Watching the early days of the Trump administration should give Mainers a sense of deja vu.

A gruff nationalist who considers facts to be liberal conspiracy theories takes power with minority support and pushes an extreme agenda?

It’s not just a psychological phenomenon, folks. We actually have been here before.

Six years before Trump took the oath of office, Maine inaugurated a governor who attacked elites in both parties, howled about taxes, promised to tear down environmental regulation and violated all norms of transactional politics and common decency.

This has brought on fiercer opposition than any Maine political figure has ever seen. Protesters turned out en masse. Lawmakers overturned his vetoes in record numbers. Interest groups went directly to voters to enact laws over his opposition. Newspaper editorial boards excoriated him.

But he won re-election and manages to look stronger all the time. Political scientists should come to Maine to get a sense of how Trump will try to run the world, but they won’t find many examples of what can be done to stop him.

Six years into his administration, Gov. LePage remains the dominant figure in Maine’s political landscape. He would be hard to beat if he were allowed to run for re-election next year. If he decides to seek some other office, like Angus King’s Senate seat, look out.

Here’s what I saw at the Le-Page Revolution:

Division works: The old idea that politics is a battle for the middle is just that – an old idea. LePage succeeds because he makes no attempt to appeal to moderates, and speaks directly to people who feel they have been left behind, especially older, white, rural Mainers who remember when their lives seemed more secure. He takes their grievance as his own, and leaves the compromising to others.

So he is not held accountable when his policies don’t work (and they don’t work). Every failure is just more evidence that powerful forces are lined up against him and that he is needed more than ever.

This approach also mobilizes opponents, but that just adds to the division – and he thrives on division. Attacking immigrants, attacking welfare programs, attacking the media: They all provoke a response that feeds the perception that everyone is against him.

Republicans will stick together: Because, of course they will. They are Republicans for a reason.

People have been predicting a Republican revolt in Maine since LePage took office and it has not happened, with a couple of notable exceptions. Bucking your own party is not as easy to do as you might think.

Moderate Republicans don’t like the way LePage insults people, his refusal to compromise and his insistence on picking fights that don’t need to be fought.

But in the end, they are Republicans, and when it matters, they are with him. There was no erosion of Republican support for LePage in the 2014 election, and Trump should have no reason to believe he’ll be abandoned.

If that makes you progressives feel superior, consider this: Barack Obama came to Maine during his first term, and there was a long line of people waiting outside the Portland Expo to see him. A lone peace protester with a gray ponytail was standing next to the line, criticizing the administration’s drone war strategy. “When Bush was president, you were all with me!” he pleaded, but everyone in line just looked down and shuffled their feet.

They weren’t all hypocrites. A lot of them probably believed that Obama shared their opposition to the wars in the Middle East, and felt that supporting him was the best route to ending them, even if he hadn’t ended them already.

This is the kind of thought process that Maine Republican politicians have used to accommodate themselves to LePage, and it’s the same one they will use to navigate life under Trump.

You can’t play defense all the time:

The thing about an opponent who is always attacking is that you have a tendency to always be defending yourself. For instance, when LePage attacks welfare recipients, alleging massive fraud that busts budgets and hikes taxes, his opponents end up defending programs that no one really likes, not even the people who depend on them.

Democrats and their allies have not been able to advance a progressive anti-poverty program in part because they are consumed with protecting what’s left of what they had built in the past.

Mainers have had success stopping LePage, but no one has been able to put together an alternative explanation for what’s wrong and what to do about it that has been able to bring the LePage opposition together.

If there’s no competing vision to Trumpism, expect to spend the next four years watching the world put out the president’s fires.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: @gregkesich

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