In a sane world, Cindy Hyde-Smith’s bid to finish out Thad Cochran’s term in the Senate would have been finished after the numerous occasions in which she blew blatantly racist dog whistles were exposed for all to see. We now know that Mississippi is represented by a Senator who not only found it acceptable to “joke” about being at a public hanging and voter suppression, but also tried to push a resolution honoring Confederate soldiers who “defended their homeland.”
By all rights, the GOP should have given Hyde-Smith the same treatment it gave Roy Moore in 2017–keep her at two arms’ length. But it didn’t. Donald Trump, if you’ll recall, not only loudly endorsed her, but headlined a rally for her on Election Eve. Among those joining Trump and Hyde-Smith on the stump was one of the Senate’s so-called Republican mavericks, Lindsey Graham.
Well, it turns out one other “maverick” was exposed as a fraud in this special election campaign–namely, Susan Collins of Maine. The Beacon, the podcast of the liberal Maine People’s Alliance, discovered that Collins’ PAC wrote hefty checks to Hyde-Smith in her ultimately successful bid for the final two years of Cochran’s term.
According to Federal Election Commission data, Collins’ Dirigo PAC gave $5,000 to the Hyde-Smith campaign on October 26–the maximum permitted under federal law. Granted, this donation was made two weeks before Election Day, on which Hyde-Smith came up short of a majority. But you would have thought that once Hyde-Smith’s dog whistling was exposed, Collins would have denounced it and donated that $5,000 check to charity. But did she? Nope.
As a whole, the GOP’s response to Hyde-Smith’s comments was nothing short of embarrassing. Take National Republican Senate Committee chairman Cory Gardner, for instance. Soon after the news that Moore was accused of molesting and improperly pursuing teenage girls, Gardner announced the NRSC would no longer lift a finger to help Moore–a move that, as it turned out, was the beginning of the end for the Moore campaign.
So you would have thought distancing itself from Hyde-Smith would have been a no-brainer for the NRSC, right? Far from it–he actually directed additional NRSC resources to Mississippi.
But Collins’ silence on this matter is particularly outrageous. She likes to bill herself as a moderate and independent voice in a party that seems to be on a quadruple-time march to the right. Indeed, she is by far the most moderate member of the Senate GOP caucus. You would have thought it would have been an easy call for Collins to distance herself from Hyde-Smith. Apparently not.
One may think that Collins’ silence shouldn’t have been a surprise, given that she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. She cited her concern for due process and the presumption of innocence in the wake of multiple claims that Kavanaugh molested girls during his high school and college days.
However, Collins at least had a defense for that vote–even if it was a flimsy one. There is no defense for maintaining support for a Senator who sees fit to engage in dog whistling of the worst type, especially when she is running in a state with such a fraught racial history. Simply put, Collins’ image as a moderate has been exposed as a sham.
Not surprisingly, Collins’ move has been relentlessly pilloried on Twitter.
There’s a possibility that rage could result in Collins paying the ultimate political price for going all-in for Hyde-Smith. She’s up for reelection in 2020, and there’s a good chance she could have a fight on her hands in her bid for a fifth term. Former UN ambassador Susan Rice is taking a look at the race, and state house speaker Sara Gideon has also expressed interest.
Whoever gets the nomination is going to have a lot of money behind him or her at the outset. Be a Hero launched a crowdfunding campaign for Collins’ Democratic challenger after word got out that Collins was thinking about voting for Kavanaugh. Watch the announcement here.
Apparently Collins didn’t take the warning seriously, based on her vote for Kavanaugh. As of Sunday, the effort has raised over $3.7 million, mostly in small donations. ActBlue has also started a fund for whoever ultimately emerges as the Democratic candidate in this seat. This all but assures that Collins’ opponent will start out on very good footing, especially in a state where paid media is really cheap.
Collins claimed that the Be A Hero campaign amounted to a bribe. No, Susan. Your constituents, and others across the country, were outraged that you voted to confirm such a manifestly unqualified nominee. And they’re equally outraged that you supported Hyde-Smith. If you’re out of a job in 2020, you will only have yourself to blame.
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