The case for Collins

By Sam Patten | Oct 15, 2020

When it comes to the second most important question on Mainers’ ballots, the indicator of how you’ll vote is how angry you are with Susan Collins. It isn’t Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, it isn’t the Supreme Court, and it isn’t any other number of global considerations over which we have precious little control.

I haven’t voted yet because I’m torn on this one, both personally and politically. At one point in time, I was so pissed with Collins I even considered running against her in the primary — which I almost certainly would have lost.

But I’m still going to vote for her. Here’s why:

Mainers have various reasons to want someone new representing us in the Senate, and in nine cases out of 10 they have to do with punishing Collins. Some are irate about her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the high court in 2018, and some are livid with her for voting to acquit Trump earlier this year. Others still have been influenced by seeing her parodied on SNL, by The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz, or simply by the torrent of negative advertising it's become impossible to ignore — she’s in the pocket of the drug companies, or Wall Street super-predators.

My reasons were more parochial still. She sits on a committee that referred me to the Justice Department for prosecution. That stung. But, as with the case of a now-seated Supreme, or a president whose fate is now where it belongs, i.e., before the people, my grievance has its own half-life.

If you peel back the anger, you see what matters most is Maine. To her credit, Collins is a capable senator who has done well for the state in nearly 24 years. I worked for her, as she puts it “briefly and long ago,” but long enough to see her in action. By seeking out assignments like the Aging Committee, she’s put Mainers ahead of glitz and glamor in most instances. She’s a hard worker, more so than many of her peers. And she’s steadily climbed the ranks of Appropriations, which matters to a state like ours.

I really wanted to fall in love with Sara Gideon. After all, I was there when Collins pledged to serve only two terms, and our body politic desperately needs fresh faces. Gideon’s my age, seems very appealing, and according to her ads has been a very bipartisan speaker of the State House. But the questions I can’t answer about her are a) where is the fire in her belly, b) what keeps her up at 2 in the morning, and c) what promise does she offer to catch up for lost time, should she make it to the Senate. These may seem overly ponderous, but I think they matter.

Yet this election, for Margaret Chase Smith’s seat, is not love or hate. It is about practical things, like the cost of home heating oil. As Mainers, we look at things practically, so here is a pragmatic frame for the choice:

If you think Trump is going to win reelection, vote for Gideon. Should another four years be a distinct and imminent possibility, the only way to balance the ship of state is with a Democrat Senate. But if you think Joe Biden is going to win, the case for Collins is clear. Sure, there are a lot of people ticked that she hasn’t stood up to Trump more, but if Trump’s gone, the case for firing Collins loses all steam.

Looking at polls across the country today, control of the Senate is a toss-up, just as the Maine race has been pegged. In a Republican-held scenario, Collins’ seniority will substantially matter. If the coin lands on the other side, given the nature of the Senate, a senior member of the minority far outranks a junior member of the majority. In the rough and tumble game of the pork barrel, another — perhaps final — term for Collins makes sense.

Also one of her “sins,” being the swing vote that confirmed Kavanaugh, is put into new context with her decision not to vote in the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Had Mitt Romney not pulled the rug out from under her, that principled call would have been definitive. Whether Republicans hold or lose the Senate, there will still be some Republican senators. That being the case, wouldn’t it be better if the moderate Collins were one of them?

At any point in the last two years, were I to write about this race I would have surely excoriated Collins. Almost all of that had to do with her being a symbol of the career politician on her way to becoming like Dianne Feinstein in that video where she berates a group of schoolchildren who wanted to talk to her about the environment. But Collins isn’t there yet, and there are other places on the ballot for lashing out.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Oct 19, 2020 07:28

In two weeks, many US citizens and residents will be deeply angry. Certainly, not in recent times has a presidential election been so emotional. Both “sides” believe that the entire future of the country will be at risk if the other “side” wins. The possibility of a civil war feels far to possible.
But neither the election, nor the anger will solve the problems the US now faces, in fact the problems that the entire world now faces. The world, the entire world, is battling a virus that threatens, not only our lives, but our lifestyles. We have become disconnected from each other. It is unclear if large cities with massive, mostly empty buildings will ever be full again as working from home is the new norm. Will we see the many faces of the world walking along Times Square again? Will we recognize our shared humanity in their faces?
Shopping is no longer a communal interactive excursion but an at home click on the screen activity. Robots are increasingly doing the jobs that laborers once did. Jobs are lost.
As human beings, we have become more disconnected from nature and the planet. However, both the science and the weather are telling us that climate change is changing our world. People are being evacuated in record numbers, dead bugs no longer pepper our windshields, homes and livelihoods are being destroyed in massive storms and wildfires.
Regardless of who wins the election these problems will persist. But individuals collectively can change things locally by working on the issues we have in common despite our political differences. We have seen that in peoples’ actions in times of natural disasters when people come together to support, rescue and aid each other regardless of skin color, nation of origin, sexual identity or political views. We see it in the food giveaways, and in so many other ways.
Regardless of who wins the election, what will affect our lives the most is how we respond to each other in our communities. If we respond in anger and hate, we will further destroy what is already so fragile. If we respond in the spirit of we are in this together locally, recognizing our shared humanity, we can survive and leave a future for our children and grandchildren.
So, if your candidate doesn’t win, take time to grieve but turn the anger into positive action. Anger will further incite destruction, no one will change their minds and all will lose. Choose peace.
Rev. Dr.Barb E. Blom
Minister, United Ministry of Aurora
Founder, Interfaith Center for Action and Healing
1Richard McKusic

Posted by: Linda Milton | Oct 19, 2020 01:14

Opinions  only matter to ones who have them. My opinion about the performance of Susan Collins differs from that of the writer. My opinion matters to me which is the reason I will not vote for Collins.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Oct 16, 2020 10:08

Sam Patten has a right to his opinion even if it is wrong. Denial is a wonderful place don't you know.

Posted by: Lucinda Lang | Oct 16, 2020 09:53

Oh boy...this is another deeply partisan opinion piece. There is nothing moderate about Collins. She has the largest public relations team imaginable...she is placed in all media outlets several times every single day. Throughout her career Collins marketing team has been front and center. Please consider the reality of Collins voting record...and not anger  or falling in love or oh when working for her...for goodness sake. Please it is the voting record.  Collins has supported and voted for Cabinet  and Trump policies.  Collins is fully supportive of her multimillionaire billionaire peers as that is the class of people that benefits and which furthers the divide in this country....and in Maine.  Collins has been behind all those in this Administration who have been indicted. Collins has been complicit in the thousands of outright lies during this Administration. Collins is integral to the fact that the U.S. is now a fascist country or a kleptocracy and verging on a Dictatorship...take a look at Collins role in removing the Checks and Balances.  This is all part of a 20+ year Republican party plan. That Collins is supporting the process of a Supreme Court nominee  at this time is corruption and hypocrisy and lying at its most obvious.  There are so many factual references. One easy to understand and read through was presented by Sheldon Whitehouse.   And there has not been an actual vote so it is unknown how any of them may vote.  Geeze...the reality of voting to support the end of Democracy is stunning. No it is not about rolling the dice on who is the next President.  There is nothing Susan Collins has done for Maine that another Senator would not do.  Susan Collins has supported Trump on all issues of consequence and integrity. My goodness...there is nothing moderate about Collins.  Susan Collins has chosen her party over Maine and this country her entire career. Please vote for Sara Gideon to restore Democracy in the United States. Thank you

Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Oct 15, 2020 09:44

Buh bye Susan..... and about time.

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