Susan Collins And The Passive Enabling Of Authoritarianism

January 6’s Capitol insurrection marks the time for accountability for those who enable authoritarianism and white supremacy and a need to elect more women of color.
President Donald Trump and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) at a meeting with Republican senators on health care in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Donald Trump and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) at a meeting with Republican senators on health care in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Despite Senator Susan Collins’s (R-ME) confident assertion last year, it appears Donald Trump has not learned his lesson.

Maine’s senior Senator, who won re-election in the 2020 General Election, spewed her undigested logic to CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell on February 4, 2020, for why she acquitted Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment: obstructing Congress and abuse of power. Collins claimed Trump had learned “a pretty big lesson” from his first impeachment. And because she voted to acquit a man that the evidence did prove was guilty, she became one of the Senators who hid while insurrectionists overtook the Capitol in a failed coup attempt.

Author Robert Dean described the insurrectionists as a “parade of abhorrent halfwits [that] was a mix of Proud Boys, QAnon psychos, [and] white supremacists, along with every other fringe group who screams out as a mouthpiece for the ‘good ole days’ of when women, gays, and folks with darker skin were kept in their place.”

But what news outlets failed to analyze was that Susan Collins, who once stated systemic racism does not exist in Maine, along with the recently defeated Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, rushed the non-exclusive sorority of white women who throughout the centuries have supported and upheld white supremacy and imperialism. The rash of “Karens” these past few years, such as BBQ Becky who called the cops on a Black family for simply barbecuing in an Oakland, CA park, is nothing new. The only difference is that today’s technology not only catches them in the act but makes their racism viral.

Don’t believe it? The racism, harm, and entitlement of white women were in full display during last Wednesday’s Capitol Hill insurrection of Trump voters, such as a video making the rounds of social media featuring legal and journalistic hack and human bullhorn Kimberly Guilfoyle dancing at a watch party before President Trump’s Stop the Steal rally where he incited the insurrection. Then there was Ivanka Trump calling the insurrectionists “Patriots” before deleting her tweet.

Yet the most glaring example is conspiracy theorist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who digitally offered love and support for the Stop the Steal rally that served as a home base for the insurrectionists. Their failed coup resulted in the death of an Air-Force veteran turned insurrectionist snarled in QAnon nonsense, three other insurrectionists, and US Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick. A Federal murder investigation will be conducted into Sicknick’s death. On Sunday evening, news broke that Capitol Hill Police Officer Howard Liebengood had committed suicide.

To be sure, not all white women feed racism and white supremacy. The late Civil Rights activist and lobbyist Virginia Foster Durr rejected the South’s racism she grew up with in Alabama when attending Wellesley College and devoted her energy and privilege in the 1930s and to the Civil Rights Movement with her husband bailing Rosa Parks from jail.

Another example is anti-racist and anti-violence activist, author and DePaul University professor Ann Russo (full disclosure: Russo serves as my graduate thesis advisor and directs DePaul’s The Women’s Center)  who resists racism in her activism, writings and teachings. Despite these examples, the evidence bears out that a substantial number of white women voted for Trump despite his policies harming humanity that included separating children from their parents and forced sterilizations of ICE detainees.

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The evidence also bears out that more women of color must be elected to government roles. Ferguson, MO Congresswoman Cori Bush, a nurse, and Black Lives Matter activist, tweeted the day of the Insurrection her plans to hold Republican Congressional members accountable. She then delivered an unapologetic condemnation of white supremacy on the House floor:

Throughout Trump’s grotesque presidency, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), collectively known as The Squad, have worked with Red Bull energy to hold Trump accountable for his racist, sexist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic, ableist and classist policies that impact his base as well. Like Rep. Bush, on the day of the insurrection, Rep. Omar tweeted she was drafting new articles of impeachment.

Other women of color — Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) — resisted the insurrection and are fighting for our democratic republic.

Women of color prove forceful even when not elected. Despite her loss to Brian Kemp (R-GA), who did not recuse himself as Secretary of State while votes were tallied, Stacey Abrams chose resistance over silence. She founded Fair Fight Action and Fair Fight 2020 and worked with other voting organizers, mainly Georgian Black women, to turn out the vote that elected Senator-elects Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Iconic poet, teacher, and feminist cultural theorist, Audre Lorde exclaimed, “Women are powerful and dangerous.” Abrams, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, Representatives Bush, Pressley, Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, Jayapal and Senators Duckworth and Hirono recognize white supremacy and oppression because they have experienced the toxic stew Chistopher Colombus heated up and the United States of America added spoiled ingredients to when the first slave ship arrived to the American colonies in 1619.

More women of color need to be elected to governmental offices. Wednesday’s failed coup stresses that white America can no longer look away or deny our ancestors’ actions and how we continue to benefit today from whiteness and power. Like President-Elect Biden, I descend from Irish immigrants (maternal for Biden and paternal for me), and in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Irish were not considered white because whiteness and ethnoracism did not consider the Irish, Southern Italians (my maternal great grandparents immigrated from Reggio Calabria at the Italian boot’s tip) and Eastern Europeans the “right kind” of white. As The Root’s Michael Harriot has pointed out, the Irish only became white when the Irish embraced white supremacy and racism in addition to taking civil service jobs to finally become members of whiteness and white supremacy.

Biden has received criticism for some of his cabinet picks, but several women of color rank among his choices, most notably New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland who if approved would be the United States’ first Indigenous woman to serve as Secretary of the Interior.

Lorde theorized in Sister Outsider that women must recognize and acknowledge differences among them. She also stated, “Mainstream communication does not want women, particularly white women, responding to racism. It wants racism to be accepted as an immutable given in the fabric of your experience, like evening time or the common cold.”

Wednesday’s violent and deadly failed coup attempt screams louder than Guilfoyle did at last year’s Republican National Convention that white Americans can no longer accept racism or run away from it. Unlike Trump, America must learn its lessons from past mistakes and be accountable for them. More women of color need to serve in government to help all Americans emerge from America’s racist, sexist, and genocidal rancid stew.

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Opinion // Authoritarianism / Donald Trump / Radical Right / Susan Collins / White Supremacy