FALMOUTH — Ted Cruz’s victory over Donald Trump in Maine’s Republican presidential caucuses symbolizes far more than a majority of delegates. It shows for the first time that the conservative base of the Republican Party is willing to openly stand against Paul LePage.

Throughout the tumultuous six years of LePage’s statewide political career, his closest allies – on staff, in the Legislature and within the base of the Republican Party – have marginalized their own values and beliefs in order to protect the man from himself.

Last weekend, however, Le-Page’s closest supporters – the conservative base – finally realized how far away from their principles he had taken them. Conservatives, particularly social conservatives, obliquely but firmly repudiated Paul LePage and his politics of indignity when they chose Cruz over Trump.

In the weeks leading up to the Republican caucuses, before LePage joined Team Trump, some Maine conservatives had become very vocal about their disdain for the Republican front-runner. Without regard for the obvious hypocrisy, ardent LePage apologists railed against the uncouth and dishonest political style of Donald Trump. Across social media, pro-Le-Page pundits and activists wrote scathing screeds, harshly critical of Trump and his supporters.

But then, just before the Maine caucuses, LePage endorsed Donald Trump for president.

Anti-Trump LePage backers were left in an untenable logical position when this endorsement came down. It’s hard to defend LePage from Trumpism charges when LePage himself took pride of authorship for Trump’s style: “I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular. So I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth.”

Behind the scenes, LePage’s endorsement opened many eyes within the Republican base. Not only did it show LePage’s allegiance to someone many conservatives abhorred, but his questionable six-day evolution from anti-Trump activist to full-throated supporter struck many as opportunistic and the height of transactional politics.

Most political observers, including myself, expected a big win for Trump in Maine. But LePage’s endorsement backfired. LePage loyalists, including Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason and other active social conservatives, had already been working hard to counter Trump in Maine, and it was this core group of conservatives – previously the most pro-LePage faction in our state – that helped solidify the Cruz victory, and hand LePage a very public failure.

The Cruz victory was a very important development, and it signals an awakening of the conservative base in Maine. Paul LePage has put Republicans in a difficult position over the years by portending to carry the conservative banner, but then behaving in such an undignified way as their ambassador. But Trump has now given context to LePage’s behavior.

What many conservatives are waking up to is that it’s plainly hypocritical to decry lewdness in Donald Trump, but forgive it in Paul LePage.

You can’t call out Trump’s profanity and lewd comments but turn a blind eye to LePage’s comments about “giving it to the people (of Maine) without providing Vaseline.”

You can’t condemn Trump for calling his detractors “losers” and pat LePage on the back when he calls even fellow Republicans “corrupt” and “socialists.”

You can’t reject Trump because of his careless bellicosity and turn a blind eye when LePage suggests that vigilantes take advantage of our constitutional carry laws to target suspected drug dealers.

You can’t call Trump’s threat to “open up the libel laws” an affront to the First Amendment and then embrace LePage’s statements about bombing the Press Herald and shooting a political cartoonist, as well as his repeated efforts to thwart Maine’s Freedom of Access laws.

And you can’t condemn Trump’s failure to distance himself from the KKK and David Duke and then shrug at the fact that Paul LePage has also received the support of Duke and the KKK, and hasn’t said a thing about it.

It has been a long time coming, but thanks to the undeniable horror of Donald Trump’s rise to prominence, it appears Maine Republicans may finally be waking up to the mess we’ve created by propping up this governor. Let’s hope the repudiation of political indignity that we saw in this past weekend’s caucuses signals the beginning of a more rational Maine Republican Party, uncoupled at last from the failed example of Paul LePage.