Look, I’m all about women’s right. I support empowering women, pushing back against the inordinate amount of power wielded by men at the top levels of business and government, and urging feminists to embrace all women’s needs and not ignore or downplay those of Black women and other women of color.
But when I saw the headline of a Huffington Post article titled “All This Piling On Susan Collins Is Kinda Sexist” in regard to criticisms of the Maine senator's vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, I thought I was seeing things. But no, there it was, written by a woman and there it was on social media: people agreeing with the sentiment that somehow sexism was to blame for lambasting Collins.
The gist is that 45 men in the Senate also cast the same vote, and why weren’t they criticized as much? That in singling out Collins, we are making the sexual assault allegation issue about something that only women can understand instead of making it an issue that both genders should care about.
Collins and her staff ignored very vocal cries from her constituency — indeed, the majority of Mainers — to reject Kavanaugh. This point seems to be a bit of a trend. When voters call into her offices or protest outside them in droves, they are deflected and ignored. Then after she votes against their wishes, she cites all kinds of support and positive feedback. I’m sure she does get approval from many Republican supporters but until I see some counter-protests outside her office or some proof of widespread support in polls, I’m going with a theory of gaslighting instead.
Collins voted for Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite the unhinged behavior he showed during his confirmation hearing — most notably the hostility and anger he displayed while trotting out false narratives (drinking game?) and conspiracy theories. This to me is even more disturbing than the sexual assault charges, given that it more directly contrasts with the behavior that's expected of him now that he'll sit on the highest court in the land for decades. Collins didn’t just vote. She gave a speech lasting more than 40 minutes, jumping through hoops to justify her decision. I don’t even think grandstanding was the goal. It was gaslighting.
This isn’t new, and this isn't sexism. When Donald Trump nominated Jeff Sessions — the love child of a Keebler elf and a KKK Grand Dragon — for attorney general, Collins introduced Sessions in a warm fashion and openly vouched for his integrity — despite his obvious and well documented history of lacking integrity on race and other matters. She didn’t use her power in the Senate Committee to block Betsy DeVos from getting a confirmation hearing, despite vocal cries nationwide and from Mainers. That got us one of our most singularly unqualified cabinet members and a person devoted to bringing down public education put in charge of the Department of Education. She earned praise from many in Maine, including non-Republicans, for appearing to stand against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), but then agreed to vote to help destabilize the ACA later. Then she voted for Trump's disastrous Tax Bill, decrying its many and vocal critics as "unbelievably sexist" for holding her accountable.
Susan Collins isn't a centrist at all, much less a supporter of the protection of women’s health and rights. She's a Trump supporter.
She supports the Republicans when they need her vote. When they don’t, she votes with Democrats just enough to say, “Hey, I’m your moderate Republican senator.” But she isn’t. I’ve heard staunch conservatives in the past criticize Collins for being a RINO (Republican in name only) but the truth is that she’s a moderate in name only.
The GOP knows they can count on “moderate” Collins when they need her. Mainers, however, cannot count on her to listen to them, no matter how loudly they cry out.