The Bowdoin Orient

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Senator Collins speaks on bipartisanship, election

Susan Collins, the senior United States senator from Maine, spoke about her values of bipartisanship and cooperation as well as her thoughts on the presidential election, issues facing Mainers and Americans and her own experiences as a public servant in front of a packed Pickard theater on Tuesday evening.

President Clayton Rose moderated the event, which took the form of a town hall discussion. Rose asked several questions at the beginning before yielding to audience members.

Reactions to the Collins event were largely positive, with several students using the word “refreshing,” to describe the night. Collins’ emphasis on bipartisanship, working together and listening to opposing viewpoints resonated with those in attendance.

“I thought it was really refreshing to hear a [United States senator] reaffirm the importance of bipartisanship and camaraderie among policymakers,” said Mohamed Nur ’19. “I feel like the current rhetoric in this presidential election and just the political climate as of right now where it’s tended to lead towards more divisive and divided partisanship, but with her she was able to articulate the importance of bipartisanship.”

“[Being a moderate] means to me that I take more of a pragmatic approach to issues rather than a deeply ideological one,” said Collins. “Now I am proud to be a Republican and I embrace traditional Republican values such as individual freedom, personal responsibility, strong national defense, smaller government, opportunity, free markets, those kinds of Republican values I believe strongly in, but I also recognize that neither side has the answer to a lot of the questions, so by listening to both sides and bringing people together I hope that I can forge a path forward.”

Collins, a Republican, stated in August that she is not supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election. At her talk, she cited his mocking of a disabled reporter, his questioning of the ability of an American judge of Mexican ancestry in a case involving Trump University and his criticism of Muslim Gold Star parents that spoke at the Democratic National Convention as reasons for her choice.

“What all of these had in common in my view was that Donald Trump was attacking people who lacked either the platform to respond, in most cases, or because of their professional responsibilities, in the case of the reporter, could not respond to his outrageous attacks,” said Collins.

While Collins does not support Trump, she said that she also does not support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and is opting instead to write in a candidate that she did not name. She said that Clinton’s carelessness and denial of responsibility in handling classified information on her personal email, as well as the perceived role of the Clinton Foundation in Clinton’s politics while she was Secretary of State make Clinton a flawed candidate who did not earn her vote.

On Tuesday, Collins drew applause for her statements on climate change, which she believes is real and human-caused, a view that is not shared by many of her Republican colleagues. She also shared several well-received anecdotes with the audience, and spoke on the disillusionment of American youth with the current political climate.

“There’s actually a survey that says Congress has a lower approval rating than either cockroaches or colonoscopies,” she said. “I must say that I’ve always found that rather discouraging.”Collins stressed in an interview with the Orient that despite many people’s frustrations with politics, it is important to remain politically active.

“I will say that you get the government you deserve,” she said. “If you’re staying on the sidelines and you’re not willing to get involved or you don’t vote and then you don’t like who gets elected or the policies that result, then in some ways you’re responsible for it.”

Despite some disagreements with her fellow Republicans, Collins said that she stands by Republican values and has never considered leaving the party. Barring dramatic changes to the party, she said she plans on remaining a Republican.

However, while the general sentiment was that the Collins event was successful, several students raised specific concerns with Collins’ statements.

“I thought [the event] was very good. You know obviously I’m a little upset that she isn’t standing behind her party’s nominee, where you know, it does seem that she does support a lot of his principles,” said Jordan Moskowitz ’16. “I don’t think she supports the Muslim ban but better trade deals that help a lot of Americans, border security—I think those are principles that she supports. The rhetoric that he uses is really the tipping point for her. But everyone is entitled to support or endorse whoever they want so there’s nothing there you can do about it.”

Isabella McCann ’19 said that in her discussion on climate change, Collins focused too much on individual responsibility.

“I was glad to see that someone asked her about climate change because for a Republican she actually has a pretty good record, but her comments about the way we should approach climate change as individual citizens—like we should walk more—I thought were a little out of touch with what the country needs and what Maine needs to see from our leadership,” said McCann.

“One major bone to pick I had with her was how she discussed the public’s perception of Congress,” said Kinaya Hassane ’19. “She kind of tried to assert that Congress isn’t as corrupt as people are saying, and that this wave of people who are trying to call a lot of institutions out for their corruption ... she’s trying to assert that these ideas are wrong, and I thought that was kind of just misleading and not necessarily true. I think there’s a lot of evidence that a lot of people in Congress—their votes are bought.”

Rose, who has made it one of his goals to bring more diverse speakers to campus, considered the event a success and said that he thought students asked great questions and that Collins made some excellent points.

“I think it was great to have Senator Collins’ points of view on campus,” he said. “It’s one of many sets of points of view that we want to have on campus, and that’s the whole idea—to get a diverse set of views here, some of which we agree with, some of which we disagree with and we challenge ourselves and we learn—and we get better.”

James Jelin, Louis Mendez and Emily Weyrauch contributed to this report.




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