I was impressed by Sen. Susan Collins’ recent op-ed, if only because I didn’t think it possible for one politician to so thoroughly self-immolate in so short a time.

The Republican tax scheme – the greatest transfer of wealth in U.S. history – will ultimately raise taxes on nearly 100 million working Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center, while further enriching billionaires and ballooning the debt by $1.5 trillion.

As the plan slinked through Congress, Collins made patently false claims about its impact on the economy, broke her promise to vote down any proposal cutting the top rate and went back on her word not to exacerbate Mainers’ health care expenses (the law is expected to gash Medicare and spike premiums by nearly $2,000 for struggling families, a Congressional Budget Office analysis concluded). To the surprise of nobody, the “concessions” Collins secured during her well-worn dance of “Hamlet”-esque hemming and hawing evaporated instantly.

But no matter: For Collins, the real goal is always (and only) to secure another merit badge depicting her heroic moderating effect on the Republican Party. It turns out that Collins is a moderate in the same sense that actor Peter Dinklage is a Lannister: She merely plays one on TV for a handful of Sundays each year. And though she’s adept at periodically demonstrating her supposed centrism, her inability to imagine public service as a skin you wear rather than a costume you put on for the cameras has tarnished the legacy of her hero, Margaret Chase Smith.

The choice to stand with Donald Trump even half of the time is no more the choice of a principled moderate than the choice to jump halfway off a bridge – and that’s precisely where Collins finds herself today, flailing wildly to justify brazen nose-thumbing at the middle class at a moment that calls for declarations of conscience more than any in recent memory.

Dan Cluchey

Cape Elizabeth