Maine Senator Susan Collins is again engaging in her now-ritualized dance, cavorting along the cliff edge of racism and authoritarianism. She called Donald Trump’s latest racist remarks about a judge of Mexican ancestry “absolutely unacceptable” but then refused to rule out backing him for President.
Previously she had said she would likely back the Republican nominee and predicted that he would tone down his rhetoric. “He’s going to have to stop with gratuitous personal insults,” she said.
This critique of Trump based on specific remarks or isolated insults is missing the point entirely. Implicit in Collins’ previous conditional endorsement, and even in her latest statement criticizing only his most recent racist comment, is an admission that she doesn’t find the broader stated policy goals of his campaign “unacceptable,” much less disqualifying for her support.
Here are just a few of those policies:
Abolishing the Department of Environmental Protection because climate change is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese.”
I don’t know why journalists allow Collins to continue this ridiculous performance, acting as if the only problem with Trump’s candidacy is his latest intemperate statement and not his expansive, terrifying policy agenda.
How long will she be allowed to continue portray herself as some kind of above-the-fray policy wonk, with her head buried in a subcommittee report (“I like public policy and would much prefer to be discussing the appropriations bill,” she told the Press Herald yesterday when asked about Trump) while she continues to provide cover, and implicit support, for policies like these.
Some have called on Collins to walk in the shoes of Maine icon Sen. Margaret Chase Smith and condemn Trump the same way Smith condemned McCarthy. Collins threw cold water on that kind of thinking in an interview with Time on Monday, accusing Colby College historian Chris Myers Asch (who wrote a column on the subject) of being part of “an organized effort among very partisan Democrats,” apparently with the nefarious goal of getting her to feel guilty about backing Trump.
“To me the proper analogy was what Margaret Chase Smith did in the  election with Barry Goldwater,” Collins told Time. “She wasn’t happy with Goldwater being the nominee of the party; she felt he was too hawkish and too conservative. She did vote for him but she did not campaign for him.”
Trump had already made his comments about Judge Curiel that she finds “unacceptable,” when she gave this quote, and of course he had already laid out his ghastly policy proposals. Her position is still that the right thing to do is to vote for him.
I’ve written before about Collins’ half-a-loaf, finger-in-the-wind approach to moderation and how, as her Party has become more extreme, she has moved with it. The Smith-invokers obviously hoped that Trump was so horrifying that she would have to break her pattern of choosing Party over the values she claims to espouse. Clearly, he wasn’t and she won’t. The dance continues.