Despite social media evidence dating back to late 2020 of the intentions of President Trump’s fan base and his role in fueling the fires of misinformation, the white supremacist insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 in the Capitol was shocking and unprecedented for many Americans. But what I wonder is whether Sen. Susan Collins had predicted this? Did she believe her actions would embolden Trump supporters to undermine the same voting rights that racial minorities were denied for so long? After her vote to acquit Trump in his Senate impeachment trial over his illegal affairs with Ukraine, Collins stated that he learned “a pretty big lesson.” This suggests that she believed these trials would leash Trump from making more of a mockery of our government and country. I doubt she imagined, then, that part way through last week, she would be directly threatened by the violence incited by Trump and other members of the GOP.

Trump has proven repeatedly that he is a threat to the people, government and security of the United States. And so far, the biggest consequence of his actions has been losing a second term presidency, which he has spent the past few months attempting to undermine with misinformation of voter fraud. After multiple court cases were overturned with no evidence of voter fraud, Trump turned to his acolytes as a last resort, including both disillusioned voters and members of the GOP. There is evidence of his supporters planning their day to “save America” and “stop the steal” in Washington. In fact, Trump tweeted “Big Protest in D.C. on January 6th” on Dec. 19, 2020. During this time, many politicians dismissed his behavior as tantrum-throwing or harmless. Many did not comment on his initial calls to “stop the steal,” including Collins (although it must be noted that she has condemned Trump for pressuring state election officials over election results in late 2020 and a few days prior to the insurrection in January 2021). And thus, predictably, the insurrection at the Capitol happened.

The events of Jan. 6 highlight the reality that even high-ranking politicians can fall victim to uncontrollable threats they deem unworthy of attention, such as Trump. History has also shown us that when not adequately responded to, a failed coup is generally followed by another attempt (e.g., Hitler, 1923; Napoleon III, 1836). The insurrection we witnessed on the Jan. 6 was a failed coup. If Trump’s influence is so great that politicians can barely be kept safe in the Capitol, supposedly one of the more secure locations in this country, then what stops his supporters from wreaking (more) havoc on the people of this country in the future?

If Collins truly respects the governing systems of this country; the safety of herself, her colleagues and the people of this country; and importantly, the value that comes from “learning lessons,” she must vote to impeach Trump in the coming weeks. Not only will this prevent more harm to this country, both in the near and far future, but this will benefit her as a politician.

Collins has previously taken a moderate Republican stance in politics, which has served her well in the state of Maine. In 2020, she was re-elected to the senate, marking her fifth term as a senator. However, a majority of Mainers did not vote to re-elect Trump in 2020, and although Trump received 44% of votes, not all of these voters may be willing to overlook these recent events. This gives Collins an opportunity to put distance between herself and Trump, knowing that she is supporting the majority of her Maine constituents. Another vote to acquit him could be costly for her in future elections. And although the impact of the past decisions made by Collins and other dismissive politicians cannot be undone, this is an opportunity for her to start doing better for Americans everywhere.

I’ve spent the past few days calling her offices and asking her to take just actions beyond condemning the violence of Jan. 6, which include requesting for the 25th amendment to be invoked and voting to impeach Trump. My voice is not enough. Mainers, now is a time to ask for Collins to support justice and alleviate threat. Trump certainly did not learn his lesson, but Collins has room to show us she is capable of learning.

Brennan Radulski lives in Topsham.

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