Maine Gov. Paul LePage went ballistic Thursday after several Democratic politicians labeled him a "racist" over comments he made about the demographic makeup of drug trafficking suspects in his state.
LePage went on a profanity-laced tirade in a voicemail message in which he challenged Democrat state legislator Drew Gattine to prove he was a racist, the Portland Press Herald reported.
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"Mr. Gattine, this is Gov. Paul Richard LePage," a recording of the governor’s phone message says. "I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you (expletive). I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist (expletive). You … I need you to, just friggin. I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you."
LePage later confided in reporters he'd like to settle the score with the "snot-nosed little guy" Gattine in an armed duel.
Charges of racism and bigotry from the Democrat Party are nothing new, of course.
But what is new is the reaction by Republicans.
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And it's being led by the Trump phenomenon.
While LePage's reaction might have been over the top, it illustrates how Republicans are no longer rolling over in fear when branded with the dreaded "racist" label.
Hillary Clinton said Thursday that Trump would "make America hate again" and said the Trump campaign was "built on prejudice and paranoia," a theme she has hammered over and over again.
But Trump, unlike most Republicans, did not cower at the charges. He fired back at Hillary with some of Hillary's own medicine.
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"Hillary Clinton is a bigot," he said Thursday. He later clarified his comment in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper in which he calmly stated, "her policies are bigoted because she knows they're not going to work."
Rather than responding with a denial, something akin to the failed Nixonesque "I am not a crook," political observers say Trump is smart to stay on the offensive. He refuses to be baited by the classic Democratic ploy that Richard Viguerie says has worked like a charm for as long as he can remember.
And that's a long time. Viguerie, the legendary 82-year-old GOP political strategist, has been involved in politics for 55 years.
Dems use 2 issues to win elections over and over
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"It's part of the Democrat playbook and quite frankly there are basically two issues that Democrats have used as long as I can remember to win elections," Viguerie said. "They invariably bring these out particularly if they feel threatened, and that is they play the race card and they play the senior card, saying 'oh the Republicans are going to throw grandpa out in the snow,' so they've made a pretty good living over the decades by doing this."
Because it's been so effective, Viguerie doesn't blame the Democrats for continuing with the same strategy.
"I don't fault the Democrats so much on that as I do the Republicans because you know they're gonna do that, they have done it for my 55 years in politics, but it’s the weak Republican response that allows them to do that," he said. "Trump is speaking about race relations but in a way that is not always resonating. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan are of course silent. They should be talking about how the Democrats are weak on law enforcement allowing crime to run rampant and drugs to infest our inner-cities, and the Republicans are just silent, so you can't just fault the Democrats too much because the Republicans allow them to get away with it. And that's why we need to replace the Republican leaders. They're just so weak. They always have been. If they had effective arguments the Dems would have to drop those tactics."
Typically the GOP candidates respond by getting defensive.
"They get almost into a fetal position, like Gerald Ford did, and say 'oh no, no I'm not a racist,' and they get their head handed to them," Viguerie said.
In 2014 many of the new generation of tea party Republicans did well because, like Trump, they went on the offensive. When charged with racism "they started talking about national security and the border and about radical Islam and that changed the game up," Viguerie said. "They moved the dial with women talking about national security. But Republican leaders in 2014 were not Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. If they stay on defense they're going to have their heads handed to them. The Dems are like the dogs -- we know they're going to bark -- but we need to find fault with our own responses."
Getting to the Promised Land
Viguerie said the conservative movement today is in transition.
"I believe we're like the biblical Jews that had to wander through the desert for 40 years until all the weak leaders died off," he said. "Conservatives are the same way. We're never gonna get to the Promised Land with the Jeb Bushes and the Paul Ryans, the John McCains and Mitt Romneys.
"I think we're getting close. Politics are changing so fast in America I don't think you'll recognize it in five years. I think the establishment Republicans will go by the wayside. Constitutional conservatives like Ted Cruz will be forced to align with the populist type conservatives."
Author and activist Pamela Geller has long been labeled a "racist" by liberals, especially in the United Kingdom, where she and partner Robert Spencer have been banned from entry.
"This is a war. There’s an enemy among us. They mean to crush our basic freedoms. Calling people 'racist' for standing for freedom is a moral inversion, and it is all-pervasive," she said.
"The American people need to stand up for our basic founding principle," Geller added. "The principle is the freedom of speech – offensive speech is what is being protected by the First Amendment, not inoffensive speech, which needs no protection. The freedom of speech is the tool of the powerless to ward off tyranny. The leftist elites use charges of racism to smear and silence their opponents and allow only one point of view to be aired in the mainstream. This is as un-American as it is dishonest.
"I credit LePage's response to Donald Trump. Republicans have learned that they must fight back, fight fire with fire. It's long overdue."
Spencer said the left is very clever at demonizing and provoking its opponents. They seek to rule anyone who would support Trump as a bigot who is "outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.
"They can't meet us on the level of facts. They can't refute us," Spencer told WND. "So they use two tactics: ridicule and defamation. They try to imply that we are too moronic and stupid to be worthy of a reply, or that we are morally evil – racist, 'Islamophobic' – and thus also unworthy of a reply."
This only works because they hold power among the media and political elites, Spencer said.
"If they didn't, their dishonesty and intellectual bankruptcy would be obvious," he added. "But their friends and allies run interference for them."
An example of the media running "interference" for the Democrats can even be found at Fox News. Shep Smith, speaking on that network, played the role of Hillary supporter.
Smith suggested Thursday it will be difficult for Trump to escape the charge that he is fundamentally a "racist."
"The problem with any attempt to rebut her is that in this case she used Donald Trump’s own words, was historically accurate on his policies, on all reviewed points," Smith said. “He trades in racism, doesn’t he?”
Radio host, author and pastor Jesse Lee Peterson said politicians like LePage may be emboldened by Trump's example. He hopes it continues.
"I am happy as I can be that finally somebody like Donald Trump is out there with a bull horn telling the truth, and that is, the real hateful racists toward black America are Hillary and the Democrat Party," Peterson said. "As Trump said, Hillary is a bigot and for the last fifty to sixty years the Democrats have been accusing white men and women who are Republicans of being racists, and they have been able to get away with that for years because whites have been afraid to stand up and defend themselves. And finally Trump is standing up and saying, no, the real bigot is Hillary Clinton and neither she nor her party has done anything for the last 50 years to help blacks. And if you don't believe him look at the cities, they are rife with crime, dropouts, abortion. So who are the real racists?"
Peterson said the city of Gary, Indiana, "was once a beautiful place to live, full of all sorts of businesses, people were working, crime was low, and as soon as the first black mayor took office all hell broke loose, blacks started attacking whites, and now even descent black people are afraid to walk the streets. Look at Detroit, Milwaukee, wherever black liberal Democrats have taken control they've gone to hell."
Peterson believes Trump is on the right track by taking his message aggressively to the black community.
"By saying just look around. There is nothing to prove that Democrats really care about black America," he said "All they do is promise them more programs, more affirmative action and nothing that causes them to be more free or more independent of the government."
Peterson said Hillary Clinton's speech Thursday "was the most hateful, despicable, lying speech Hillary ever gave. Donald Trump, by standing up to her and calling her out as a bigot, he's bringing out the real Hillary Clinton."
Peterson, who spent more than half his life as Democratic activist, said he's never met a racist in the conservative movement.
"I can honestly tell you that in the 26 years of being a black Republican conservative, I've never met a racist conservative," he said. "I've gotten nothing but encouragement, they pray for me, support me, and it's been nothing but love to be honest, and even when they disagree with me on an issue, they just want to work for the betterment of our community and that's the truth, from both men and women. And when I was a Democrat I didn't get that kind of support. They gave nothing but lies to keep me down."
Peterson said white politicians and activist who get slapped with the "racist" label should go on the offensive and lay out what Democrats have done to "keep blacks on the plantation of the Democrat Party, keep them divided, living in fear and resentment, and by way of abortion they have killed more black children than slavery itself."
The ultimate racist
The founder of Planned Parenthood, the Democrat icon Margaret Sanger, was in fact a devout racist, Peterson said.
"She was loved by the Ku Klux Klan," he said.
Democrats also support the Black Lives Matter movement, which Peterson said is infiltrated by communists and is "worse than the KKK in terms of being angry, bitter, hateful people who support nothing that is good."
He said conservative Republicans by contrast "offer you freedom, low taxes, the opportunity to start your own businesses, they offer you safer communities, the Democrats don't offer any of that. So do not be afraid of their labels. You’ve got to fight fire with fire in order to end this false accusation of racism by Democrats to conservatives. It's blowing them away. They've never had this sort of challenge before. Their strategy has been very effective, to put fear into whites and to keep blacks angry. When really it's an agenda for the destruction of the economy, destruction of the education system and destruction of the races to where they don't get along."
Another prominent black American, Alveda King, said she has not endorsed Trump but does not believe he is a racist. She said he is speaking the hard truth about America's inner cities.
"For the last several decades many of our urban centers have been ruled and controlled by the Democratic Party and yet the crime rate is very high in those cities, the school dropout rate is terrible, the abortion rates are very high, so if they are under the leadership of the Democratic Party why are blacks suffering under their regime?" King said. "When they asked [Trump] about race he said if everyone is working and has good healthcare, safe streets, then people do better. Everything he said about our community is true. Hillary said Trump's message is 'Let America hate again,' but I think it's about 'let America work again.' And it's truthful to say people of America's urban centers need to be able to work, to be healthy, to go to church, and do community service and not live in fear."
Another issue that has drawn charges of "bigotry" is the refugee movement.
"The best position on refugees is that America needs to be great again first, we need to take care of our own people and our own problems first," King said. "America has so many internal problems that we need to look at ourselves and make America whole again, to heal America, we need to take care of America's problems before we try to solve the world's problems."
Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said Trump should continue doing what he's doing, and stay on point with his message.
"Trump needs to pound Hillary's inglorious racist ties/connections. The Clintons historically accuse others of doing what they do," Bachmann said. "Democrats think they can get away with this. D'sousa's new movie, 'Hillary's America', does a pretty good job explaining the Democrats' recent racist history. We can pound that and contrast it with our own pro-black heritage."