I try to avoid news about Susan Collins and abortion in the same way I avoid using oven cleaner in an enclosed space; both are corrosive and leave me, at best, dizzy with an unpleasant itching sensation on my arms and neck.
But this week, the Collins news was simply too gross to avoid. First, the self-proclaimed pro-choice Senator announced that she wouldn’t support a federal law upholding abortion rights, with the Republican from Maine saying the Democrats’ current proposal intrudes on state’s rights. (Collins did not offer a counter-proposal that did not, in her eyes, go too far. Instead, she did nothing.)
Then Collins announced she’d be endorsing certifiably insane “extreme conservative” anti-abortion zealot and all-around asshole Paul LePage in his bid to reclaim the Maine governorship after losing it in 2018. Outside of Maine, LePage is best known for a famously weird racist town hall speech where he claimed that drug dealers named “D-Money,” “Shifty” and “Smoothie” were driving up from big cities to “impregnate white girls.” (LePage later apologized, stating that he meant Maine women, and since Maine is 95 percent white, he should let his audience extrapolate that racism to the finish line.) Inside of Maine, he’s known for obscene rantings, for attempting to veto legislation that would expand women’s health care (he was overridden), and being a general embarrassment.
One could glean that by lending her support to the likes of LePage, Collins is once again okay with reproductive rights being collateral damage.
Recall, three years ago, that Collins voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, satisfied that the fit-throwing beer-enjoyer who had been vetted by the extremist Federalist Society considered abortion to be “settled law,” speculation that was reported by mainstream news outlets with a straight face. Kavanaugh has proven that he, in fact, does not believe that abortion is “settled law,” but all Collins has been able to do is shrug. How could she possibly have known what everybody else knew at the time? What was she supposed to do, use Google or ask somebody familiar with Kavanaugh’s personal beliefs? Who has the time!
Can we stop calling Collins “pro-choice” now? Pretty please? Because if Collins is pro-choice, then I’m Baba Yaga. It’s time the political press stopped playing along with her centrist LARPing.
I dislike using the word “gaslighting” now—it’s not the word’s fault, but its mass overuse and misuse has plundered meaning from it. “Dumpster fire,” “begs the question,” “cancel culture,” “tyranny,” “triggering,” and the WB Yeats poem “The Second Coming” (“The center cannot hold…”) have also fallen victim to lazy repetition. It’s a shame to lose “gaslighting” to the morass, but that frees us up to use simpler terminology: She’s lying.
Does Collins keep getting fooled by bad liars, or is she simply a bad liar? Or are we—the royal “we”—so committed to not disrupting our preexisting political narratives that we are willing to bend reality to fit them?
The media has long upheld the lie that Collins supports abortion rights. But, at this point, why? It’s clearly a lie, a title she once held at a job she quietly quit, but tells people she still has. She hasn’t lifted a finger to support abortion rights in years, beyond doing what it takes to fool reporters into mischaracterizing her as an abortion rights-supporting centrist, a “moderate.” She voted against Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation, a vote that got the media off her back for long enough that she was able to win re-election to another six-year-term in the Senate. Now, what does she have to lose by lying? Her social media manager might have a couple of bad days on Twitter, but beyond that: nothing.
She’s about as valuable to American women as a lifeguard who keeps letting people drown, and claims she never heard the splashing. Until she actually does something meaningful to preserve choice, Collins can drop the act.