I’m a registered independent. I’m pro-choice, like immigration, and think climate change is a serious problem. I have no patience for Donald Trump’s pathological lying, self-dealing, racism and sexism. I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and am voting for Joe Biden this year.

I’m also voting for Susan Collins. Sure, my views may be closer to Sara Gideon’s on some key issues. But the biggest political problem our country faces isn’t conservatism or liberalism—it’s tribalism. Too many politicians in Washington get nothing done because they can’t compromise with the other party. The result is an impotent Congress, and a self-reinforcing cycle of hatred and cynicism.

Collins is the rare elected official in 2020 who still looks for common ground. As a result, her proposals frequently become law. When COVID hit, she teamed up with three Democrats and another Republican to form the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses continue making payroll. Nearly two thirds of Maine small businesses have used this program, saving countless businesses and thousands of Maine jobs. PPP is a rare success in a Congress that specializes in bickering, posturing, and suffocating partisanship.

Congress wasn’t always this bad. Members of Congress used to be able to compromise on important issues, provide basic oversight, and pass an annual budget. This was possible, in part, because moderate New England Republicans could help liberals and conservatives find common ground. In 2001, there were 10 Republicans serving in Congress from New England. Today, Susan Collins is the only one left.

Donald Trump’s style of politics has accelerated the polarization. He’s done everything in his power to play up divisive social issues and vilify his political opponents. The result is a Congress more divided and ineffective than ever.

Joe Biden is running on a pledge to unite Americans, and govern in a bipartisan way. To be successful, he must have partners in Congress on both sides of the aisle. Collins would support his proposals if she believes they’re right for Maine. She’s done this before. During the Obama Administration she broke with her party to pass the 2009 stimulus bill, confirm Elana Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and fund Planned Parenthood.

Collins has also spoken out against Trump’s divisive brand of politics. During the 2016 general election, she called him “unsuitable for office,” citing his “disregard for the precept of treating others with respect,” his “constant stream of cruel comments,” and “his inability to admit error or apologize.” Both in 2016 and this year, Collins has refused to support his candidacy.

She’s also blocked major parts of the Republican legislative agenda. She stopped her party from repealing Obamacare, the Republicans’ top legislative priority in the last Congress, by joining Democrats and Republican Sens. John McCain and Lisa Murkowski to defeat the measure 51-49. As a result, thousands of Mainers with pre-existing conditions still have their health insurance.

Mainers angry about Donald Trump may be tempted to indiscriminately punish all Republicans up and down the ballot. That would be a mistake. The best way to reject Trump’s politics of hatred and division is to split our ballots between Biden and Collins.

Let’s send Trump packing, but let’s also show Republicans that if they reject the ugliness of Trump, they have a political future. The best way to rebuke Trump is to vote against him, and also against the hyper-partisanship he pushes. Let’s discourage another Trump by demonstrating that his brand of Republican is less electable than Collins’ brand.

Washington’s biggest problem is not that the Senate is controlled by Republicans. Its biggest problem is that both parties act like permanently-warring tribes, even though they can’t solve America’s biggest problems without bipartisan compromise. The Lugar Center and Georgetown University report that Collins has topped the Senate’s Bipartisan Index rankings for seven consecutive years. She earned the ranking by consistently proposing bills that have attracted support and co-sponsorships from members of both parties. If Mainers fire the most bipartisan member of the Senate, what message does that send to others considering running as centrists, who will work with the opposite party to get things done?


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