The Maine Non-Event: Don’t Believe the Hype About Senator Collins

Last week, I noted that self-styled “non-Trump” Republicans will try to blame “guilt by association” if they lose their seats in 2018–a crocodile-tear excuse, considering the fact that these Republicans had the option of leaving the party the moment Trump won the GOP nomination; these men and women could have easily declared back then that even if Trump went on to lose the general election, his nomination victory had permanently contaminated the party, and they wanted no part of a political organization headed by a intolerant, incompetent ideologue.

“Non-Trump” Republicans do not deserve to be regarded as profiles in courage, and as former Boston Phoenix political reporter David Bernstein observes, it’s curious that at least one self-promoting “Non-Trump” Republican is seen as a hero in certain circles:

Snarky liberal blog Wonkette has developed something of a crush on Maine Senator Susan Collins, raving late last week about “the best and the brightest of all the GOP senators.” That site wasn’t alone; anti-Trump observers of various political stripes are smitten. Harry Enten of fivethirtyeight dubbed Collins “The Real Republican Maverick.” The Boston Globe ran an article calling her “unafraid to oppose Trump.”

Collins is enjoying a moment as the left’s favorite Republican—at least, outside of Maine. Inside… well, that’s a complicated issue…

Bernstein suggests that Collins is a far less courageous figure than, for example, the late Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, who actually severed ties with the GOP due to his disgust with the George W. Bush administration in May 2001. In fact, Collins isn’t putting that much distance between herself and Trump:

Wonkette, fivethirtyeight, and the Globe all failed to mention in the above articles that Collins almost single-handedly assured the successful confirmation of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. Collins not only endorsed him, but personally spoke on his behalf before the Judiciary Committee, attesting to his integrity and lack of prejudice or bigotry. Collins also joined other Republican Senators in voting to silence Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren during the floor debate over the Sessions nomination.

The committee testimony, coming from a moderate, northern woman gave cover to other Republican Senators, to vote in favor of Sessions—who has been driving the left crazy of late. He was reportedly behind the administration retracting support for transgender students use of their preferred bathroom. He has signaled an intent to crack down on federal marijuana prohibition in states that have legalized its use. He reversed an Obama administration plan to discontinue use of private prisons. And, Sessions has refused to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into potential Russia ties in the Trump campaign, with which he was intimately involved.

Collins has gone along with Trump, and Republicans, in other ways, too. And, her acts of defiance have mostly been arguably less than they’re made out to be. On subpoenaing Trump’s taxes, Collins made clear that she would leave that up to Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, who has no interest in doing so. (The committee would almost certainly not release anything in those taxes publicly even if it did obtain them.) She voted against Pruitt, but did not speak up with Democrats asking to delay the confirmation vote for a few days, to see emails being released by a court showing Pruitt’s communications with oil and gas executives. Her vote against DeVos came only after Collins helped vote that nomination favorably out of committee.

Bernstein goes on to speculate that Collins is angling for the 2018 GOP gubernatorial nomination in Maine, and is thus reluctant to tick off pro-Trump Republicans in the Pine Tree State. Some kind of hero, eh?

Collins will certainly not be the lone voice of courage against Trump if she needs the votes of the bigoted billionaire’s boosters to become Maine’s next governor. The good news is that there are plenty of actual moderate, centrist, reasonable, logical, thoughtful, compassionate Republicans in this country. The bad news is, like Sen. Jeffords, they’re all in caskets.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.