The Myth of Susan Collins' Moderation
The death of the "Republican moderate" has been a topic of political conversation for some years now. The rise of the Tea Party and the ongoing rightward turn of the GOP leaves little room for moderation. However, there is at least one so-called moderate to whom the political press always fondly point when they wax nostalgic for the good old days when Tip O'Neil and Ronald Reagan allegedly knocked back scotch and sodas at the end of the day together. That lone "moderate" is Susan Collins of Maine. And unfortunately, her reputation for "moderation" is as mythic as those cocktail parties on the Truman Balcony.
Susan Collins may play Hamlet from time to time, wringing her hands in public about the crazies "on both sides" and Democrats inevitably throw in some more goodies to make her happy, watering down what is always already a compromise, and then ... she votes with the Republicans anyway. It's a con game she's run over and over again. Here are just a few examples:
Paycheck Fairness Act
Collins voted in April and again in September against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would shield employees who raise legitimate questions about workplace pay equity, among other features. Bellows has consistently called on Collins to support the bill-- which Collins also voted to filibuster in 2010, 2012 and earlier this year-- and has made support for the measure one of the centerpieces of her campaign.
A February national survey found 60 percent of voters are more likely to support a candidate who supports fair pay for women, a higher minimum wage, paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. The survey also found that women are less likely to receive paid extended leave than men.
Republicans have been uncomfortable discussing the issue all year, leading to an MSNBC story on the GOP's shifting explanation for why the bill keeps getting filibustered. Collins said in 2012 without citing evidence that it would lead to "excessive litigation."
Collins stood with Washington Republicans in April against increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which translates to $21,008 per year for someone working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. Afterward, Collins put out a statement bemoaning the fact that the proposal "does not have the votes it would need to pass the Senate."
Maine voters support "raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour and indexing future increases to inflation" by a 63-36 spread, according to a July poll by the Maine People's Resource Center.
In 2007 the Senate voted 94-3 to increase the federal minimum wage in stages to its current level of $7.25 an hour, a far cry from today's partisanship.
Campaign Finance Reform
Collins is also out of step with public opinion on campaign finance reform. A CBS poll in May found voters support "limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns" over "allowing individuals to contribute as much money to political campaigns as they'd like" by 71-25. Collins has voted in lockstep with Washington Republicans against both the DISCLOSE Act, which would publicize the sources of large political contributions in a timely way, and the Udall Amendment, which would give Congress and state legislatures the power to regulate campaign spending.
That's just for starters. Her contention that she voted against the most outrageous Republican act of sabotage in the last congress (and that's saying something) --- the government shutdown --- is at the very least misleading. (In fact, she voted three times for bills requiring the president to defund or delay Obamacare in order to keep the government open.)
A whole lot of Mainers are on to Collins' phony posturing. They know that Collins is a phony and being independent Yankee types they don't take kindly to being conned. Instead, they are supporting Democrat Shenna Bellows for Senate.
Take, for instance, this fine fellow, (whom you might recognize --- especially at this time of year)
Or, how about this former Susan Collins volunteer.
In stark contrast to Susan Collins, Shenna Bellows is an energetic, independent, principled leader who will not have to answer to the Tea Party and won't be dancing to the tune of corporate interests and the ossified political establishment in Washington. If the people of Maine value independence, principle and the ability to work across party lines on issues of importance to the whole nation, and I know they do, then Shenna Bellows is someone who knows how to get it done. As she put it:
I may be the first ACLU leader in history to run for the United States Senate, but nothing less than our democracy is at stake. Politicians in Washington have trampled on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They have created a constitutional crisis. NSA spying is out of control, threatening our individual freedoms and international relations.
My work in Maine provides a model for moving forward. I made my decision to run for United States Senate when I was working on two groundbreaking privacy laws this spring to require law enforcement to get a warrant before accessing cellphone communications including location data, text messages and voice mails. I organized a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Greens. We did not agree on very much at all except the fundamental importance of our constitutional freedoms and the dangers posed by government intrusion into our personal lives. The opposition was intense, bipartisan and included some of my close friends, but we persevered. Maine was one of only two states in the country to protect against cell phone tracking. The law also survived a veto by Governor Paul LePage on a rare veto override vote.
Our work in Maine with Republicans and Democrats alike to advance strong privacy principles should serve as a model for the nation. We demonstrated that it’s not necessary to compromise our core principles in order to advance meaningful reform. A shared commitment to protecting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights transcends partisan politics.
The experience of working with people across the political spectrum on issues of fundamental American values and constitutional principles made Shenna Bellows a person who can reach across the aisle with integrity, respect and common purpose to get things done. Unlike Susan Collins who has turned herself into a parody of bipartisanship, Bellows has been doing the real thing throughout her career --- and doing it without sacrificing her principles or her ideals.
The beltway may be in love with phony "moderates" they can laud as examples of bipartisan comity despite all evidence to the contrary, but there's no reason for Maine voters to do the same. Shenna Bellows is the Real Deal.
If you'd like to help Bellows down the stretch, you can contribute to her campaign here.