Before there was the Squad, that wacky team of radical extremist Democrat superheroes in Congress led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the GOP had its Mod Squad, a group of “moderate” Republican senators who met once a week for lunch around the turn of the century. Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) confirmed that he would regularly get together with notorious RINO Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-VT), and Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine in a spirit of non-conservative-elephant commiseration.
Last of a Dying Breed?
Jeffords bolted from the GOP in 2001 to become an independent who caucused with Democrats. Chafee was defeated by Democrat challenger Sheldon Whitehouse in 2006. When asked if he had done the nation a service by losing and allowing Democrats to gain control of the Senate, Chafee replied, “To be honest, yes.” Specter switched parties in 2010 in a last-ditch effort to save his three-decades-long senatorial career after conservative disenchantment with him reached a breaking point. He lost in a Democratic primary. Snowe surprisingly opted against running for a fourth term in 2012, criticizing the extreme “partisanship” in Congress on her way out the door.
That leaves Collins as the lone RINO remaining from the old club. And with each passing day, she looks more and more like a relic from a political landscape that no longer exists. If she chooses to run for a fifth term, Collins will be staring at an uphill fight in 2020 that would coincide with populist-nationalist GOP President Donald Trump’s effort to secure a second term in office. This would be the same Trump whom the Maine senator adamantly refused to support in his 2016 general election battle against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The bill on Collins’ hostile Washington Post op-ed slamming Trump as he squared off against Hillary is about to come due.
“I will not be voting for Donald Trump for president,” Collins wrote in the blistering op-ed, published only three months before the election was held. “This is not a decision I make lightly, for I am a lifelong Republican. But Donald Trump does not reflect historical Republican values nor the inclusive approach to governing that is critical to healing the divisions in our country.”
Seething Trump supporters will argue that it is Collins who has never represented Republican values, be they subscribers to the new America First spirit or to the oft-stated conservative principles that the establishment GOP claimed to champion yet never quite succeeded in upholding. In February 2018, Breitbart’s Neil Munro detailed how Collins tried to sneak a stealth amnesty for some 12 million illegal aliens into immigration legislation hastily advanced by her and a “bipartisan” group of senators that included GOP establishment stalwarts such as former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The bill ostensibly aimed to legalize some 3 million Dreamer illegal youths but included amnesty for an additional 8 million illegals employed in the United States plus four million of their dependents.
In November 2017, Collins was honored by Planned Parenthood with its Barry Goldwater Award, which is bestowed upon “Republican lawmakers who champion reproductive health care issues and who fight to ensure the rights granted to women.” In July 2017, Collins cast a crucial vote to kill a bid to end Obamacare, motivated in large part by a determination to protect funding for Planned Parenthood.
Yet despite her carrying water for their causes, progressives are furious at Collins. Supporting the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh deeply embittered liberals, and they now eagerly rally behind prospective Dem challenger Sara Gideon in her attempt to capture Collins’ seat.
A Rock and a Hard Place
Collins thus finds herself in the extremely precarious position of being hit with a backlash from the fervent supporters of a president who is extremely popular with Republican voters and facing the wrath of progressives eager to avenge her “betrayal of women” with Kavanaugh. At this point, it is not clear exactly who makes up her base of support. Collins touts the close relationship she has maintained with the citizens of Maine throughout the years and appears to be pinning her hopes on that familiarity along with the built-in advantages of incumbency if she opts to run in 2020. One point she has working for her so far is that no primary challenger of stature has emerged yet on her right.
But it remains to be seen whether Republican voters in the Age of Trump will back this staunch RINO, even if she does manage to capture the party’s nomination. The threat of losing control of the Senate is certainly a factor in her favor, but the strong animus displayed against Collins does not bode well.
Nonstop Trump basher Flake decided not to run for re-election in 2018, and his Senate seat was lost to a Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Nobody in Trump World is shedding any tears over the loss of Flake. It is imperative for Trump’s legacy that he has Republican allies in Congress that he can count on to advance his agenda. During his first term, Trump too often has been met with obstruction on the Republican side of the aisle. Possessing control of both houses of Congress for the first two years of the Trump administration, Republicans failed to pass into law any core part of the president’s agenda, most notably failing to fund Trump’s central campaign promise: the construction of a wall on our porous southern border.
If Collins does pursue re-election, just having an R by her name will not earn her the votes of the president’s supporters. The thought of preventing a Democrat from claiming a Senate seat may very well be blotted out by the pleasing notion of seeing another Old Guard RINO go extinct.