Alan Zendell, July 30, 2017
Susan Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996. She’s halfway through her fourth term, and if she chooses to run for a fifth, it will be during the 2020 presidential campaign, so she’s relatively immune to pressure from the White House and blackmail from groups like the Koch brothers. But in her case, I don’t think that matters. She would continue to be true to what she believes no matter who threatened her. She would place the interests and needs of her constituents above the needs of the far right. She will, as she always has done, defend poorer Americans who would have no health care if not for Medicaid and women who depend on organizations like Planned Parenthood.
It’s clear that she is appalled by our president, his behavior, his character, his unprincipled and unscrupulous way of dealing with people he disagrees with. But listen to her interviews. She is impeccably polite and soft-spoken. Her words are carefully chosen, though she is crystal clear about what’s wrong with Trump while sounding like a loving aunt talking about a nephew who just can’t seem to do anything right. Never a nasty word, and yet she is as effective as anyone in the Senate.
Unassuming and never self-aggrandizing, she was overwhelmed yesterday in Bangor, ME when she stepped off an airplane to a spontaneous eruption of applause from everyone near enough to recognize her (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOyQONKnRuE). Compare that to the constant rabble rousing Trump’s people do to stir up his limited base. It’s not difficult to get 6,000 screaming fans to fill an arena in a place like eastern Ohio where workers have really suffered from our evolving economy. But let’s keep it in perspective. That part of Ohio has a population of about 1.5 million, so those rabid crowds in Youngstown represented about half of one percent of the people who live there.
Trump attracts crowds by utilizing a team of professional organizers who carefully select their venues and spend months setting up rallies with bands, television cameras, party hats, and food concessions. All Susan Collins has to do to attract adoring crowds is show up unannounced at an airport.
All throughout the Obamacare repeal debacle, we knew that Mitch McConnell had a razor thin majority to work with. We also knew that Susan Collins would never go along with the selfish, insensitive attempts by some of her colleagues to deprive millions of health care to achieve tax cuts for their wealthy benefactors. From the first, she single-handedly reduced McConnell’s margin of victory by a third, while quietly setting an example for other senators with a conscience, giving them some cover from the relentless pressure from the right.
For months she stood alone on her side of the aisle, never wavering in her position. At times she was joined by people like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, but the principles that produced that accidental alliance had nothing to do with her concerns for the people who would be left without access to health care. In the end she was also joined by Lisa Murkowski, who the Alaska Dispatch described as someone Alaskans have watched grow and learn to stand up to the political pressures of the right since she was appointed in 2002. Her vote, too, was courageous, but I can’t help thinking it was Susan Collins’ example that made Murkowski’s No vote possible.
Collins was the only member of the Republican senate caucus that staked out her position from the beginning and stood firm regardless of the vitriol spewed by Trump and self-serving hacks like Rush Limbaugh. She showed that American heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
John McCain cast the dramatic deciding vote that killed the Obamacare repeal effort, but there’s no doubt that the real star of the principled resistance in the Republican party was Susan Collins.