Sara Gideon Generously Working To Help Susan Collins Retire From Senate
By just about every measure, Susan Collins's campaign to win a fifth term in the US Senate is in trouble. Her polls are just terrible, including the most recent one, released Thursday by Colby College, which has Collins's Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, ahead by five points (44 percent to 39 percent). Ridiculous amounts of money are going into the race, with far more going to Gideon (and here we make our traditional lonesome cry for public financing, please). All in all, things aren't looking great for Collins, the very last New England Republican in Congress.
That's an endangered political species Democrats don't mind driving into extinction. No Greenpeace sit-ins for Susan Collins, sorry not sorry.
In the Before Times, Collins was one of those Republican "moderates" who generally didn't make big waves, except when she'd occasionally piss off her own party by voting with Democrats on culture war issues like abortion, guns, and LGBTQ rights. But once Donald Trump took over the Republican Party, Collins's "centrism" became mostly a work of bad performance art: She'd express very deep "concerns" about a Trump policy, then vote for it.
The one time she actually cast a significant vote against Trump's agenda (and thank Crom she did!) was when Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and John McCain blocked the "skinny" repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017. Trump mostly blamed McCain for that loss, but it was the last time Collins ever substantially opposed Trump. Maybe she was afraid of a Trump-backed primary challenge, maybe she's just completely spineless, or maybe there's really no such thing as a "moderate" Republican anyway. Why not all three?
Since the ACA vote, Collins has voted with the Deplorables on all the worst stuff, while emphasizing what an independent-minded thinker she is. Voted for the Big Fat Tax Cuts for Rich Fuckwads, which of course laid the groundwork for the idiot lawsuit that now puts the entire ACA at risk. Voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, who's itching to overturn Roe v. Wade. Voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial, even though a vote to convict would still have left Trump well short of removal.
Even worse were the incredibly lame excuses. Collins tut-tutted that maybe there were "issues" with Christine Blasey Ford's yearbook, giving credit to bullshit from Alex Jones, then tried to have it both ways on Ford's testimony, saying it was very compelling and believable, but that she believed someone other than Kavanaugh must have assaulted Ford. Barf. Despite having pledged to never confirm a justice who would endanger reproductive rights, Collins said out loud before the confirmation vote, "I do not believe [Kavanaugh's] going to repeal Roe v. Wade," because after all, he had such great respect for established precedent. After voting to acquit Trump, she said she was sure he'd learned his lesson and would not try to use the presidency to benefit himself ever again.
Kavanaugh was the last straw for many who had seen Collins as a "moderate" ally, and has — probably more than anything else — led to the sharp decline in her approval rating. Once on the Court, of course, Kavanaugh quickly got to work voting to overturn Roe, though we have to credit this recent op-ed by a conservative Maine think-tank leader for offering the weirdest possible spin on Kavanaugh's recent vote to restrict Roe.
Had the court upheld the restrictive Louisiana law on abortion doctors, Collins' critics would have been able to attack her over Kavanaugh with renewed fury. As it turns out, the court rejected the law, helped by three justices Collins voted for, effectively neutering the issue.
Got that? Collins voted to confirm three of the justices (Kagan, Sotomayor, and Roberts) who rejected the Louisiana abortion law, so please ignore her vote to confirm Kavanaugh. And her votes to confirm two of the others who voted to uphold it, Alito and Gorsuch. What a fine pro-choice record.
A crowdfunding campaign started shortly before the Kavanaugh vote, to raise money for whoever became Collins's 2020 Democratic opponent. Incredibly, Collins's office condemned the effort as an attempt to "bribe" Collins, and fretted it might violate election laws, because mercy, the threat of campaign fundraising shouldn't be used to influence a senator's vote! Collins griped to 60 Minutes in 2018,
This is a classic quid pro quo as defined in our bribery laws. [...] They are asking me to perform an official act and if I do not do what they want, $2 million plus is going to go to my opponent. I think that if our politics has come to the point where people are trying to buy votes and buy positions, then we are in a very sad place.
As far as we can tell, though, Collins never actually sued over the matter, and once Gideon became the official nominee, her campaign collected nearly $4 million from the crowdfunding effort, with Collins's office still whining about it, only now framing Collins's vote as a brave stand against the attempt to "bribe" her. Sorry, while it's maybe another compelling argument for publicly-funded elections, issue-based fundraising is still as legal as any other in our Citizens United hellscape.
Gideon, we'd note, is in favor of a constitutional amendment to get rid of Citizens United.
That said, there's a fuckton of money in this campaign. Gideon's campaign has raised $24.2 million to Collins's $16.8 million, and that was before Gideon won the July 14 primary and received the crowdfunding boost. And hoo boy, the outside spending: by mid-June, the most recent reporting period, outside groups had spent $11.9 million on TV and radio ads against Collins, but only $6.7 million for media supporting her. The Lincoln Project even targeted Collins recently, calling her a "Trump Stooge":
Trump Stooge youtu.be
Collins's own ads have been generally terrible. She's been making a lot of noise about never missing a vote while in the Senate, as if the things she's voted for don't matter. Her campaign has tried to portray Gideon as a slacker who's too lazy to even work for the people of Maine, shame on her! Look at this stupid shit from Friday:
It's now been 136 days since Sara Gideon checked out of her job as Speaker to focus on her campaign. 136 of the mo… https://t.co/cj2SxnPTOi— Team Collins (@Team Collins)1596219300.0
Adjourned the legislature to campaign, huh? Say, what happened 136 days ago? Oh, right, the state lege adjourned early because of the coronavirus. That's both houses, we'd add, so no, Sara Gideon is not the boss of the state Senate. Another hilarious ad tries to suggest Gideon is somehow untrustworthy or unfocused because over the past two or so years she's used the term "top priority" while talking about more than one thing, haw haw!
What is Sara Gideon's "Top Priority?" Hard to pin down, but one thing's for sure -- after 133 days of vacation du… https://t.co/d0dcliGIdL— Team Collins (@Team Collins)1595945588.0
The ad was a minor Twitter sensation last week, because it didn't so much make Gideon seem flighty; it made her look awesome. Just look at those positions Team Collins is telling people about!
Susan Collins paid consultants to create an ad that attacks her opponent for [checks notes] saying she’ll fight for… https://t.co/5lzXk3DZGn— Taniel (@Taniel)1596031794.0
Quite a few people joked that Collins might have to declare the ad an in-kind donation to Gideon's campaign. And Collins has had a number of her own different "top priorities," too. It's almost as if that's a phrase politicians use a lot!
To top it off, Salon reported this week that virtually all of the ordinary Maine folk showing up in testimonial ads for Collins were state GOP officials, former Republican office-holders, candidates, or aides, and in some cases, interns for Collins. Among the just plain folks were a guy who said measures to prevent the coronavirus pandemic were meant to "rule over" Americans, another who called them "dictatorial," and a former legislator dude who wrote on Facebook that Black Lives Matter supporters should "Stay in your own lane. Quit bitching. Mind your own business. Be thankful for what you have. Don't keep looking for the truth because you couldn't handle the truth if you found it." He really likes Collins's ability to get things done.
But who is this Sara Gideon? Apart from Not Susan Collins, which almost automatically counts as an improvement (unless, say, former Maine Gov. Paul LePage were to replace Collins). She's been in the Maine House for four terms, serving two terms as Speaker. Like Collins, she touts her ability to work with both parties, only "while standing up for Democratic values." That bipartisanship stuff really is a thing with Mainers.
On the issues, she's unequivocally pro-choice, and more than happy to hang Brett Kavanaugh around Collins's neck every chance she gets, although not literally. She supports a public option where people could buy in to Medicare, and says health care is a human right. She helped pass Maine laws that would protect several central features of the ACA even if Obamacare were repealed, protecting people with pre-exisiting conditions, keeping kids on their parents' insurance until they're 26, and ensuring seniors can't be charged more for insurance. She also would empower Medicare to negotiate drug prices. She's stopped short of endorsing Medicare for All, because it's freaking Maine, but "better than Collins" is a good enough standard for now. (Bet she could be convinced.)
On climate, she guided passage of Maine's "most aggressive goals" for carbon reduction and investment in green energy, and supports an aggressive move to decarbonize the national economy and transportation system. She says cabinet nominees have to support the environment, not the fossil fuel industry.
In addition to her support for ditching Citizens United, Gideon passed automatic voter registration in Maine, and restrictions on the revolving door from Congress to lobbying. And she's taken a no-PAC pledge, so that's good. And she wants to repeal the 2017 tax cut Collins voted for.
We honestly won't miss Susan Collins, but we shouldn't assume Gideon has a lock on this election. Send her a few bucks if you can, OK?
[Five Thirty-Eight / Salon / Bangor Daily News / NYT / Open Secrets / Boston Globe / Portland Press-Herald / Sara Gideon for Maine / Photos: Sara Gideon on Twitter / Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0 (cropped)]
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