Maine’s Senator Susan Collins is a dinosaur. She’s one of the tiny band of moderate Republicans remaining in Congress. (There is a significant number of traditional conservative Republicans who now often get mislabeled “moderate”—everything is relative, after all.) She’s up for re-election this year, and I’m wondering what I would do if I were a Maine voter.
Why would I need to think twice about this? After all, as an e-mail from her Democratic opponent’s campaign informed me,
Collins voted to shut down the government over Obamacare. Twice. She voted against raising the minimum wage and the Paycheck Fairness Act but supports building the Keystone XL Pipeline and spying on Americans without a warrant.
Whatever her personal views, Collins is a Republican and is under a certain amount of inevitable pressure to act like one in Congress. And, much too often, she does. Which means that she is part of the problem of ungovernabiilty that her party’s radical ideology and strategy have imposed upon our country. So of course, the Senate tomorrow would be an ever so slightly better place if Collins were replaced by a Democrat. And, as I have argued in past posts, the eventual chances for decent, much less progressive governance in this country will depend on wiping the Republicans out—inflicting a succession of electoral defeats such that the party will be reduced to such complete irrelevance that it will have to change course.
But here’s the paradox: Progressive change requires defeating Republicans, and Collins is one of them. But it also requires more people like Collins in her party—relatively sane and moderate people who can eventually transform today’s radical reactionary Republicans into a responsible conservative party.
So, which should get priority—the short and medium-term goal of defeating as many Republicans as possible, or the long-term goal of preserving a core of sanity in the Republican party? Luckily, I don’t have to obsess over this; I vote in New York.
A friend has written to say that a vote against Collins should be an easy call: “There is nothing more important in the current environment than preserving Democratic control of the Senate, and that could hinge on a single Senatorial election.” I have to agree: given that control of the Senate hangs in the balance, and a Republican majority would be an unmitigated disaster, the necessity of defeating Senate Republicans does trump the desirability of preserving a core of sanity in the Republican Party.