Hey, given Susan Collins’ track record in the Senate, how likely was she to vote Republican anyway? Sixty percent? I kid, I kid. With thirteen weeks still left before the election, Senator Collins (R-ME) penned a Washington Post column declaring that she refuses to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump does not represent true Republican values, Collins argues:
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.
When the primary season started, it soon became apparent that, much like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mr. Trump was connecting with many Americans who felt that their voices were not being heard in Washington and who were tired of political correctness. But rejecting the conventions of political correctness is different from showing complete disregard for common decency. Mr. Trump did not stop with shedding the stilted campaign dialogue that often frustrates voters. Instead, he opted for a constant stream of denigrating comments, including demeaning Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) heroic military service and repeatedly insulting Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize. But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing — either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level — that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.
What was the last straw? Collins refers to three incidents in particular, but in between and all around them brings up other issues, so it’s not clear what the break point actually was. The latest of these incidents was Trump’s attack on the Khans, as Collins writes that “[I]t is inconceivable that anyone, much less a presidential candidate, would attack two Gold Star parents.”
It’s worth noting that the Khans took the stage at the Democratic convention to sharply criticize Trump and made themselves legitimate targets for criticism. What actually was “inconceivable” was that Trump fell so easily into that trap and didn’t have the basic political instinct to grasp how foolish it was to punch back — and down — in that instance, or to grasp the First Rule of Holes after the first day of his counterattack. That falls more under the “lack of self-restraint” that also lands on the list of Collins’ complaints.
Collins drops another minor bomb while saluting the populist groundswell that produced Trump in the first place, emphasis mine:
At the same time, I realize that Mr. Trump’s success reflects profound discontent in this country, particularly among those who feel left behind by an unbalanced economy and who wonder whether their children will have a better life than their parents. As we have seen with the dissatisfaction with both major- party nominees — neither of whom I support — these passions are real and the public will demand action.
So Collins won’t vote for Hillary Clinton either? If not, why not just explicitly say so? She managed an explicit statement regarding Trump, after all; she led with it. Does she plan to vote for Gary Johnson, or just sit out the presidential election altogether? It seems curious that Collins has decided who she opposes, but offers no insight into who she supports.
That’s not the only curious ambiguity in this passage; saluting the passions of the people while rejecting the choices made from those passions is just a little too cute by half as well. Collins sounds approving about the “public” demanding “action.” Didn’t her party just have a primary? What about the (Re)public(ans) that demanded action by handing Trump the nomination? You can’t salute populism while deriding the choices that emerge from it, and keep your credibility intact for this kind of lecture.
This recalls the public declaration of then-Senator Lincoln Chafee, who announced his intention to oppose George W. Bush in 2004 by writing in the name of his father and hinted he’d leave the GOP if Bush won re-election. Collins can support or oppose whomever she likes, of course, and Chafee went on to have a decent post-GOP career in Rhode Island. But it meant nothing in the end, and neither will this.