Susan Collins doesn’t want Donald Trump to be president. There’s nothing remarkable about that statement or her piece in the Washington Post explaining her non-endorsement unless you mention the fact that Collins is in fact Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.
Try reading her article as if your Republican Uncle Joe had written it and took the position that Trump deserves to lose because:
- He mocked a disabled reporter in front of an adoring audience.
- He spewed sexist insults at a female reporter.
- He deemed a federal judge unfit to preside over the Trump University fraud case because his name is Gonzalo Curiel.
- He attacked the parents of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.
- He doesn’t know anything. By the way.
Such a recitation of grievances this late in the campaign — after the country has been tormented for more than a year by the very real possibility that a hateful authoritarian will succeed Barack Obama as president — would earn your Uncle Joe no points for morality or bravery. You’d stop listening to the political ramblings of someone who couldn’t long ago identify the existential threat to our democracy (and probably the world order) that a Trump administration posed.
But Collins is a powerful senator from Maine, and her moral and political pronouncements matter more than yours and mine. Months ago, before the Trump candidacy was confined to the Republican Party, people and institutions with far less influence but operational moral compasses sounded the alarm on Trump. Their warnings were drowned out by the silence of people like Collins and House Speaker Paul Ryan. Eventually, Ryan fell in line and tepidly endorsed Trump, setting the stage for Republicans like Collins to walk across it as heroes for publicly withholding their endorsements from their nominee mere months before election day. Such is the state of the Republican Party today.
In 1964, most Americans decided that Republican Barry Goldwater posed a great risk to gains made in civil rights and the non-use of nuclear weapons. He earned fewer than 100 electoral votes and 40% of the popular vote against incumbent Lyndon Johnson. Like Goldwater, it isn’t enough for Trump merely to lose; his candidacy deserves total rejection at the polls in November.
And for that to happen, Republicans like Collins should go one step further than refusing to support Trump. If their goal is to truly repudiate Trump and prevent him from becoming president, they should endorse Hillary Clinton.