Tuesday, May 03, 2022

How Gullible is Susan Collins?

As the implications of the Supreme Court's leaked draft opinion overturning Roe continue to reverberate, one major political figure has dialed up her concern-o-meter all the way to 11. Sen. Susan Collins claims she is shocked to see Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch voting to overturn Roe given their assurances made to her during the confirmation proceedings about their respect for precedent.

To be honest, I don't think Supreme Court justices can or should be bound to any "assurances" they made during their confirmation proceedings. But that's neither here nor there. What I'm really curious about is just how gullible Susan Collins actually is?

Seriously, I'm curious. On the one hand, it seems impossible to believe that she believed that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch wouldn't overturn Roe. She's shocked that what everyone knew and everyone told her actually came to pass? She thought that some bromide about "respecting precedent" would actually constrain them? Come on. Nobody is that stupid.

But ... well, maybe some people are that stupid. Or more aptly: one of the vices of being powerful is that it generates a feeling of insulation -- the bad things are never actually going to happen. If things are going well -- and if you're a powerful U.S. Senator, things are almost by definition "going well" for you -- it's hard to imagine that some of the privileges and entitlements you've taken for granted could just suddenly go away. It's the same complacency that's led some politicians, on both sides of the aisle, to shrug as the fabric of free and fair elections in America continues to fray. Of course we'll never stop being a democracy. That's unfathomable. And since it's unfathomable, what's the harm in letting others pull out another joist here or loosen another screw there? We're still in power, and so we can still pump the brakes if things get too far.

Until you can't. That's the thing people like Collins forget -- at some point, when the surrounding structure has gotten weak enough, she doesn't have the power to pump the brakes anymore. The fabric of reproductive freedom, just like the fabric of our democracy, requires work to maintain. But if you've gotten so used to its existence that it feels less like an ongoing project and more like a fact of the world, you forget that necessity.

So maybe Susan Collins really was that gullible. She got so used to the world is at is that she forgot to take the steps necessary to actually stop Roe from being reversed. Its complacency, and its laziness, and its arrogance, and its hubris. And now it is all coming to roost. Congratulations, Susan Collins. Your tremendous credulity in the face of overwhelming evidence that, yes, obviously, these Justices would take an axe to Roe means that reproductive rights in America are now dead and gone.

Or maybe Collins doesn't actually care at all, and this "shock" is another one of her performances. Certainly, that hypothesis also has to remain live, since one can be sure that her tangible response to the Court overturning Roe will begin and end with a statement expressing shock. But I suppose when it comes to Susan Collins, the range of options always has lain somewhere between unfathomably gullible and sociopathically manipulative, without too much riding on where she actually falls.

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