In what looks like a hastily-mounted effort to head off controversy over strange, tone-deaf remarks that came across as a complaint about how the Newtown families forced her to miss the first course at a White House dinner, Sen. Susan Collins backed the bipartisan compromise to expand background checks on gun purchases on Saturday.
Welcome news, and kudos to Collins for doing the sensible thing--even if the decision seemed an attempt to change the subject.
But one piece of her explanation deserves special attention:
Collins described the Manchin-Toomey effort as "a responsible break through from two people who have far better NRA rankings than I have." Both Sens. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia and Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, hold "A" ratings from the National Rifle Association. Collins added she knows her yes vote and support is "not a popular thing in my state." (Emphasis mine.)This is a rather remarkable statement given that support for universal background checks in Maine, far from being unpopular, clocks in at about 90%.
Is Collins simply uninformed? Or is she just conflating the views of Mainers generally with the very narrow slice of the population that makes up the Republican primary electorate?
It's impossible to know. But in either case it's clear that Collins's policy vision is being cramped by a fixation with how proposals play with a very small minority of the population.
Of course, that's a risk Mainers accepted when they elected Collins as senator.
But for anyone uncomfortable withe the idea of the John Birch Society and their fringe brethren having a veto on national public policy, it's an unfortunate reality.