Being betrayed is bad enough. Being betrayed by someone who claims to be your friend is worse.
If you care about abortion rights, about ending Trumpism, about pulling this country back from the brink to which the nihilists who lead the GOP have brought us, hear this: Susan Collins is Not. Your. Friend.
This shouldn’t come as news to anybody who has watched the self-proclaimed moderate Republican senator from Maine in recent years. But just in case you’re still clinging to the illusion, last week provided three more dispiriting jolts of reality.
First, on Wednesday, Collins officially threw her support behind former Maine governor Paul LePage’s bid to return to his old job. LePage, as if anybody could forget, is the vulgar, racist bully who bills himself, correctly, as the Trump before Trump. The former governor has been making bogus stolen election claims since at least 2018. So naturally, he’s all in on Trump’s Big Lie. He eviscerated Collins for her refusal to vote for Trump in 2016 because, she wrote in a Washington Post essay, he rejected common decency and was unworthy of public office. She might as well have been describing LePage.
But Collins and LePage made up. He backed her reelection bid last year, so there the senator was at LePage’s comeback kickoff event, appearing via video. She has clearly decided she needs the support of the red hat brigade, but they have no use for her: As her video played, members of the MAGA crowd jeered and called her a traitor, according to local reports.
They hate her because sometimes — usually when the stakes are low — Collins occasionally bucks her party. She was one of seven Republican senators who voted in February to convict Trump after he was impeached for inciting the insurrection of Jan. 6. But she voted to acquit him after his first impeachment last year, saying, incredibly, that Trump had learned his lesson.
The only lesson Collins taught Trump is that she mostly will fall in line when it really matters. Which brings us to the second of last week’s developments: The purportedly vehement abortion rights advocate said she would not support legislation to codify Roe v. Wade. Those rights are under attack because judges for whom Collins voted — most famously, abortion rights opponent Brett Kavanaugh — refused to block a dystopian law in Texas that bans abortions after about six weeks. Collins, who decried the Texas law, went to the mat for Kavanaugh during his confirmation, delivering an impassioned 45-minute speech on her decision to back him after one of her prolonged Hamlet routines. Last week she rejected the notion that she might have enabled the court’s attack on abortion rights by voting to confirm the hotheaded judge.
“I’ve cast votes on seven of the nine justices on the Supreme Court. Of those I’ve voted to confirm, three voted with the majority and three voted with the minority,” she told reporters.
This is classic Collins: Because she took a right vote, the wrong vote doesn’t matter. Nobody who cares as much about abortion rights as she claims to would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh. That she later declined to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t undo the damage.
Even though she says she wants legislation to protect abortion rights, Collins won’t vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would do just that, because, she says, the law would make it hard for health workers who object to abortion to opt out of providing the procedure. Advocates say Collins is misinterpreting the bill.
No worries: With Collins’s help, the measure will die in the Senate, anyway.
Something else that might die in the Senate, with her help: the recovery.
Which brings us to the third way Collins backed her party’s extremism last week: She is supporting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s reckless refusal to raise the debt ceiling, thereby making it more likely that the United States will default on its debts, the economy will tank, and Democrats will be blamed. She parroted McConnell’s bogus, utterly disingenuous arguments; no need to concoct her own.
To be fair, it’s almost impossible to be a moderate in today’s GOP. McConnell and the red hats demand absolute fealty; it would take immense courage to buck them — courage Collins clearly doesn’t have.
But how about we stop pretending otherwise?