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In 1898, the USS Maine sunk in Havana Harbor, helping to precipitate the Spanish-American War. It was eventually determined that this was not an act precipitated by the Spanish but rather a misplaced load of gun powder on board. Today may also be remembered as a mistake involving Maine, the state.

Susan Collins Decides

To many, including this observer, today will go down as Black Friday and a bad day for the republic. As democracy slowly slips away under the weight of an autocratic narcissist the majority party in Congress, the Executive Branch, and now the Judiciary will dictate how basic civil liberties will be treated in the immediate and likely the long-term future.

Loyalty to a man will now trump loyalty to the ideals and values that have been consistently refined over the course of the past two and a half centuries. There can be little doubt that we will now embark on an interpretation of who we are through the lens of sheer partisanship and a relentlessly narrow political calculus. In all likelihood we are now going to be held hostage to a backward looking quest for a better time, supposedly when America was great.

Our bedrock institutions are under direct assault from the White House and its accomplices on Capitol Hill. Congress can change, the Executive branch can change, but the Supreme Court still maintains as a bastion of longevity.

Our bedrock institutions are under direct assault from the White House and its accomplices on Capitol Hill. Congress can change, the Executive branch can change, but the Supreme Court still maintains as a bastion of longevity. Brett Kavanaugh will most likely occupy his newly minted position for many decades to come. Immediately, he will be the deciding vote on most issues.

Issues such as women’s rights, immigration, civil rights, voter suppression, gerrymandering, corporate influence in our elections, race relations, affirmative action, workers’ rights, and net neutrality are only a sampling of issues which spring to mind. They will now be subject to the whims and temperament of a man who commands the fifth and deciding vote who showed his inability to control himself before the nation last week.

The deciding vote on the highest judicial body in the nation is now in the hands of a political hack with serious allegations of sexual assault and alcoholism. Under no circumstances should this nomination have been advanced by either party. There is no stronger indictment of the man’s character than his performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was a singularly disqualifying moment.

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There is a rationale on the part of serious political analysts that in the run-up to the mid-term elections a month from now having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will energize massive resistance on the part of Democrats and Independents. This thinking posits that this will work to help the Democrats recapture the House of Representatives, essentially restoring a key legislative check on the White House. Even if that happens, the costs to the nation are too great.

We need to restore public confidence in the basic premises that have guided our nation since the founders crafted the Constitution. The document is being shredded as we struggle for not just leadership but statesmanship which incorporates vision and wisdom into our decision-making apparatus of government. The basic concepts of civility and decorum are missing in our public discourse. Tribalism, insularity, and bullying have usurped compromise, moderation, and comity. The Senate, commonly dubbed the most deliberative body in the world is now little more than the most debilitating caucus of arm-twisting and straight party-line votes.

We have witnessed some flashes of independence but they are fleeting and momentary. Of course we will forever remember Senator McCain’s valiant vote of conscience shortly before his death. A week ago today we caught a fleeting glimpse of Senator Flake wrestling with his conscience and extending the inevitable only to collapse under the weight of a strategically disingenuous straitjacket placed upon a process of reexamination.

I once worked for an elected official who cautioned me to never trust a moderate Republican because they talk a good game but in the end always side with their leadership. I scoffed at this at the time as sour grapes. In the ensuring decades, however, I have witnessed far too often that this admonition is usually true. Senator Flake gives a wonderful speech, but in the end he votes with the President 83 percent of the time. On this issue, he was surreptitiously ambushed by his own leadership and in the end was willing to accept the inadequacies of a sham FBI report that was intended to serve as cover for wavering Republicans. Flake was duped and soon he will be gone. Good riddance!

I recently wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Portland, ME Herald imploring Senator Susan Collins, who I had worked with when we were both Senate staffers in the 1980s, to follow her conscience on this vote. I had known her as a conscientious and dedicated public servant during those early years when we were young and idealistic.

I asked her not to make a decision strictly upon gender, but rather as a policy-maker. In the end I asked that she do the right thing. Alas, that was not to be the case. And so we now wander into a dark period that demands massive participation on the part of all citizens to make their voices heard, and reverse this wicked trail we are about to walk. November 6 is that opportunity. VOTE!


Lance Simmens