Shenna vs. Susan – is there half a chance?
(Wicked head and chest cold this week, so no “fun with food” this time. Bear with me.)
Don’t think from the headline I’m going to eviscerate a perfectly capable and essentially okay person (by humanity-at-large standards) like Susan Collins in this post. I’m not. I’d be wrong and I’d be mean, and I keep trying to be neither. But I will attempt to eviscerate, nay vivisect, the widely held mythology that Collins is a “moderate” Republican, is too infused with personal integrity to play political footsie with far-right Republicans in the Senate, and could never even think of donating money to extremist candidates like so many now seated in Congress.
First, let’s look at two campaign signs, apparently created by the same copywriter:
Boy, the “Our” here in both cases really grates me. It oozes a certain je ne sais quoi of smugness and self-patting-on-the back, but worse, it’s just plain mathematically wrong. The “our” for LePage is a shade over 1/3 of us, and for Collins, though much more, leaves out gobs of people who just hate that she has voted —
- against a puny minimum wage of $10.10 an hour
- against equal pay for equal work by men and women
- against the Affordable Care Act
- against a Senate move in Sept. 2013 to reject a Republican-led House budget that would delay Obamacare; in other words, she voted in favor of the House’s ransom ploy that would force a government shutdown if Obama didn’t take the bait (which he didn’t), furloughing 800,000 workers for 17 days. She knew it was coming, and she voted no anyway – her vote said, what the hey, let’s shut down the government. (Collins has an ad out saying she voted against the government shutdown. That’s false. I don’t know why this ad is running. It’s untrue.)
Collins’ website has no “Issues” page. Strange…
Also, we can forget that she waited until June 2014 to support gay marriage, because her voting record is otherwise semi-decent on health, women’s issues, choice, the environment, and civil rights. Not ideal, by any means, and not anywhere near most Democrats, but not too shabby for a Republican. It might even be said, magnanimously, that she has sometimes voted her conscience.
But not enough. What I find most unforgivable is her violation of the third leg of her shaky mythology, stated above, that she’d never “even think of donating money to far-right ultraconservative candidates like so many now seated in Congress.” Because she has.
The Dirigo PAC: $ thousands for these clowns??
She’s done it through her modestly endowed PAC ($225K as of today), immodestly dubbed “Dirigo” after the one word on Maine’s Great Seal, Latin for “I lead,” or “I direct.” The Dirigo PAC, nestled in cozy, leafy Alexandria, Virginia, has spent nearly half its assets donating to campaigns of 22 Republican senators up for reelection (total to date: $105K). And the amazing thing is, many of those Republicans are the opposite from Susan on social issues. She gave either $5000 or $10,000 to eight candidates who —
- for Family Planning (abortion rights, contraception access) were all rated 0% (except 1)
- for Gay Rights were all rated 0% (except 1)
- for the Environment were all rated less than 5%
How does Susan score on these issues? In critical votes, her lifetime scores are –
- Family planning: 60%
- Gay rights: 50%
- Environment: 39.77%
(all ratings by Progressive Punch, the “nonpartisan searchable database of Congressional voting records”)
Also note that of the 22 candidates getting Dirigo PAC money, five are among the 15 most extreme right wing members of the Senate, according to the National Journal.
- John Cornyn (TX)
- Mike Enzi (WY)
- James Imhofe (OK)
- Pat Roberts (KS)
- Tim Scott (SC)
$5000 to each of these guys from “Our Senator,” and if you’re like me and lean just the slightest bit to the left of center on the political scale you don’t have to read much about any of these legislators to feel your stomach churning with abhorrence and revulsion.
(Thanks to OpenSecrets.org for the numbers – see Susan’s PAC’s complete recipient list here. And thanks also to Illegitimi non carborundum on Daily Kos. And if you’re curious, that handle/phrase is Latin for “Don’t let the b*stards grind you down.”)
I can’t vote for someone who supports people like that. I can’t vote for someone who, though purportedly a leader, sells out to people like that, whatever the backroom deal it was that she cut with them. I can’t vote for someone whose moral compass seems to be utterly on the fritz, and whose campaign website has nothing on the issues, probably because she doesn’t know where to stand on the issues this week.
But enough from me. I like this piece from someone far more reputable, Stephen King:
(Look, I’m all over Stephen King. One reason I’m a published novelist is because of him. When Viking bought my first book a few years back, my editor told me in no uncertain terms they were publishing my novel partly because of the vast amounts of cash they had on hand, largely generated by King’s books – Viking was his publisher back then – and if my book tanked they’d easily cover their losses. In the end, it slightly tanked, and yes, they covered their losses from King’s profits.)
Well, after all this, you might vote for Collins because you’re thinking, “well, she’s still pretty good, and nobody’s perfect.” Well, hang on to your hats, she’s not even in the same county as “perfect,” and this is what I’ve learned about her opponent:
Shenna Bellows is perfect
If you’re a sentient, caring human, that is. She’s not even close to being flawed. She’s wildly intelligent, deeply committed, she’s devoted her life to helping those less fortunate, and she’s only 39 years old and still doing these things when others her age are trying to run hedge funds and develop iPhone apps.
Her bio is here, but in brief, she’s magnum cum laude from Middlebury, she’s a veteran of the Peace Corps (Panama), has headed up Maine’s ACLU for the last eight years, and has done all kinds of other work to help people and the environment. She believes in coalition-building – a huge plus for a progressive Democrat in this era of the rampant right. Her “Issues” page is vast and detailed, but here are the highlights. She supports:
- Universal health care (i.e., “Medicare for all”)
- Marriage equality
- Repeal of the Patriot Act
- 2nd Amendment (she’s a former NRA member), with background checks
- Ending the War on Drugs
- Campaign finance reform; overturning Citizens United
- Protecting the right to vote
- Student loan reform; supporting public schools
- Renewable energy; GMO labeling
- Reproductive freedom; access to birth control
- “Paycheck fairness” – no more 77¢ on the dollar for women
Plus, she’s a terrific speaker and apparently tireless campaigner. So all that’s good, but where are we? Shenna’s down 25% in the latest BDN poll, with 2 1/2 weeks to election day. I don’t get it, we’re in a state that’s 33% registered Democrats, 28% Republicans, and the remainder, I venture to say, centrist enough to find some of Collins’ positions troubling. It could be that Bellows seemed to get out of the starting gate without enough money or oomph or name recognition – she’s characterized her candidacy as a “grass roots” sort of thing, she’s hoofed it on foot all over the state, she didn’t spend much on advertising. But the BDN poll shows there’s movement in her direction over the last few weeks, now that more and more people know who she is and what she believes. Here’s Huffington Post’s aggregate poll from 5 days ago –
I really like what she stands for, and I wish her luck.
There you have it.