Image Credit: C-Span
After the 2016 election, Maine saw an uprising of constituents who came together to advocate for the people and issues left behind by the Trump administration. Made up of dozens of statewide, regional and small-town grassroots groups whose thousands of members share progressive values, Maine’s “resistance” is independent, largely volunteer-driven and almost exclusively women-led. Many of these groups led efforts to oppose Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination through nonviolent civic action, most vocally after Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations turned the campaign into a battle over the credibility of survivors and the standing of the #MeToo movement.
Kavanaugh’s swearing in over the weekend was a bitter pill to swallow. Despite months of working collectively to make the case that this nominee would be bad for Maine and the country, in the end, the evidence we presented did not matter. Neither did credible accusations of sexual assault; a shocking display of entitlement, belligerence and partisan vitriol, or even lying under oath.
The resulting loss was especially painful for those whose stories mirrored Ford’s. But Sen. Susan Collins’ justification of her vote, both from the Senate floor and since, twisted the knife in a way that is prompting resistance groups to dramatically shift their priorities. Her narrative that Ford – and, by extension, all with similar stories – can’t be trusted to identify their attackers, is both shameful and intellectually dishonest and leaves many wondering: If sexual assault, judicial temperament and lying don’t matter to our elected representatives, where do we go from here?
The most immediate answer: to the polls. On Nov. 6, we have an opportunity to force from office those content with leadership that mocks survivors and dismisses sexual assault claims as hoaxes; devalues women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals; denies the threats posed by our enemies and to our planet; and refuses to fulfill its duty to uphold ethical standards and provide checks and balances. This is the leadership Collins aligned with on her fateful vote. The only way to achieve the outcomes we want is to win elections. Everything Maine’s resistance cares about depends on voting, and elevating those whose platforms are built on the basic feminist tenets of equity and equality for all people. As Kavanaugh’s confirmation has shown, not all feminists are women, and not all women are feminists.
But what of our relationship with Collins? Suit Up Maine and similar groups operate under the theory that communicating with elected officials helps them know their constituents’ values and makes it more likely that the officials will make decisions the folks back home approve of, resulting in happy constituents who return the favor in votes. In this sunny ideal of civic engagement, members of Congress seek out input with public forums, open office hours, online questionnaires and town hall meetings and provide thoughtful responses to questions. What Mainers have learned in the past two years is that, for our Republican members of Congress, this standard seems far too high.
Weary 2nd District residents have watched Rep. Bruce Poliquin scurry into bathrooms to avoid questions and effectively play a game of hide-and-seek from constituents and the press. Collins is just as hard to pin down in person, and her staff is always armed with explanations for why she doesn’t hold regular office hours for constituents visiting D.C., as Sen. Angus King does (she’s too busy), or public forums back home (some people talk too much). Her form-letter responses offer no answers to specific questions, and her public statements voicing vague “concern” about key issues have a memelike quality.