No, Charlie, we do not need more Senators like Maine’s Susan Collins. We don’t even need Susan Collins. What we do need is to flip the Senate and deal responsibly with Covid-19 impacts, revitalize environmental standards to halt climate change, launch an infrastructure jobs bill, reform voting laws, redress economic inequities, protect the Affordable Care Act, confront the realities of racial injustice and begin the long process of restoring balance to the Supreme Court.
Susan Collins helped give us Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She supported Donald Trump’s breathtakingly inequitable tax cut for the wealthy and has been so craven in her support for climate deniers and the Administration’s zealous gutting of environmental regulations that the League of Conservation Voters, which endorsed her last time, is now supporting Democrat Sarah Gideon, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. More than two of every three of Collins’ votes have aligned with Trump.
Charlie Baker has enjoyed high favorability during the first six years of his stewardship of the Commonwealth, a rating that often put him in first place among all the nation’s governors. His approval level among Massachusetts Democrats, 90 percent according to one poll, is particularly noteworthy. Liking him personally and his largely thoughtful managerial approach to governance, many Democrats and Independents have been willing to cut him slack with problems like his difficulty changing the corrupt state police culture and his slowness to solve serious transportation problems, especially at the MBTA.
Baker has not signaled whether he will run for a third term. In the wake of his endorsement of Collins, I doubt that Massachusetts Democrats will be as willing to give him a pass on those more nettlesome problems
In the past, Charlie Baker has made it a point not to get involved in rancorous partisan national politics and endorsements of non-Massachusetts candidates. That approach has served him well. He didn’t need to weigh in on the Collins race, with its significant national implications. This could signal that there’s no third term on the horizon for him.
As Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, a potential 2022 gubernatorial candidate, tweeted, “A vote for her now is a vote for Mitch McConnell and Trump’s agenda. It’s not good for Maine, and it’s not good for Massachusetts. Charlie Baker should know that.”
It may be that Baker has decided it could be time for him to depart for a lucrative executive position like that he held for years as the distinguished CEO of Harvard Pilgrim. (When he left, it was the highest-rated health insurer in the country.)
Baker said he endorsed Collins because of her reputation of working with both parties “to get things done.” And, in the Republican Jewish Coalition-sponsored endorsement video, he said with a straight face: “She’s pro-environment, pro-women, pro-Maine. We need more leaders like Susan. I hope you reelect her.” That assessment flies in the face of reality.
On the other hand, Baker may be positioning himself for a national role in the remaking of what he hopes will be a post-Trump Republican Party, one grounded in fiscal conservatism, social enlightenment and, above all, rule of law. Another Collins endorser is Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who considered challenging Trump for president.
Baker has ties with the Republican Jewish Coalition, having spoken at their 2016 spring leadership conference (in an address reportedly closed to the press) in Las Vegas along with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and then-Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Collins’ latest statement on an RBG replacement is that hearings can begin on a Trump nominee, but no vote should be taken before the election and ultimately the winner should select the next justice. This leaves ample wiggle room for both a Hail Mary pass to save her skin before November 3 and ultimately spineless support of a choice possibly worse than Kavenaugh.
According to one poll, Democrat Sarah Gideon is running 12 points ahead of Collins in Maine’s Senate race. But some seasoned observers expect the race to tighten in the coming weeks.
Notwithstanding Charlie Baker’s endorsement, it’s time to amp up support for Gideon and others in tippable states and wrest control of the U.S. Senate from the likes of Mitch McConnell. We can’t sit sadly by, mourning the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and not actively engage in taking back the Senate. RBG would have it no other way.