump’s “authoritarian power.”

While explaining that he meant the moment called for Trump’s “authoritative persona,” and standing behind Russian nesting dolls depicting Bill Clinton and a series of women involved in Clinton’s scandals, LePage rambled in a way that can only be described as Trumpian. He even — oddly — inserted a harsh criticism of Sen. John McCain.

But that’s not the worst of it.

After praising Trump’s “powerful personality,” he called President Barack Obama a “dictator” for issuing executive orders, which Obama has used to protect LGBT and employee rights, form a national monument in the Katahdin region, and forward immigration reform.

When asked how this differed from LePage’s own use of executive authority — which has brought us endless vetoes and baseless, worthless investigations — the governor said he acts with the best interests of Maine people in mind, while Obama is only interested in his own legacy.

That is very much in kind with LePage’s statements the next day, when he said at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Lewiston that two proponents of increasing the minimum wage “should be sent to jail,” echoing Trump’s frequent comments on Hillary Clinton. The next day, he called the measure “attempted murder.”

There are no reasonable disagreements in Paul LePage’s world. There are only good people and bad people, and the only way to be a good person is to agree with him. The others don’t just have a different point of view, they have a nefarious agenda. The issue shouldn’t end with a vote on the merits, but with the opposition behind bars.

If demonizing opponents is Step 1 in the playbook, then delegitimizing the media is Step 2. Trump rails about media unfairness and a rigged process. LePage does the same, telling reporters, “I have no respect for you at all … your life is to destroy people instead of doing good things.”

It may be strategy, it may be delusion, but it clearly gives angry supporters an excuse for ignoring the very real criticisms of both politicians. In the case of the Trump candidacy, it makes possible a scenario in which millions of Americans don’t accept a Clinton victory on Nov. 8. It makes post-election violence a possibility, and a post-election mess a near certainty.

That’s the end result of all this bombastic, inflammatory and fact-challenged nonsense — an America that is less stable and utterly incapable of coming together.

There’s no hope that LePage will stop acting like Trump. We can only hope that other Mainers seeking elected office don’t see it as a reasonable way to gain power.


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