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Shorter Susan Collins: Democracy is Extortion

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Reasonable, moderate, thinking person’s Republican Susan Collins is outraged that Maine voters might try to hold her accountable based on her own stated principles:

Now, however, the proverbial mud might finally be hitting the fan. Groups of outraged Mainers, including left-leaning voters who nonetheless bought into the myth of Collins, are saying that the upcoming vote on Kavanaugh is a make-or-break moment. If she votes to confirm, she will be challenged for reelection in 2020 by a well funded candidate to be determined later. If she votes against Kavanaugh, however, these groups will stand down.

This being 2018, the mechanics of this movement involve a go-fund-me approach. As a Post article describes it, organizers have arranged an on-line system that allows people to make a donation to a future challenger to Collins, but donors are allowed to do so with the guarantee that their money will not be taken if Collins votes against Kavanaugh.

One might think that this kind of contingent arrangement would be seen as a positive thing. Voters are not giving money to a group for a purpose that might never become necessary, and they are able to build a simple contingency into their donation: If Collins votes for Kavanaugh, I don’t want her to be my senator anymore. Otherwise, everything’s cool.

How has Collins responded? With self-righteous outrage, of course. How dare anyone try to tell her how to vote?! In her exact words: “Attempts at bribery or extortion will not influence my vote at all.”

What? It is bribery or extortion for voters to say to a political candidate that her vote or votes will change their decisions about whom to fund and support? I guess the Koch brothers had better think about how they look in orange jumpsuits.

Seriously, the argument that this is bribery is so tenuous as to be laughable. The Post dutifully notes that “[a]t least one ethics expert consulted by The Washington Post said that it may very well violate federal bribery statutes, which prohibit giving or offering anything of value to government officials in exchange for any acts or votes.” Apparently, the “thing of value” in this case is not giving something of value to a potential opponent. As another source put it: “It still seems like they’re saying if you don’t do what we want we will spend $1 million and that strikes me as just as much as an inducement as saying we’ll give you $1 million if you do what we want.”

Again, however, if that is bribery, then everything is bribery. Telling people that there are consequences to voting one way or another is not just what politics is about but what large parts of everyday life are all about. The Post’s article offers expert rebuttals of the bribery claim, too, leaving the reader to draw the obvious conclusion.

That is not to say that this gambit is likely to work. This predictably got Collins’s back up, and her office issued a statement saying that “Senator Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination. Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision making whatsoever.” Ooh, those bullies, with their votes and donations!

But of course deciding on the merits is exactly what she has not done, which might be why the Maine groups were willing to publicly challenge her in a way that is likely not to change her vote. Collins decided a long time ago that she is going to be part of the Republican rubber-stamp program, and Kavanaugh is just the latest example of that. If she actually were to cast her vote “based on the merits of the nomination,” then a pro-choice independently-minded moderate from a blue-ish state would clearly vote no.

As I have written before, Kavanaugh is so conservative that even most Republicans should reject him. Collins even has an ironclad reason to do so, the ability to say that “I have always said that abortion rights are too fundamental to trade away.” but she is instead doing the bidding of Trump and the hard right.

What seems to gall Collins about all of this is that she is being exposed for her hypocrisy. Even the article in The Post that described the non-bribery gambit begins with this: “In the closely divided senate, Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hinges in part on the votes of two moderate Republican senators: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.” (The idea that Murkowski is a moderate is even more laughable than the Collins mythology, but I digress.)

That is the kind of kid-gloves treatment that Collins has come to expect. Unfortunately for her, even that same article notes that “Collins has a reputation as a centrist though she is a mostly reliable Republican voter,” which seriously understates the reality.

The campaign will indeed almost certainly not influence Collins’s vote. Kavanaugh will almost certainly be rammed through although there are literally dozens of curcuit court judges who would cast the same votes without all the baggage. But that’s not the end of it; Collins is up in 2020, and this should be the vote that finally strips off the teflon and makes it clear that she’s a completely generic Republican hack.

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