Editor's note: On Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, LePage endorsed Trump for president, saying, "I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular," proving the central thesis of this piece.
If you want a vision of the Donald Trump presidential future, look no further than Maine’s tantrum-throwing, race-baiting, loves-to-be-hated Gov. Paul LePage.
Since being elected in 2010, LePage has repeatedly made use of rants designed to rally white middle-class resentment and garner media attention for his pet causes. The New York Times calls him “combative,” Politico says he’s “crazy,” and the Huffington Post brands him a “racist.”
For those following the Republican presidential race, this all sounds quite familiar.
In the span of just seven months, frontrunner Trump has dispensed with any sense of decorum or restraint—whether it’s calling John McCain a “loser” who, despite surviving a Vietnamese prisoner camp, is no war hero; branding Mexicans “rapists”; making sexist remarks about rival candidate Carly Fiorina and Fox News host Megyn Kelly; demanding an outright ban on all Muslim immigration; or gleefully repeating a fan calling Ted Cruz a “pussy.”
LePage, too, relishes in “tellin’ it like it is” brutishness.
For instance, the governor has blamed the spread of infectious diseases on undocumented immigrants. “I have been trying to get the president to pay attention to the illegals in our country because there’s been a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, and HIV, but it’s going on deaf ears,” he lamented, while failing to provide evidence for his claims.
While on the campaign trail in 2010, he proclaimed that he’d tell President Obama to “go to hell.” And within weeks of taking office, the businessman-turned-governor declined invitations from the NAACP to attend Martin Luther King Jr. Day events, adding that the civil rights organization—a “special interest” who will not hold him “hostage”—should “kiss my butt” if they feel slighted.
It’s not hard to envision President Trump, leaning back in his solid-gold Oval Office chair, telling a Muslim-American activist group they can “kiss my ass” after he declines to visit a mosque or entertain religious leaders.
As Maine’s executive, LePage frequently makes uncouth remarks to bash his legislative rivals. “Sen. [Troy Dale] Jackson claims to be for the people,” he said during a budget dispute, “but he’s the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline.”
One could easily imagine POTUS Trump making anal sex references to pressure Senate Democrats during tense negotiations.
And just like Trump has lobbed personal insults and veiled threats at media outlets he perceives as unfair, LePage, while at the controls of a flight simulator, publicly joked, “I want to find the Portland Press Herald building and blow it up.” A few months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, the Maine governor said he’d “like to shoot” a Bangor Daily News political cartoonist.
All of this seems to be part of LePage’s plan to thump his chest and offend or embarrass everyone until he gets his way. Just like The Donald.
The uber-conservative governor made national headlines last month when he suggested “we ought to bring the guillotine back” as punishment for drug traffickers. Before that, he went on a screed about “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” coming from other states to “sell their heroin” and ditch, but not before “they impregnate a young, white girl.”
LePage’s communications director, Peter Steele, denied the governor’s comments had anything to do with race. But then a month later, mini-Trump admitted the racial connotations, and noted it was all part of his tantrum to get the state’s legislature to do as he wanted.
“I had to go scream at the top of my lungs about black dealers coming in and doing the things that they’re doing to our state,” he told a WVOM radio show on Tuesday. “I had to scream about guillotines and those types of things before [state lawmakers] were embarrassed into giving us a handful of DEA agents. That is what it takes with this 127th [Legislature]. It takes outrageous comments and outrageous actions to get them off the dime. They just simply don’t move.”
Interestingly, as the Bangor Daily News noted, lawmakers from both parties agreed to LePage’s drug-fighting plans before he ever threw a hissy fit. And when it came up for a vote, all but one legislator voted yes.
So his racist stand was all for show. Sounds familiar.
Oddly enough, when asked for his thoughts on the likely Republican nominee, LePage, who had endorsed Chris Christie in the primary, said, “I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, although he should give me a stipend… for starting this whole thing about being outspoken.”