Susan Collins, who voted to convict Trump, won’t rule out supporting him in 2024

What’s stranger? That someone who voted to disqualify Trump from office a year ago due to high crimes and misdemeanors won’t close the door to supporting him for office in 2024?

Or that she insists on hiding behind the idea that there’ll be other Republican candidates to choose from in 2024, which almost certainly isn’t true if Trump jumps in?

This reminds me of what Collins said after Trump’s first impeachment trial, at which she voted to acquit. “I believe that the president has learned from this case,” she told CBS, defending her vote. “The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.” And that was true: Trump had learned a big lesson, that most of his party will never hold him accountable for anything he does. Which is how we ended up with “stop the steal.”

But Collins changed her mind at his second trial. She could have let him off the hook then too on grounds that he had only a few weeks left in office or whatever. She didn’t, presumably because she concluded that accountability was essential in a matter so grave.

Now she’s apparently changed her mind again.

There are three cohorts within the GOP. MAGA, which is 40 percent or so; Never Trump, which is single digits; and Never Democrats, the majority. I would have thought that anyone who cast a vote to remove Trump from politics was irreversibly bound to Never Trump in perpetuity but Collins seems like she’s trying to dig a tunnel into the Never Democrats camp just in case she ever needs it.

Which is odd, because if there’s any Republican in America who should never need it, it’s Susan Collins. There’s probably no GOP official less beholden to Trump than she is, having won reelection easily in a state where Joe Biden won easily on the same day. She won’t have to face voters for another four years, insulating her from any near-term MAGA backlash. Even if Trumpers wanted to come for her in a primary, they’d be faced with a hard reality similar to the one anti-Manchin Democrats face in West Virginia, that she may be the only member of her party capable of holding her seat. (Although Maine isn’t nearly as blue as West Virginia is red.)

The fact that she feels obliged to hedge on opposing Trump anyway means the party is hopeless, Tim Miller laments:

Donald Trump can’t be killed because the rest of the Republican party is unwilling to take on the political pain required to kill him.

This has been the fundamental, painfully obvious political reality for nearly seven years now. And yet some Republicans and conservatives who claim to be professional politicos remain willfully ignorant of it…

If someone as politically safe as Collins won’t stick her neck out, what hope is there that a meaningful group of others will find the mettle not just to privately hope for an alternative but to wage a vigorous, scorched-earth campaign on behalf of the alternative?

It could be worse. Weeks after blaming Trump for the insurrection in a scathing speech on the Senate floor, Mitch McConnell cheerily affirmed that he’d support Trump in 2024 if he’s the nominee again. Mitch isn’t going to let a little thing like trying to overturn an election get drive him out of the Never Democrats camp.

As thanks for her show of servility, Trump rewarded Collins with this statement yesterday afternoon:

I’ll leave you with two well-known Republicans who were asked in interviews yesterday how they feel about Trump dangling pardons at insurrectionists this weekend, an inducement to future riots via an implicit promise that there’ll be no consequences for participating in one. Two years from now, will each of these guys continue to stick to their position? I think Chris Sununu will. Graham, though? Not a chance.

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