Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe; Authoritarian, authoritative

I’d love not to talk about my state’s governor, Paul LePage, and simply let him disappear into history…preferably the dung heap portion of it, but given that he’s a bit of a mini-Trump and has done nothing good for Maine’s image, politics or future, I need to bring him up as a warning for why you really, really, REALLY need to vote in a way that ensures Donald Trump doesn’t get into the Oval Office.

LePage made the news again with some poor wording that, in my opinion, was also blatant honesty. As he said on a radio talk show this month:

“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.”

By way of full disclosure, he said in the days following that he misspoke and meant something more along the lines of “authoritative leadership” rather than “authoritarian control.” More on that later, because I call BS on it. But first, let’s parse his original statement a bit.

So, the U.S. Constitution is “broken” eh? I’ll be the first to admit it has many flaws, though most of those are found in the fact that the protections in that document aren’t equitably shared by all citizens. Gender, race and all sorts of other factors tend to prioritize who gets the protections of the Constitution in full. But LePage is saying it might be “broken.” Mind you, this coming from a guy who’s a member of the club so often touting how important the second amendment is and talking about how we need judges and justices who are constitutional traditionalists. Double-talk much?

LePage wants the “rule of law” brought back. But isn’t that fundamentally what the Constitution is about? You want to throw out the Constitution in place of “rule of law.” I think that’s tends to lead to things like martial law, totalitarianism, etc.

Supposedly, Obama is an “autocrat.” Never mind that he never came for people’s guns like they said he would. He doesn’t uplift and support the Islamic State but in fact continues to do things that are probably too militaristic on the part of the U.S. (like overuse of drones and resulting civilian casualties) to fight them. He got the country out of one of the worst financial crises it had ever seen. Despite continuing complaints by so much of Black America that police are more harsh and brutal toward them than to white people, Obama continues to say a lot of great things about police and to urge calm rather than raising a Black Power fist and saying it’s time to start flipping cars and burning buildings. Also, many of his intended policies and attempts to get laws passed have been routinely blocked by the GOP in Congress. Some autocrat.

But LePage’s answer to solving the “problem” of the alleged autocrat who really isn’t? It’s to have a conservative Republican autocrat instead. That’s what “authoritarian power” means. An autocrat is someone who wields that kind of power.

I don’t believe LePage misspoke. Oh, I believe he probably intended to say something “softer” but the fact is that he spoke his thoughts. Because LePage has been a bully in office throughout his first term and now second term. He wants to be an autocrat. He wants to bark orders and have them followed. Fortunately, he hasn’t always succeeded, but that’s what he does. He makes ultimatums and insults and threatens and when he doesn’t get his way he bitches and moans and/or threatens retribution.

Leaving aside his many horrible statements and actions in office, from open disrespect to the President and to civil rights groups to blaming Black people and immigrants for drugs and disease when the facts and figures show him to be wrong to just about 90% of everything else he says and does…I’m just going to go back to the earliest days of his first term.

When he ordered the removal of murals from the Maine Department of Labor that depicted images of laborer’s rights and labor movements because he considered them offensive to businesses and detrimental to attracting business to the state. But this was the Department of LABOR. Not the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development. The latter is the one that looks toward business interests. The former is about workers. But LePage unilaterally ordered the removal of murals he didn’t like because they didn’t meet his beliefs.

And, as with many authoritarian-minded leaders, like LePage and Trump, you get misleading stories to undermine faith in the political process and destabilize things. For example, Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated statements lately that the election is rigged against him somehow. Despite the fact that Democrats don’t control the voting/polling process and despite repeated studies that show voter fraud in the United States that is so far below 1% it’s almost immeasurable in terms of effect. Handfuls of votes, not a trend.

And yet, LePage got up on the Trump bandwagon to spout similar untruths, saying, “I am not confident that we are going to have a clean election in Maine. The Democratic Party insists on not having IDs. Will people from the cemetery be voting? Yes, all around the country. The media and the Democratic Party want everyone to vote, whether they’re citizens or not.”

Again, there is no evidence that this happens in any substantial way, and LePage himself won TWICE with less than 50% of the vote. Most people didn’t want him, but because people split the ticket voting in both elections because of an independent candidate, and because a divisive initiative to change bear-hunting practices during his second run mobilized GOP-minded people to the polls who wouldn’t normally have voted, he got in. Fair and square. It sucks for people like me and much of the state, who can’t stand what he stands for, but it was all fair. Voter fraud in this country, especially at the state and national level, is a myth to convince people to uproot and possibly overthrow existing government that, however screwed up it might be, is still mostly working to keep things running smoothly, safely and lawfully…even constitutionally.

If only those were the only lies of these wanna-be autocrats. When you watch Donald Trump rallies and see him simply make things up…false facts, wildly inaccurate figures, non-existent boogeymen…you see the people cheer. When they continue to support Trump despite rampant proof that he is not simply covertly deceitful like many politicians (and businessmen like himself) but also an outright pathological liar, you see where we could go from a mini-Trump here in Maine to a real Trump in the Oval Office and have much of America simply do what they’re told.

Because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this country, most of them white, who feel (no matter how inaccurately) that they are being oppressed and left behind and that “minorities” and other “others” are getting everything. And they’re ready to line up behind an authoritarian. An autocrat.

Just like much of Germany did behind Hitler. Is Trump as bad as Hitler in terms of genocidal and territorial ambitions? Probably not. But he’s in much the same mold in terms of outlook, beliefs and goals. I’ve seen what Trump looks like in LePage, and it took less than half of Maine’s population to vote him in both times. I look at the level of dissatisfaction in the United States and wonder whether we will see that writ large with Trump winning the presidency.

I hope not. But let’s not assume Trump’s horrible words or revelations of horrible actions will change much of America’s positive attitude toward him. Because none of that stopped LePage from winning the governorship twice in Maine. And I don’t want to upscale to a national version of LePage. If you have any hope for the future of America in any way, from the political to the economic to the social, neither should you.


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