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Jane Calderwood of Brunswick is a former chief of staff for Sen. Olympia Snowe. She is a graduate of Bangor High School and Bates College.
Maine has a history of sending people to the U.S. Senate who are as steady and strong as our 3,478-mile-long granite coast line and just as unmovable when they believe something is wrong.
In Michael Shepherd’s Sept. 8 article “After years of bipartisan support, Susan Collins needs her GOP base more than ever,” he notes that the senator’s supporters claim it is politics that have changed while Democrats are arguing it is the senator who has changed. So, I think it is only fair to turn to Margaret Chase Smith, a mentor to Collins, to figure out what she would do.
In Smith’s famous Declaration of Conscience speech on the Senate floor in the midst of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, she said, “I think that it is high time for the United States Senate and its members to do some real soul searching and to weigh our consciences as to the manner in which we are performing our duty to the people of America … As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.”
So why isn’t Collins, who holds Smith up as a mentor, standing up and speaking out against the Trump administration on the big issues? I understand the need to maintain a good working relationship with the administration, so perhaps the question I should ask is why isn’t she standing up to the president and the Republican Party on the issues that really matter to Maine and our country?
We are in the midst of a pandemic that is killing Americans every day and when the president isn’t trying to sell us a drug his own health experts warn might kill us, he is telling parents to send their children back to school despite the serious health and safety concerns raised by experts.
The Aug. 8 BDN article quoted former state Sen. Mary Small as saying Collins had everything to lose if she stood up to the president. Margaret Chase Smith had everything to lose when she stood up to the communist-hunting McCarthy. If Collins is unwilling to disagree with a president of her own party, then what is the point of having her in the Senate representing us?
In August 2016, Collins, in an OpEd, said Trump was unsuitable for president and stated she would continue to oppose him. She has publicly stated she did not vote for him in 2016, yet she voted with Trump’s position nearly 90 percent of the time in 2017-2018.
Collins has said that Smith told her to “always to stand tall for what I believe in.” What does Collins believe in today? It is time for Collins to do some soul searching and to pick a side — with her constituents and her state and her country. Or will Collins, as Smith once feared the Republican Party would do, “ride to victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.”
If we are wondering what Margaret Chase Smith would do, I think we already know.