Maine Republicans have a new cause – caring for homeless people in the city of Portland.

Sure, they never showed any sympathy in the past, especially not during the eight-year reign of Gov. Paul LePage, who did everything in his power to make it harder for the city to deal with statewide demand for a low-barrier shelter.

But times have changed. Now that there are stories in the news about immigrants arriving in Maine’s biggest city, prominent Republicans have realized that yesterday’s takers are today’s people in need.

“Right now, in the city of Portland, there are literally American citizens, Mainers, our fellow Mainers living in tent cities,” said a very sad-eyed Nick Isgro, the mayor of Waterville and vice chair of the state Republican Party, in a video he recorded for the organization Restore Maine’s Future. “Over 90 percent of the shelter space in Portland, right now, is not being taken up by Maine citizens, it is being taken up by Third World asylum seekers and refugees.”

Maine Republican Party Executive Director Jason Savage wrote with passion about “Portland’s humanitarian crisis” in an email to party donors: “While Portland already faces difficulty providing resources and shelter for its homeless and struggling citizens, these additional asylum seekers are pushing the city to the brink … (It) has resorted to providing makeshift camps within the Portland Expo.”

And don’t forget LePage, who, as governor, refused to sell voter-approved housing bonds, vetoed a bill to provide opioid treatment for people who are homeless and revoked health care and nutrition aid for childless adults, all factors that made homelessness worse in Maine, especially in Portland. But now he sees the problem in a new light:

“Setting aside shelter beds for people crossing our borders illegally and denying those same beds to Maine people in need is shameful,” LePage wrote in a Facebook post. “In our own lives, we know that we have to feed our family before we can help our neighbors.”

Wait, the homeless are “Citizens” now? “Fellow Mainers”? “Our family”?

What is this, the Age of Aquarius?

But rest assured, the world hasn’t changed that much. The only way these guys would want to help the homeless is by cutting their taxes or rolling back burdensome regulations – same as before.

You could call this hypocrisy or political opportunism, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I think it’s really something much worse.

LePage, Isgro, Savage and their allies are not being inconsistent about housing policy; they are being very consistent about something else – the alleged threat to white power posed by immigration, as described in the “Great Replacement” or “White Genocide” conspiracy theory.

Starting about five years ago in Europe, far-right groups have claimed that “global elites” (a code phrase for “rich Jews,” like philanthropist George Soros) are depopulating traditionally white regions of the world and importing dark-skinned people to replace the population. The idea has spread via social media, and has been taken up by a variety of racist, nativist and nationalist organizations around the world.

The anti-Muslim shooter in the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre was a Great Replacement theorist. So was the anti-Semitic synagogue shooter in Pittsburgh. The neo-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!” (and sometimes “Jews will not replace us!”).

Meanwhile, back in Maine, prominent political leaders are putting their own spin on it.

Earlier this year LePage said the elimination of white political power was behind an effort to change the way Maine casts its votes in the Electoral College.

“What would happen if they do what they say they’re going to do, white people will not have anything to say,” he told the listeners of WVOM in Bangor. “It’s only going to be the minorities who would elect.”

Isgro got deeper into connecting the dots last week, when he posted a nine-minute Facebook video lamenting how the arrival of about 250 men, women and children from central Africa pose an imminent  threat to the Maine way of life.

“It’s not that we don’t have compassion for these asylum seekers,” he pleaded. “They are human pawns who are being played in a game by global elites and their partners here in Augusta.”

And what’s the game?

“We keep being told that we need more workers at the same time that we’re expanding and giving massive subsidies, now, to the abortion industry so we can kill our own people, but we have to import all these people so that we can continue to have a stream of cheap labor.”

Oh, I see. The Great Replacement.

My only question is this: Is this what all Republicans believe these days? If not, it would be nice to hear a few of them speak up.