In the circus of modern-day politics, the middle ground has shrunk to the width of a tightrope. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins — long heralded as a moderate willing to reach across the aisle — continues to try to walk that line despite drawing criticism from all sides.
To left-leaning critics, Collins, the sole New England Republican in Congress, is a moderate only when convenient. Her votes to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other President Trump nominees, her fundraising activities and her silence on a possible impeachment vote have soured some of those same voters who elected her to a fourth term in 2014.
Collins also has drawn the ire of members of her own party, including when she voted against repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Yet, in the 115th Congress, Collins voted in line with Trump’s position 77 percent of the time, according to analysis website FiveThirtyEight.
Another measure of her record in the 115th Congress is that following it, Collins was ranked as the most bipartisan senator for the sixth consecutive year by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University’s public policy school. Collins received the highest bipartisan score in the 26-year history of the index.
The rankings are based on how often a lawmaker sponsors bills co-sponsored by at least one member of the opposing party and the frequency with which a member co-sponsors bills introduced by members of the opposite party. By that measure, Collins “continues to be the gold standard for bipartisanship in the U.S. Congress,” said former Senator Richard Lugar in March.
The commendable designation is certainly not the achievement of someone who is merely playing lip service to reaching across the aisle.
With a re-election battle likely looming, Collins continues to stay the course, working on behalf of Mainers in Washington. Last week, she joined Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to push forward with a European Union trade deal aimed at reducing or eliminating E.U. tariffs on Maine lobster. And she recently worked to secure $300 million in funding for a new training ship for Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
It’s convenient for political parties and candidates to paint the opposition as the bad guy, but it’s a disservice to both sides. Collins may not have your vote, but she is not a villain. That being said, extraordinary times call for extraordinary behavior. What Maine and the nation really could use is a hero.