The Republican Party's slow descent into madness continued on Thursday, when Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she might vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election. To be sure, Collins stressed that this was unlikely. But the language she used was very kind to Clinton and very critical of Trump. Although Collins is now the fifth Republican senator to refuse to endorse her party's presidential nominee — which is itself a remarkable trend — she is the first one to publicly float the idea of voting for Clinton instead.
The breaking point for Collins, she said in a New Yorker interview, was when Trump cast aspersions on a judge's ability to be impartial because of his Mexican descent. Trump said that Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a Trump related lawsuit, couldn't possibly rule fairly on the case, because his "Mexican heritage" created "an inherent conflict of interest."
Collins told the New Yorker that this remark was "an order of magnitude more serious" than any of Trump's other "troubling insults towards individuals." Note that Collins only called the remark "serious," which isn't technically a condemnation. Nevertheless, she creaked the door open just a bit to the possibility that she might vote Democrat in November if Trump doesn't clean up his act.
"I do not anticipate voting for [Clinton] this fall," Collins said. "I’m not going to say never, because this has been such an unpredictable situation, to say the least.” When asked if this was a "so, you're saying there's a chance?" moment, Collins confirmed that it was.
The Maine senator sounded even more amenable to voting Democrat in an NBC interview, when she was asked whether she'd have an easier time working with a President Clinton or a President Trump.
"I can't answer that, because I've never even met Donald Trump," Collins said. "I think it's odd that he hasn't come to speak to the Republican Senate caucus, but I've never even been in the same room with Donald Trump, whereas I do have a personal relationship with Hillary. We did work well together when she was in the Senate on causes like Alzheimer's disease. And, I worked with her when she was Secretary of State on the empowerment of Women in Afghanistan."
That really makes it sound an awful lot like Collins thinks she'd work better with Clinton, doesn't it? But alas, the sway of party loyalty is very strong. While senators have occasionally crossed the aisle and endorsed the other party's presidential nominee, it is a pretty rare occurrence. When it does happen, it's usually more the result of a senator being out of step with their party than the nominee being excessively odious to the rank and file of their own party.
While Collins is the only Republican senator to suggest that she might vote Democrat in November, others have rejected Trump in one form or another. Nebraska's Ben Sasse and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham are vehemently anti-Trump and have said they'll never vote for him. Jeff Flake of Arizona has said he can't support Trump now but might do so in the future, while Illinois' Mark Kirk actually rescinded his endorsement of Trump, which almost never happens. Welcome to the Republican Party, circa 2016.