We regret to inform you that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is back on her bullshit.
In the wake of news that Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter is essentially a done deal, there’s rampant speculation that given Musk’s libertarian approach to “free speech,” he may restore former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Trump, you’ll recall, was permanently banned from the website shortly after inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection that caused at least seven fatalities. And now Collins, who spent the better part of the Trump era purporting to be “very concerned” by the his behaviors, remains convinced that he’s “learned his lesson.”
“Although I obviously don’t agree with a lot of President Trump’s tweets, I do think he should have his account back,” Collins told HuffPost on Tuesday. “To me, it’s ironic that we allow Russian government sites to be on Twitter, but we don’t allow President Trump.” Collins said Trump’s Twitter ban—not reports that a third of young women and 70% of LGBTQ adults report being harassed online—is causing her to question the social media platform’s “uneven” moderation standards.
How does one even begin to unpack the stupidity of this? For starters, it actually isn’t “obvious” that Collins doesn’t agree with Trump on a lot: She voted in line with his agenda close to 70% of the time, which seems like a substantial amount for an ostensibly “moderate,” maverick senator. It also can’t be emphasized enough that her personal feelings and misgivings don’t matter in the least! They didn’t matter when she called a sexual assault allegation against Brett Kavanaugh “sincere, painful, and compelling” before ultimately voting to confirm him to the Supreme Court, and they don’t matter now. She’s a sitting US senator who should be taking measurable actions to hold powerful people and institutions accountable—not muttering little toothless critiques, insisting that stern conversations can keep fascists at bay, and trying to be both “reasonable” and a member of her party (which, as we know, is impossible).
Collins, unsurprisingly, isn’t the only Republican senator to express support for Trump being restored to Twitter, although several simply deferred to his recent comments about being uninterested in returning (sure, Jan) and focusing instead on his neo-Nazi circle-jerk, Truth Social. Collins is thus in the same camp as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Steve Daines (R-MT), who sound like very reasonable company. Other Republican senators, including North Carolina’s Thom Tillis and even Missouri’s Josh Hawley, said they would defer to Musk’s judgment.
Collins expressing support for Trump’s grand return to Twitter, conveniently ahead of the next presidential election in which he’s threatening to run again, isn’t just an annoying little callback to her years of uselessness while posturing as a “moderate” throughout his presidency. It’s also a chilling reminder of how much the public—including our own supposedly non-Trumpy members of Congress—have already forgotten about the harrowing events of Jan. 6. Driven by the former president’s lies and calls to violent action, thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol, threatened the lives of Congress members and their staff, and scribbled “murder the media” on the door of the U.S. Capitol. And despite a number of arrests and convictions, many have evaded accountability for attempting to violently overturn a democratic election. As Collins notes, Twitter may have its issues with Russian bots to deal with, but how is that possibly justification for the un-banning of a man who used the website to foment a fascist coup???
To state the obvious, Trump was a problem on Twitter well before Jan. 6, 2021—his life-threatening lies on covid, immigrants, people of color, and a good many other issues also helped paved the way for the violent storming of the Capitol. Disinformation isn’t just words; it’s often a catalyst for violence, and never has that been the case more than with Trump’s Twitter account.
Collins’ calls to bring Trump’s words back into everyone’s faces really only shows how little has changed, in many ways, since his presidency—at least for people like her. Through two impeachments and a literal, violent insurrection, she remains as feckless and fundamentally Trumpian as ever.