Opinion

Forget 2020. Focus on November election.

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In the aftermath of Sen. Susan Collins’ vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court — and her truly unfortunate speech and rationale for the vote — many eyes in Maine and around the country are turning to 2020, when Collins could next appear on the ballot.

Stop it. Just don’t.

The year 2020 is a lifetime away in politics and there’s a critical election less than a month away on Nov. 6 that has to be everyone’s focus.

There are critical contests in Maine that will be decided on that day, and how they turn out will help to determine the direction of our state and our country for the next two years and beyond.

There’s a sleepy governor’s race, one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country, a U.S. Senate race featuring incumbent Angus King, and battles for control of the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine State Senate. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is also seeking re-election in Maine’s 1st Congressional District.

If you’re angry, if you’re outraged, if you want to take action, now is the time.

There is nothing that will do more to help change the current state of affairs than getting involved right now and helping to move Democrats into the Blaine House, the State House and Congress.
These races matter for the short term and they matter for 2020.

If Democrats have any hope of unseating Collins in 2020 (should she run again) — a tough order for any candidate, no matter his or her celebrity status — they have a much better chance with a Democratic governor and congressional delegation helping out.

President Donald Trump will likely be on the ballot in 2020 and with him all the institutional power of the president, starting with nearly unlimited money and the incumbency. Democratic office holders can help balance that out with their own ability to talk to voters, rally the troops and help to raise money to keep Maine in play.

I want to be absolutely clear about this. I think Collins’ vote for Kavanaugh was wrong. I think she gaslighted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and ignored both Kavanaugh’s judicial record and the way he was chosen for the nomination.

The Christian Civic League of Maine didn’t get involved and lobby hard for Kavanaugh because they think he’ll be a precedent-respecting umpire. They pushed hard for him because they think he’ll turn the clock back on Roe v. Wade, marriage for same-sex couples and a host of other issues straight from the laundry list of the right wing.

But all that aside, 2020 is a long way away. And as distasteful as it might seem to some, Collins is likely to remain a swing vote in a closely divided Senate for at least two more years.

Right now, Democrats have a reasonable chance to retake the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but prospects in the U.S. Senate are far leaner.

Collins is set to remain a pivotal — if only occasional — swing vote on issues that matter to millions of people. Maybe a lot of people have lost faith or don’t trust her, but when it comes to major votes on health care, the environment, civil rights or any other big issue, where else can we turn?

Collins has been able to stitch together a near supermajority of support in Maine by carefully maintaining an image of moderation. But she’s also done it because she’s just unpredictable enough, just open enough to supporting progressive positions that groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Human Rights Campaign have endorsed her. Planned Parenthood even gave her an award last year.

Collins was a legitimate hero when she voted for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That vote helped to save the world economy (it was very unpopular with conservatives). She was a hero on health care. A disappointment on taxes and a disaster on Kavanaugh.

There are many votes to come and Collins is likely to play a pivotal role in many of them.

One thing is certain: There’s not a thing that any of us can do about those right now. But what we can do is make sure that we elect Democrats at the state and federal level who can and will push back against the Trump agenda and seed the ground for a hopefully blue year in 2020.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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