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Maybe in some states, a rebuke to a sitting Republican U.S. senator by members of the state Republican Party apparatus carries some weight.
Stings a little, perhaps. Or maybe even puts re-election prospects up in the air by inviting a right-wing primary challenge.
But in Maine?
Against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins? A censure vote?
Are you kidding me?
I didn’t vote for Collins. I worked against her re-election. But a majority of voters in the state did vote for her. She won one of the most highly targeted U.S. Senate races in the country — one that broke barriers for activism and spending. And she did it on the first ballot, against a quality opponent who ran a sophisticated campaign.
She earned more votes than President Donald Trump by a lot and she likely provided some coattails for down ballot Republicans who otherwise might have been swamped by the president’s sinking ship.
Last week, Collins voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial in the Senate, bowing to the reality of the evidence and what her own eyes and ears told her during the Capitol insurrection and the months leading up to it. She did the right thing.
Collins was joined by six other Republicans, who saw like the majority of Americans exactly what happened and who was to blame.
As the Bangor Daily News reports, now some in the Maine GOP want to censure Collins for her vote.
I’m no Republican, and there’s no reason that they should listen to me, but the Maine Republicans need Collins a helluva lot more than she needs them.
With their near-constant ability to generate controversies, to the extreme and unqualified candidates they’ve put forward, to their devotion to former Gov. Paul LePage and Trump, the Maine GOP has been ostracizing reasonable conservatives for years.
There are moderate members left in the party, but their numbers are dwindling.
Collins may fairly be considered the most successful Maine Republican politician of her generation, outlasting U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe who retired as extremists gained ground in her party and even as her mentor former U.S. Sen. Bill Cohen decamped to join the Clinton administration as secretary of defense.
She’s also consistently supported down-ballot Republicans financially, even as they made her life — and persona of moderation — harder.
And now, the GOP is considering a vote of punishment?
For Democrats, Collins can be bitterly disappointing. Even when she arrives at the conclusion that we believe is correct, her route to rightness often bobs and weaves all over the place. And for each “correct” vote she takes that might please Democrats, there are dozens more where she goes along with her party.
Even now, her critics argue that while Collins voted to convict, her vote did nothing to change the final outcome. I give her credit for this hard vote because she had to know that it would inflame hardcore Trump fans.
Collins is tough; her staff and campaign are relentless and effective; when the eyes of the country were on her and the stakes were impossibly high and the spigot of money in the race was near endless, she prevailed.
I wish it wasn’t so. So do a lot of Democrats in Maine and even more around the country.
Maybe the Maine Republican Party is lost to reason and can’t be saved. Maybe it is intent on following Trump down the drain of cruelty and irrelevance.
Maybe their passions are so high that they can’t help but lash out.
And maybe, if they do, Maine will have two independent U.S. senators instead of just one.
I doubt that it would change much how she votes — to leave the party she’s always called home — but unless the Trump fever among Republicans breaks soon it’s hard to imagine how someone like Collins and other thoughtful Republicans can stay in the party, especially as it considers censure.
Wouldn’t that be something. If Maine Republicans through their anger, commitment to a failed and defeated president and short-sightedness do what Democrats couldn’t and cost their party the state’s U.S. senate seat, that would really be something.
A fella can dream, can’t he?