Maine voters sent a clear message on election day about the kind of politics they prefer, and it’s a message that’s central to our state’s personality. The majority of Mainers voted to send Trump and his divisive and dangerous rhetoric packing. They rewarded the steadfast, diligent work of Democrats and Independents in the state legislature, and denied new seats to LePage-style extremists. And they overwhelmingly signaled their approval of the kind of big tent that Maine Democrats erected to serve two very different congressional districts by re-electing the progressive Chellie Pingree and the moderate Jared Golden.
Mainers also voted to re-elect Susan Collins, but not with anywhere near the level of bipartisan support received in the past. In 2014, Collins was elected with almost 69% of the vote. This year she received just 51%. That’s a shift of roughly 200,000 voters—not insignificant in our sparsely populated and aging state. While Sara Gideon’s loss is a painful blow to Mainers who felt betrayed by Susan Collins’ flaccid duplicity and relentless double-speak, the results could soon prove devastating to Americans across the nation.
Under Republican Senate leadership, vital work on health care, climate change, immigration, civil rights, criminal justice, and, importantly, COVID relief, have ground to a halt. Right now, with an out-of-control pandemic raging, an economy sputtering, and millions of Americans on the verge of losing everything, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blocking hundreds of bipartisan bills from even getting a vote. Far from being the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” McConnell’s Senate is little more than a rubber-stamping assembly line for far-right judges, and Collins has been his dutiful line worker. While she touts a bipartisan rating based on bills she’s co-sponsored, the truth is that Senator Collins hasn’t had any more success in getting her bills to the Senate floor than Nancy Pelosi has.
Flipping Collins’ seat would have helped break McConnell’s log jam of obstructionism. Now that work falls to Susan Collins. She should heed the warning in her massive drop in popularity, and acknowledge that platform-free Trumpism is anathema to Maine values. She should serve as a co-equal partner in solving the nation’s problems, and not fall back in line as McConnell’s obstructionist lackey. She should speak out and act forcefully against far-right bigotry and finally recognize the urgency of the moment we’re in. She should take a page from the Maine Democrats and Independents who won races across the state, not with the aid of multi-million dollar budgets, airwave-blanketing ad campaigns, or snowdrifts of election mailers, but by knowing their districts, listening to their constituents, and working hard to incorporate what they learn into their legislative agenda. It’s a model Sen. Angus King follows, but one Susan Collins has shunned, presumably under the assumption she could coast with the wide margin of victory she enjoyed in 2014. But this year, 49% of Mainers voted to send someone else to Washington. Much has changed since 2014. And we can’t afford for Collins to be the same senator she’s been for the past four years.
Karin Leuthy, Kelli Whitlock Burton, and Kirstan Watson
Suit Up Maine Admin Team