On Jan. 3, 1997, almost exactly 21 years ago, Susan Collins of Caribou became Maine’s junior U.S. senator alongside Olympia Snowe. Today, Sen. Collins has an admirable record of service, including a record voting streak. She is the only Republican senator from New England.
Traditionally a measured legislator not bound to any particular ideology and willing to seek carefully considered positions that differ from her party’s stance, the moderate, centrist, bipartisan-seeking senior senator from Maine recently has been assailed and demonized from quarters that only weeks earlier lavished praise for her independence and integrity.
Two months ago, Collins was upheld as a paragon of sensibility as she voted against her party and the proposed healthcare provisions. Conservative voters felt betrayed by her left-of-center position. But she passed that day’s media litmus test and was applauded by those in the “Resist” movement.
Opponents of her decision concerning the new tax law have decried her vote as a travesty, careless, catering to the rich, an attempt to destroy our government — plus much worse. Protesters occupied her offices in Bangor and Portland. Her phone lines and email system have been deluged with messages from those outraged by her stance.
Citizens often wonder why more and better people don’t make serious efforts to run for our important government offices. The abuse heaped upon our public servants, from town manager in Tremont to senator from Bangor, makes the job one for only for the halest and heartiest — or a fool beholden to too many outsiders.
On our letters page, State Sen. Brian Langley described the contradictions among Collins’ critics. Langley, and Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor, legislators cut from the Collins mold of searching for ways to resolve problems, discussed the necessity of cooperation and brokering cooperation, even when they disagree on policy.
We will never agree 100 percent of the time with any politician on the positions they take. But to skewer Collins for her reasoned positions in the fashion recently observed is irresponsible. Both public and press moderation are warranted.
Our political climate has become increasingly acrimonious. Acceptable middle-ground positions have become impossible, as the narrative pits left against right, conservative against progressive, Democrat against Republican, and even family members against each other. Sound public policy helps both the majority and the minority. Winning should be reserved only for election to office. Then the real work commences.