Heads Liberals Win; Tails Conservatives Lose

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/07/09/heads-liberals-win-tails-conservatives-lose/

Have you ever noticed how liberal commentators extol the value of moderate Republicans? Yes, liberals in the mainstream media share a deep affection for GOP centrists, right up to the moment they can be defeated and replaced by a leftist Democrat ideologue.

Then, suddenly the importance of moderation evaporates. Civility becomes a forgotten buzzword. Compromise no longer represents the ideal. Bipartisanship is not the best way to get things done. Reaching across party lines has lost its virtue. 

When Republican moderates are no longer seen as useful to furthering the progressive cause, they become impediments to purist liberalism. They are deemed expendable. That’s when it’s time for them to go.

Such a time has come for Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Throughout her political career, Collins has been consistently praised by the liberal media as a textbook example of bipartisan civility. That’s because she could always be depended upon to vote with Democrats on the single issue that matters most to them:  abortion.

And what has this four-term history of being the most pro-choice Republican in American politics brought Senator Collins?

It has brought her the toughest campaign in her congressional career. 

What a surprise!  It turns out that liberals don’t really put a high value on moderate Republicans after all. It seems that Democrats will work with centrist Republicans until they have a chance to beat them. Then all bets are off.

Right now, Collins is polling several points behind her presumptive Democrat opponent, Sara Gideon. Gideon is the current Speaker of the House of Representatives in Maine, where she has been a state representative since 2012. In past election cycles, Gideon has raised campaign contributions totaling only in the low thousands of dollars. Now that she is challenging a high-profile moderate Republican, the liberal state legislator is raking in millions. Progressive contributors are ponying up big bucks now that they see a viable opportunity to take down a centrist Republican. 

Remarkably, the Pine Tree State politician is raising more campaign funds than the longtime incumbent Collins, first elected to the United States Senate in 1998. According to The Hill, Gideon “has already built a fundraising advantage over Collins. Gideon has raised more than $15.2 million for her campaign this year — nearly three times the roughly $5.4 million raised by Collins.”

Despite Collins’s longtime support of abortion, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL Pro-Choice America have also deserted the veteran senator, and are supporting her Democrat opponent.

Unlike Collins who bucks her own party on countless issues, Gideon mirrors the radical liberal Democrat Senate leadership. Unlike Collins who tries to find bipartisan solutions on Capitol Hill, Gideon will vote in lockstep with the ideological left.  And the national media which once fawned over Collins, especially when she abandoned the Republican Party on key issues, smells the blood of a GOP centrist in the proverbial political water. 

Now, the mainstream media cannot print a story about Collins without dissecting her vote in favor of Brett Kavanaugh as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. Her vote for Kavanaugh has become the war cry of the political left. And the liberal media constantly feeds the partisanship, without contextualizing that vote as balancing her earlier votes in favor of Obama’s two liberal activist high court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. 

After nearly a quarter century of media praise for bipartisanship, Collins’s unpardonable sin has become that she voted for nominees of her own Republican Party as well as those of the Democrat Party. 

The Maine senator’s effort to find the uncomfortable middle ground in American politics is clearly demonstrated by her votes on judicial nominations. In her career, Collins has supported the overwhelming majority of presidential judicial nominees, regardless of the chief executive’s political affiliation. According to a study by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, she approved 99% of President George W. Bush’s nominees and 98% of President Bill Clinton’s. That same study puts the numbers at 95% and 94% respectively for President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama. Collins has also voted for every Supreme Court nominee put forward during her Senate years, regardless of judicial philosophy or political affiliation.

Throughout her congressional years, Collins has consistently held to a pro-choice or pro-abortion stance, putting herself in a minority within the pro-life Republican Party. Collins has supplemented her abortion advocacy with equally liberal positions favoring LGBT bills in Congress. In fact, the social issues is the single area where Collins ignores moderation, staking out territory associated with the most progressive wing of the Democrat Party.

On a range of other issues, Senator Collins strives for compromise or centrist measures. For example, she voted against the initial Democrat passage of Obamacare, and then a half-dozen years later voted against the GOP effort to repeal it. Although she lives in a rural state, she earns only a middling C+ rating from the National Rifle Association, the lowest grade among Republicans. Additionally, Collins routinely works out mainstream bipartisan compromises on issues related to national security and foreign policy. The big-business-oriented Chamber of Commerce awards her a 70% approval rating, while the anti-tax/free enterprise Club for Growth gives her Congressional votes a far lower 22% rating.  

Most tellingly, Collins voted to acquit both President Clinton and President Trump following their impeachments; that’s about as bipartisan as you can get.

The Lugar Center, which aims for solutions that cross political party affiliation, honors Collins as the most bipartisan member of the United States Senate. Together with Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, the Lugar Center ranks each member of Congress according to how often each works across party lines. Collins has topped the nonpartisan list of United States senators for a half dozen consecutive years, and she has the highest lifetime score of any incumbent senator. 

By way of sharp contrast, Collins is the only New England senator in the Top 15 of the Lugar/Georgetown ratings. Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren both rate in the low 60s, relegating the Bay State delegation to among the most narrowly partisan in the nation.

For a quarter of a century, Senator Susan Collins has occupied the least partisan and most centrist spot in American politics. Now she faces possible defeat by an ideologically partisan Democrat. 

It places conservative Republicans in a dilemma. Should they vote for “the lesser of the liberals?”  That would mean settling for an unreliable pro-choice RINO, but one who helps Republicans maintain control of the Senate. Or should they view a Collins defeat as “addition by subtraction”? By losing another liberal Republican, the GOP caucus gets a bit smaller, but simultaneously becomes more conservative.

On the other hand, the coming November election places Maine’s liberal Democrats in an enviable position. Heads they win; tails conservatives lose.

If Democrat Gideon wins the seat, then Maine has traded in a wishy-washy centrist for the real thing:  a genuinely leftist Democrat. If Collins wins re-election, then liberals still have a pro-abortion senator, who may be sufficiently chastened that she will never again dare to vote for a Republican Supreme Court nominee. 

Joseph Tortelli is a freelance writer. Read other columns by Mr. Tortelli