Paul LePage, February 2016: “I’m a big constitutionalist.” That was around the time he reportedly told a meeting of Republican governors, following Trump’s big primary win in New Hampshire, that they should draft an open letter to “the people” disavowing Trump and condemning his divisiveness.
Fast-forward eight months. Paul LePage, October 2016:
“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress and every single day, we’re slipping into anarchy,” LePage said on Maine radio station WVOM…
“And you know, the bottom line. The bottom line is this,” LePage said of Trump. “Is he a slimeball? I’d be the first one to say, not a guy ideally I’d want my daughter going after. But I will tell you one thing, as the head of state, is he going to protect our nation and fight the debt or is he going to go after interns? That’s the bottom line.”
Skip to 10:15 of the clip for the key bit. He’s being true to the spirit of Trumpism here, and not just in the obvious national-savior caesarist sense. Trump is where he is partly because he’s been willing to jettison all pretense of principle and encourage Republican voters to get what’s rightfully theirs, even — or especially — if it requires emulating the left to do so. Chumps like Paul Ryan will tell you that the entitlement system is unsustainable and desperately needs reform; Trump vows to protect entitlements come what may because you paid into the system and you deserve your cut. Ryan types will tell you that it’s shameful to donate to Democrats or to stiff creditors by liberally using the bankruptcy laws; Trump will tell you that both of those things are simply what a good businessman does to maximize his own profits. Conservatives dislike racial identity politics; Trumpers support white identity politics because it evens the political playing field with other racial voting blocs. LePage’s comments add another chapter to all of that. Obama has weakened separation of powers by expanding executive authority over immigration, health care, and foreign interventions. The solution to that isn’t stricter fidelity to the Constitution and shifting power from the executive to the legislature. The solution is brute force “authoritarian power” for Trump to shift government the other way, to the right. Obama was an autocrat? Well, now we get an autocrat too.
Turn out the lights. The party’s over.