Maine gave the country a good laugh last week, providing a late-summer diversion from the presidential campaign.

Our governor offered a series of textbook racist comments to refute allegations that he has created a “toxic environment” regarding matters of race. He followed that performance the next day by recording an obscenity-filled rant on the voicemail of a lawmaker – who LePage then publicly joked to reporters about killing.

Wow! No other state in the country has a governor quite like that. He’s one of a kind, leaving the nation’s eyebrows raised, jaws gaping and heads shaking in disbelief. It’s quite a show.

But no one in Maine should be laughing, particularly not Maine Republicans. They are the only ones who could rein in the governor at this point, so they bear special responsibility for what he does next.

The governor is erratic, reckless and apparently unable to control his behavior. He doesn’t have the emotional make-up to do his job, or the skills he would need to bring people together – an absolute necessity in our system of government. The next two years under his leadership will be a time of stagnation at best, and likely a period of decline.

For the good of the state, LePage should resign. We encourage him to do it, but we have not seen anything in his character to indicate that he would ever be that generous to the people of Maine.

Democratic leaders have also called for him to resign and seek the help he needs. If he doesn’t do that, they warn, he could be forcibly removed from office, but that is just as unlikely as a voluntary retirement. This looks like it will be a divisive political battle that will last through the election and over the next two years.

That’s what makes what Republicans do now so important. If they line up behind their leader and allow this to look like a typical partisan dispute, nothing meaningful will get done in Maine until there is a new occupant of the Blaine House. But if they stand up to him and say that there are standards of common decency that are more important than partisan ties, they will set an example of statesmanship that would undo much of the damage LePage has done to Maine’s reputation and political culture.

Republican lawmakers and party officials should declare that LePage is unfit for his high office, and join Democrats in calling for his resignation. If he won’t step down, they should pledge to work with Democrats to do what they can to limit his ability to do harm for the rest of his term, and do as much as possible to work around him for the good of the state.

If there are any Republican lawmakers still deciding how to respond, they should take half a minute and listen to the message that LePage left on state Rep. Drew Gattine’s voicemail. They should listen not only to the words, but also to the anger behind them.

These lawmakers should ask themselves: What would happen at their workplace to an employee who left a message like that for a co-worker? What do they think would happen to a student at a Maine school who recorded a message like that, and then made comments about shooting the recipient between the eyes?

The Republicans know what would happen. The offenders would be gone, and they would have to have a long talk with a mental health professional before they could come back.

As state Rep. Sara Gideon said Friday, what LePage is doing is not normal. It’s not just an example of a highly stressed public official slipping up. He’s not going to change. We are going to see more of this and maybe worse for the rest of his term, unless someone does something extraordinary.

So far, the Republican response has been nothing but ordinary. House Minority Leader Ken Fredette attended LePage’s Friday news conference and tried to equate LePage’s outrageous behavior with a false claim that Gattine had called the governor a racist.

Nice try. Even if it were true, and it’s not, there is no adequate provocation for the governor’s tirade. Listen to the tape.

If the Republicans are going to try to play this as normal political banter, we are in for a long two years. The outrage might blow over until the next time LePage finds a new line of civil behavior to cross, but the state will suffer.