Politics & Other Mistakes: Getting even

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“Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.” — Francis Bacon

This cesspool of a campaign has accomplished one thing: It’s freed Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins from having to be nice to anyone ever again.

Should Collins somehow win reelection for a fifth term on Nov. 3 (recent polls aren’t encouraging), she’ll find herself liberated from every political obligation she’s ever been burdened with. She’ll have six years to prepare the dish Dorothy Parker famously proclaimed is best served cold:

Revenge.

During this election season, virtually every special interest that formerly supported Collins has abandoned her. (Except, of course, the rich people from away and the Christian Civic League of Maine.) That’s made her road to victory a lot tougher. But once the battle is over, she might be able to enjoy a taste of chilly vengeance.

If she prevails at the ballot box, Collins will have no incentive to be forgiving to those who have been disloyal. Since it’s unlikely she’ll ever run for anything again (Collins would be 74 when her next term ends), she’d effectively become a lame duck, which isn’t nearly as much of a handicap as it seems. If you don’t have to worry about pandering to voters or donors, you can do whatever the hell you want.

Until now, Collins had to tread carefully when considering how to vote on a variety of controversial issues. In the past, she’d garnered support from environmental groups, such as the League of Conservation Voters and the Council for a Livable World. That went up in smoke in 2020. The National Organization for Women, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and other backers of legal abortion were solid for Collins until that Brett Kavanaugh mess. Not so much, anymore. She was popular with the LGBTQ community, but of late, she’s barely acknowledged their issues, voted for Kavanaugh, and married a man.

If Collins wins, she won’t have to take into account the concerns of former allies when deciding which government protections to trash. Labor unions – particularly those representing teachers, health-care workers, and government employees – will get what’s coming to them, which is nothing. Business groups stuck with Collins, but those trendy little shops in Portland’s Old Port gave her no love. Forget about another round of federal aid for them. And it won’t bother her if, by this time next year, the Bangor Daily News (which endorsed her) is the only daily newspaper in the state still publishing.

It would be a mistake, however, to believe Collins would focus all her ire on liberals. Conservative members of the GOP have proved to be equally unsupportive.

Right-wingers have long resented Collins’ pro-choice positions, her less-than-enthusiastic support for the loopy incompetent in the White House, and her prickly relationship with buffoonish former Republican Gov. Paul LePage. But there was little those reactionaries could do about her frequent deviations from their strict ideology, so long as Collins remained immensely popular with the vast majority of Maine voters.

That’s no longer the case.

In this campaign, the senator needed the right a lot more than the right needed her. Some conservatives sat on their hands while Collins struggled. Others flirted with independent mutants like Mad Max Linn. A few even vowed to suppress their gag reflex and support Democrat Sara Gideon for the Senate. Collins’ campaign donations to a couple of QAnon-supporting legislative candidates did nothing to assuage the hard-core right’s disgust with her heresies.

It’s a safe bet that if Collins makes it back to Washington, she’ll spend little time listening to conservative rants and even less pursuing their agenda.

Of course, it wouldn’t be easy for Collins to simultaneously trample the hopes of turncoat lefties and rebel righties. That would involve walking a tightrope between those camps, sometimes tilting one way, other times leaning the other. Before long, this newly liberated version of the senator might find herself being smeared with a familiar insult:

Moderate.

Comments from the right, left, or mushy middle may be directed to aldiamon@herniahill.net.