On the Senate floor in 1950, US Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine delivered a speech in which she said that as a Republican, she could no longer stay silent against McCarthyism. It was her “Declaration of Conscience,” which she circulated as a letter for her colleagues to sign.
By 1971, Chase had long made history as the first woman in US history to be elected to the House and the Senate, as well the first woman to have her name placed into nomination for president at a major party’s convention (1964 in San Francisco). But also in that year, she made time for a two-hour meeting with an 18-year-old high school senior from Caribou, Maine, who was selected to take part in a Senate page program.
The pair talked about work before the US Senate Armed Services Committee, creating jobs back in Maine, and Chase Smith’s Declaration of Conscience speech. It had been two decades since Chase Smith spoke out against McCarthyism, but it remained one of her proudest moments because she stood up for the country’s principles and against bigotry, according to that 18-year-old, Susan Collins.
Flash forward to 2016: Collins serves in same Senate seat held by Chase and occupies the same desk that she used to deliver the Declaration of Conscience speech. On Sunday, Collins wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that: “I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president. This is not a decision I make lightly, for I am a lifelong Republican. But Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.”
Collins is not alone in the US Senate. Other Republican Senators including Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska also have said they are not voting for Trump.
Their moves will put pressure on US Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire to denounce her support of Trump -- just days after he disparaged her and then flipped to endorse her.
Of the 12 US Senators in New England, Ayotte is now the only Republican who still maintains support for the GOP nominee. And to the south, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, also has said he is not voting for Trump.
For Baker and Collins the decision might be politically easier. Neither are up for reelection this year, and both represent much more Democratic-leaning states than Ayotte’s New Hampshire. Ayotte is locked in a brutally tight re-election race this year and needs Trump supporters to have her back, even as she appeals to independents who aren’t big fans of him.
When Chase Smith passed around her Declaration of Conscience letter, six other senators signed it, including US Senator Charles Tobey of New Hampshire. Ayotte now serves in his seat.