Dear Sen. Susan Collins,

It is increasingly worrisome that you are unwilling to publicly support the most qualified candidate in the race for president, and I respectfully urge you to change your mind.

I realize that for many proud lifelong Republicans like yourself, this election is deeply painful, but it’s not just Republicans who are mourning the loss of a conservative party. Democrats with any degree of political instinct are mourning too. Without an intelligent opposition, the left will get lazy and sloppy. Nobody pays attention when the score is 79 to nothing; they leave early. And nobody’s mind is changed in an echo chamber. Robust politics demand a battle of wits by people with their heads in the game. This week’s debate performance by Donald Trump was insulting.

So it’s good you that don’t support Trump like it’s good that you don’t support the abuse of puppies: morally correct but hardly courageous. Imagine spending precious time trying to parse a measured response to Trump’s latest 3 a.m. tweet about Alicia Machado. Is calling a Hispanic woman “Miss Housekeeping” better or worse than Gov. Paul LePage stereotyping young black men as drug dealers impregnating Maine white girls?

For the first time in your life, you won’t be voting for the Republican candidate and that’s tough, but you’ll survive, and it will get easier. Look at all the Democrats who have come around to supporting you year in and year out. It’s not because of secretly held beliefs that align with the Republican platform – nobody believes coal is clean energy – and it’s not because they love the job the GOP is doing running the Congress. Many Democrats support you because you’re doing a good job and you are not embarrassing us. You work hard and display common decency. Your commitment to this country’s fundamental ideals is not in question, and that’s why not supporting Donald Trump is not enough.

You take issue with the cost of some of Hillary Clinton’s plans, but you can bet your bottom dollar she can name a foreign leader she admires, unlike the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. You can’t possibly be thinking of supporting a guy who is stumped when asked to name one of his favorite foreign leaders.

“Go ahead, you gotta do this. Anywhere. Any continent. Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa. Name a foreign leader that you respect,” asked MSNBC’s Chris Matthews of Johnson this week on national television in a scheduled interview about why this guy thinks he’s qualified to be the leader of the free world without knowing the name of a single foreign leader or the nightmare that is Aleppo, Syria.

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s quip about Johnson is probably correct – his foreign policy brain freeze set back the cause of legalizing marijuana 50 years – so for that be grateful since you oppose legalization, but for Heaven’s sake, you can’t vote for the guy. Margaret Chase Smith would turn over in her grave.

People want change this year, Senator, so change your mind. Join the growing chorus of establishment-types who are remodeling. After 34 years of staying on the sidelines of an election, USA Today did something different. “This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates – Republican nominee Donald Trump – is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency,” they wrote. Trump is erratic and ill-equipped to be commander in chief. He traffics in prejudice, his business career is checkered and he isn’t leveling with the American people, the Editorial Board said. Trump speaks recklessly, has coarsened the national dialogue and is a “serial liar.”

Others are changing, too, this year. In its 126 year history, the Arizona Republic has never endorsed a Democrat until this election, joining a growing list of newspapers with right-leaning editorial boards that are breaking with tradition and rejecting Trump.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, noting it “has supported Republicans for president for almost a century,” endorsed Clinton on Friday. The Dallas Morning News backed Clinton earlier in the month, even though it “has not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before World War II.” And the Houston Chronicle endorsed Clinton in July, marking just the second time in 13 elections that it has supported a Democrat, according to The Washington Post.

A vote for anyone other than Clinton is a vote for Donald Trump, who we agree is unworthy of being our president and could make the world a more dangerous place. Now is no time to begin experimenting with a throwaway vote. The future of the civilized world is at stake.

So you don’t like Clinton’s plan for free public college for families earning less than $125,000 per year? You are concerned it might blow up the deficit? Many people, including some Democrats, share those concerns and welcome you to pull up a chair and make it better. Work with Clinton to change it.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and former state senator. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: dillesquire

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