Politics & Other Mistakes: Vanishing land

6 mins read
Al Diamon

Nobody likes moderates, anymore.

Once upon a time, middle-of-the-roaders were considered thoughtful and measured in their actions. They weighed a proposal’s advantages and consequences, and attempted to craft a course that produced as much as possible of the former and as little of the latter. They preferred pragmatism over ideology and were open to fresh perspectives even if they came from the opposition. They got things done, although not quite enough for those on one extreme, while just a little too much for those on the other.

Or to filter all that through the current political climate, they’re mushy opportunists, fearful of taking strong positions, more concerned with trying to satisfy everybody, while ending up satisfying nobody.
Yeah, they’re talking about Susan Collins.

Maine’s senior senator, a Republican and potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018, is taking heat from both right and left. Earlier this month, Collins told the No Labels Problem Solvers Conference that the middle ground she occupies is “melting like late-winter snow in Maine.”

Curse you, climate change.

The GOP is furious with the senator for refusing to back Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy last year, for voting against a couple of his cabinet nominees and for supporting her party’s position less than any other Republican senator.

Which means she’s backed Trump’s agenda over 84 percent of the time, according to Nate Silver’s 538 blog. That’s more often than I agree with my wife. According to my wife.

As far as the GOP right wing is concerned, Collins is a RINO (Russian Infiltrator Negotiating for Obama).

Collins tried to accommodate the liberal group Mainers for Accountable Leadership by meeting with its members. The next day the same activists picketed her in Bangor for being inaccessible. Meanwhile, another leftist organization, Allied Progress, slammed her for not opposing more Trump nominees.

“Sen. Collins’s vague calls for an investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia aren’t enough,” said Karl Frisch, the group’s executive director, in a news release. “Mainers didn’t send Collins to Washington to be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump and the Russians. It’s time for her to take a stand where it counts.”

Otherwise, she’s a Politician United with Trump to Increase Nationalism. Also known as a PUTIN.

No matter how Collins votes on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, she’s going to end up smeared with one of those unpleasant acronyms – or, more likely, some even less polite description.

“The lack of civility is really disturbing,” she told the No Labels dweebs. But then she added this optimistic note: “I still believe that most Americans are in the middle.”

Don’t count on it. If they were, neither Democrat Chellie Pingree (1st District) nor Republican Bruce Poliquin (2nd District) would be representing Maine in Congress. And GOP Gov. Paul LePage would be spending his winters in Florida being mistaken for a land-based manatee.

(Oops, there’s that lack-of-civility thing.)

The truth about Collins is she sometimes sticks to her principles (when she can), sometimes compromises (on those rare occasions when she can find somebody willing to do so) and occasionally folds (when that seems like the better part of valor). On March 5, the Maine Sunday Telegram did a decent survey of her voting record on controversial issues. The article shows a consistency in her voting patterns – mostly. It should be required reading for her critics on both ends of the spectrum.

Unfortunately, few of them will bother, and those that do will dismiss any facts that are in conflict with their skewed world views as the manipulations of the biased media.

For Collins, the altered political landscape is a major factor in deciding her political future. If she runs for governor next year, should she do so as a Republican, thereby subjecting herself to a bruising primary against as many as three hard-right opponents? Or does she opt for an independent candidacy, even if it means trying to stand out as a moderate in a general election field that could feature a half-dozen candidates? Or might she hunker down in Washington until her term is up in 2020, hoping the political atmosphere is less toxic by then?

If not, she could always pull an Olympia Snowe and retire.

No need to moderate your comments emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net.

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