The Universal Notebook: Why Susan Collins opposes voting rights

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The Trump Republican Party is determined to destroy this country. Now Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a faux moderate in a better day, has gone full-Trump MAGA, fighting to undermine American democracy by gutting voting rights.

Republicans are waging war on democracy by attacking the ballot box in so many ways it’s easy to lose count. It starts with promoting the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Every GOP dirty trick follows from that vicious falsehood. 

Edgar Allen BeemWhile the votes were still being counted, Trump and his mob were pressuring state officials to “find” votes to help him win. They even resorted to sending their own fraudulent slate of electors to claim a phantom victory. Trump also plotted to have the military seize ballot boxes to stop votes from being counted. When that didn’t work, he had his followers storm the capitol in a violent attempt to stop the certification of Electoral College results. That’s the kind of insurrection that happens in Third World countries. 

It’s horrifying that Trump remains a viable candidate after trying so desperately to overthrow a free and fair election. He belongs in prison, not in office.

Having lost the White House and Congress in 2020, Trump Republicans went on a state-by-state voter suppression warpath, seeking to secure future advantages by demanding bogus forensic audits, eliminating polling places, reducing voting hours, making it harder to vote early and remotely, making it a crime to provide food and water for people waiting in long lines to vote, imposing harsh voter identification laws, purging voter lists, and eliminating same-day voter registration.

Bottom line: Republicans know that the more voters there are the less likely the GOP is to win.

When people like Collins complain that Democrats are trying to federalize voting laws by proposing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, they are absolutely right. If voting rights are left up to the states, states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas will deny their citizens rights that most other Americans have. The Lewis Act would restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to full strength by requiring states with a history of voter discrimination (i.e. institutional racism) to get permission from the Department of Justice before they make any voting changes. We need federal voting laws for the same reason we need federal civil rights laws.

Collins has refused to condemn Trump’s Big Lie. She criticizes Biden’s determination to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court but never criticized Trump’s determination to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade (justices she supported). Now Collins won’t even vote to debate the voting rights bills.

When Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, pointed out the hypocrisy of Collins having voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act in 2006 but then opposing a motion to proceed to the Lewis Act last year, the thin-skinned, self-righteous Collins went ballistic.

She has done the political calculus and is obviously gambling that – heaven forbid – should Republicans regain the Senate majority, she will be in line to wield significant power. That’s why she makes nice with the liars, cheats, and thieves who now control the GOP – even though Trump calls her “Wacky Susan Collins.” If Collins takes a principled stand against the Trump mob and its attempt to steal the 2020 election, she will be stripped of her powers just like Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming.

Collins has gone from venerated to vilified as she has evolved from moderate independent to Trump toady. Fifty years from now, should American democracy survive the Republican coup attempts, she will likely be remembered as an unprincipled opportunist, a politician who squandered her legacy in a vain attempt to hold onto power.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.