The Larger Legacy of Senators Collins and Flake

Decisions Count, Patterns are Illustrative, and Values are Revealed.


To say that a lot of people are disappointed in Senators Flake and Collins would be a mild understatement. That is a fair call. People on one side of the Kavanaugh nomination got their hopes up and felt let down. But it should not have been a surprise. There are also issues here well beyond one supreme court nomination battle.

These two individuals have had their shining moments (Collins, for example was a key vote on the future of the Affordable Care Act). But both have chosen two patterns of conduct that hurt the country. One pattern is irritating and disappointing. The other is downright destructive.

There is a pattern is of thoughtful words about how things could better. That a better approach and a better outcome was possible. They criticize their colleagues on language and process. But when it came time to vote, they fall in line. They have done so with what could charitably be called feeble protests of their innocence.

We saw this on the fiscally irresponsible responsible tax legislation. We saw it again on the Kavanaugh nomination. Senators watched Kavanaugh’s personal conduct in the hearings. They observed how absurdly limited the FBI follow-up was in the end. It is not possible to know all that and still take these two senators seriously. They correctly stated what was wrong, then said, in effect, never mind. Their thoughtful words and furrowed brows ran out of gas a bit early.

There is a still more worrisome pattern. These two have loudly protested the president’s words and personal conduct. They have both spoken of the lack of regular order and professional collegiality within the Congress. But they do so only in the most meaningless manner. Both have the power to extract a price for such conduct. They can withhold their critical votes as a declaration of “No more. Your agenda and candidates, even those I agree with, will not have my vote riding on the rails of your conduct.”

Yeah, right. Don’t hold your breath. Flake is quitting. There are rumors Collins will not run again. If she does, she has a high probability of losing. I will be glad to see them both leave the national scene. Collins in particular had the prospect of leaving an impressive legacy, but she chose to waste it.

In the sexually charged context of the Kavanaugh hearings, one is tempted to label these two as policy teases. They hint at big things, show a little moral rumination, but cut and run at the critical moment. Enough, already. We know who you are and what you actually are willing to stand for. Not much, as it turns out.

Bill Clontz, Founder, Agents of Reason      Bill Clontz

If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do two things:

(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here.

(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts. Let’s grow our circle.


2 replies to The Larger Legacy of Senators Collins and Flake

  1. Bill I find it just a tad “rich” if you will; the idea that on the one hand you on this very site have advocated for or condoned aggressive “in your face” resistance advocacy – perhaps the likes of what we saw with Senator Ted Cruz and his wife attempting to enjoy a dinner out. Further examples would likely be with Senator Flake in a Senate elevator or a cartoon of Kavanaugh’s daughter.

    On the other hand, you indicate in this post, that the SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh’s personal conduct in his last hearing was not acceptable if I understand your post correctly. That position seems to lack “reason”, unless of course this is just partisan Monday morning quarterbacking. Some popular beliefs by some, is the inherent worth and dignity of every person along with Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Kavanaugh rightfully felt he and his family’s rights to these same beliefs were not considered. Where are the ethics or reasoning in these contradictions?

    To paraphrase some of Ayn Rand’s beliefs; According to Rand, attaining knowledge beyond what is given in perception requires both volition (or the exercise of free will) and adherence to a specific method of validation through observation, concept-formation, and the application of inductive and deductive reasoning. For example, a belief in dragons, however sincere, does not mean reality contains any dragons. A process of proof identifying the basis in reality of a claimed item of knowledge is necessary to establish its truth.

    No fan of Senators Flake or Collins myself, I challenge anyone to find flaws in Senator Collin’s speech on the Senate floor laying out her reasoning for her vote. As for Flake, his parlay with Senator Coons proved to be an adept pause and one of his greatest moments of his Senate career.

    A personal observation on the current political climate. The meaning of the word “acceptable” seems to be on perilous ground. In my baseball career as a batter-up, I learned and knew that to argue with the umpire over balls and strikes was unacceptable and would lead to no good. Oh sure, I could vent and yell and stomp the ground, but I would still be walking back to the dugout to sit. The fans in the bleachers would naturally be observing my behavior. The question is for the ball player; does he stew on his perceived unfair treatment by the ump, or does he shake it off and simply get back in the game?

    Is it really acceptable for Senators to be accosted in restaurants and airports? Have our words inadvertently ended up resulting in bullets flying on a baseball field in DC? Is it really acceptable for a liberal publication to make a parody in a cartoon of Associate Justice Kavanaugh daughter’s faith? Is it acceptable for a Hollywood actor to parody Kavanaugh on SNL in his indignant defense, while at the same time claiming a right to resist the #MeToo movement in his own statement of defense. And yes, our President has work to do in this area as well.

    If our colleges, universities, along with ethics and reasoning teachers, are influencing our future leaders to believe that it is right to take the position that their views are the only right views thereby making irrelevant all other views, have we not seen this movie before? How are we to expect this political practice will not lead to violence? This is a perilous road to travel.

    • A but long for a comment, Stanley but want you to have your say. Any Rand as a quote -really? But you are entitled to your views. We will all speak again in November at least.

Your Turn to Comment