“I mean, it’s not fun,” Susan Collins said, sitting in her Senate office on Tuesday. It was her first day back at work following last week’s midterm elections, and the Maine Republican was not quite radiating fresh-start and renewal vibes. “Death threats are not fun. Protests are not fun. Being mobbed — sorry, I know the media hates that word — being mobbed when I go to vote. I do not enjoy that at all. I find that exhausting.”
Returning senators of either party could echo Collins’s despair over the ruptured, strident and increasingly bellicose state of Trump’s Washington; they would also share her foreboding over what’s in store as subpoenas start flying, Mueller Time nears and the president swings into re-election rally mode, probably in the next week or so. But Collins, who is 65 and coming off two of the most punishing years of her Senate career, seems to be entering a particularly grim existential zone.
As both parties have dug in, Collins’s relative independence has made her the perennial “essential vote” on increasingly enormous questions of state. Her openness to bipartisanship has, paradoxically, made her a bipartisan target. Republicans catalogue Collins’s RINO (“Republican in name only”) apostasies, as when she cast one of the three G.O.P. no votes against the Obamacare-repeal bill last year.