Recently, there’s been a curious illness sweeping across Maine. No, it’s not the flu, nor is it the new virus from China that has everyone worried. It’s been lurking under the surface, but it’s probably not one you have to worry about, as it targets only a specific subset of people in Maine: activist liberal Democrats.

We’ll call it “Collins Derangement Syndrome,” and it’s related to Bush Derangement Syndrome and Trump Derangement Syndrome, both of which also mainly seem to affect Democrats. All of these syndromes are connected to one another, but they’re distinct from one another as well. When affected by Bush Derangement Syndrome (first identified by the late columnist Charles Krauthammer), Democrats’ paranoia led them to believe that George W. Bush was simultaneously an evil genius bent on taking over the world and a complete fool unfit for office. Trump Derangement Syndrome is similar, but more widespread and bipartisan.

Those suffering from Collins Derangement Syndrome share a similarly contradictory belief about our senior senator: that she is both secretly immensely powerful and completely under the control of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We’ve seen this in recent days as the impeachment trial unfolded, when liberals staged demonstrations demanding that Sen. Susan Collins vote to allow witnesses. Now, it was curious that anyone felt the need to demonstrate about this particular issue, as Collins made it very clear for weeks that she would probably vote for calling witnesses. Broadcasting her intentions this way is unusual for Collins: Typically, she waits until the last moment to announce how she’s going to vote.

So even as they were planning their protests, Democrats knew they were going to get her vote on the issue. That raised a thorny problem for the Maine Democratic Party (which should be renamed the Goalpost-Shifting Committee): how to make political hay out of an issue when Collins agreed with them. After all, they could hardly line up with the conservatives who were upset about her vote. First, they tried making it a process issue, as they faulted Collins for voting for witnesses not at the beginning of the trial, but at the end. Even if Collins had voted a different way on the rules, that wouldn’t have changed the outcome: Not a single Republican voted against the rules.

Here’s where Democrats argue that Collins not only should have voted differently, but also should have used her influence to swing more of her colleagues to join her. When it comes to the passage of the rules, they seem to believe that Collins could have convinced enough of her colleagues to change the outcome. Under this theory, Collins controls not only her own vote but secretly those of several other senators as well.

Since Collins ultimately voted for an unsuccessful effort to call witnesses, her liberal critics had to change their tune yet again. Now, suddenly, the supposed power she had to change votes has evaporated, and instead she’s just voting the way Mitch McConnell tells her to. This theory presumes that McConnell has such a tight rein over the Senate Republican caucus that he can script any vote any way he likes.

The problem with this explanation is Mitt Romney, who also voted for witnesses and is in a safely Republican seat. Liberals wave that away with the (inherently sexist) explanation that while Romney voted his own way, Collins meekly did what she was told by leadership. Even if one accepts that, it’s not a good political strategy from McConnell: He has other incumbents who are more endangered than Collins, like Martha McSally in Arizona and Cory Gardner in Colorado. Democrats are likely relieved that they can now simply criticize Collins for voting to acquit Trump, even though her decision was based more on the incompleteness of the House investigation than on any loyalty to Trump.

The simple truth is that, while Mitch McConnell is an effective leader who usually wins votes, he doesn’t have absolute control over the Senate Republican caucus. It is certainly possible for the moderate Republicans to band together and thwart him, but that’s not going to happen on every vote.

So if you have friends or family who are suffering from Collins Derangement Syndrome this election year, show them some sympathy. They’ve got a tough task, trying to villainize a woman simply because she doesn’t vote with them every single time. All you can do to help them is try to offer them some occasional rationality as an antidote once in a while.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jimfossel

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