Back in July, Paul LePage announced he’s running for governor again. During his announcement, LePage predictably promoted voter ID laws and admonished critical race theory.
Now, in case you’re unfamiliar, LePage is the shuddering embarrassment of a governor whose critics have called him “America’s craziest governor,” “Maine’s racist governor,” and the “second worst US governor.” He has called himself “Donald Trump before Donald Trump.” And his supporters have called him a “conservative hero,” a “conservative firebrand” and a “conservative’s conservative.”
Over the last month, I’ve thought a lot about this attempt to reclaim past glory. It’s made me decide one thing: I’m going to stop using the word “conservative” to describe fascists.
It’s just very plainly not what they are. “Conservative” applies to people who choose the most cautious path forward. Does that sound like so-called conservatives in this country?
Fascist ideas are all rooted in hate, and hate is not conservative. Again, conservative means better safe than sorry. American right-wingers believe the opposite. Over and over, regardless of the issue, they want nothing to do with safety. From generalities like regulation and healthcare to specifics like climate change, COVID-19 and race, these fascists have only ever shown themselves to be fundamentally, completely and forever against even the slightest hint of safety.
All they truly seek to keep safe are their indefensible ideas. Don’t critique them, don’t examine them — don’t even look at them! If you do, prepare to be met with claims of offense and accusations of intolerance. How dare you challenge my personal authority over our shared reality?
Some of you may bristle at the idea of calling them fascists. They’re also often called “traditionalists.” That may be more to your liking, but again, every single implication of that word is flatly false as it pertains to American right-wingers.
Yes, they believe in what we have come to call the “traditional values” of this country, but the honor and nobility associated with the concept of tradition are thoroughly absent from those beliefs. In reality, the “traditional” ideas they claim plainly equate to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and on and on.
The bigger problem, perhaps, is that those hateful ideas actually have less claim to tradition than their opposites. Variances in melanin, sexuality and gender predate the words invented to describe them. People were free long before they were subjugated to tyranny. Fights for freedom are not quests for new ways of life, but battles to return to a time before oppression, and anything claiming tradition beyond that is probably stealing from you, too.
Calling them conservatives or traditionalists or any of their other chosen descriptors contradicts our shared understanding of language and reality. Dry is not wet, up is not down, and fascists are neither conservative nor traditional. But, if you think I am in some way mistaken, here are some of the more noble quotes from the honorable Paul LePage:
“The traffickers … these are guys by the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty. These type of guys that come from Connecticut, New York. They come up here, they sell their heroin, then they go back home. Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is the real sad thing because then we have another issue we gotta deal with down the road.”
“I have been trying to get the President to pay attention to illegals in our country … because there is a spike in hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV, and it is going on deaf ears.”
“You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy and the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color or people of Hispanic origin.”
“I call him Mr. Chiu.” [LePage, referring to a Chinese businessman while pretending to sneeze]
“Let me tell you something: Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers. You ought to look into that.”
“Let me tell you this, explain to you, I made the comment that black people are trafficking in our state. Now ever since I said that comment I’ve been collecting every single drug dealer who has been arrested in our state. I don’t ask them to come to Maine and sell their poison, but they come and I will tell you that 90-plus percent of those pictures in my book, and it’s a three-ringed binder, are black and Hispanic people from Waterbury, Connecticut, the Bronx and Brooklyn.” [At the time of this quote, 14.1% of drug arrests in Maine were of Black people. Fewer than half of the 93 photos in LePage’s binder appeared to be of Black or Hispanic people.]