Are Joe Manchin and Susan Collins Stupid—or Do They Just Think We Are?

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

Are Senators Susan Collins and Joe Manchin stupid, or do they just think we are?

Both self-identified centrist, pro-choice senators voted to confirm Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, two of the six jurists responsible for curb-stomping American women’s rights back into the 1960s with today’s ruling on Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health. They did so because, at the time, they were assured that both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would uphold precedent. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, in fact, did not. Whoopsie!

Both senators have come out with statements declaring themselves shocked—shocked—that Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would do such a thing—what naughty justices! This is especially sad-making to the senators because both of them met with both judges during their respective confirmation processes, and both judges assured both senators that they would triple-dog promise to not undo Roe v. Wade, no backsies.

Manchin released a statement declaring that he was “alarmed” and “deeply disappointed” that he was lied to by both judges. Collins says that she, too, was lied to, and that the court’s abandoning of a 50-year precedent was “ill-considered action that will further divide” the country during an already fraught time. I might be an outlier here, but I believe them. Sort of.

I don’t believe they were totally blindsided by Gorsuch and Kavanaugh’s actions today.

Alito’s ‘Dobbs’ Opinion Overturning ‘Roe’ Is Judicial Activism at Its Most Self-Deceptive

If Senators Collins and Manchin are telling the truth now (they’re not, but let’s pretend they are, for a second, as a treat), it means that they sincerely did not suspect that two Federalist Society-vetted judges who were nominated by a president who had once mused during a debate that it may be time to dole out punishment for women who have abortions would, when given the opportunity, vote to overturn the legal precedent guaranteeing a right to abortion. It means that two U.S. senators did not believe that two men who are on the cusp of getting a lifetime appointment to their dream job wouldn’t lie during the job interview as a means to an end.

If Manchin and Collins were telling the truth now and they really had no idea this would happen, then they’re morons who should not be trusted to operate a manual stapler without eye protection, much less write laws. If they’re telling the truth now, they are the people that necessitate stickers on irons that read “WARNING: DO NOT IRON CLOTHES WHILE WEARING THEM.” If they are telling the truth now and were that easily misled and simultaneously incapable of listening to all of the people who were telling them that they were being misled, they are dumber than a bag of hair.

“The fox promised it would not eat any of the chickens if given access to the henhouse!” doesn’t work as an excuse when the coop is spatter painted with blood and feathers.

What’s likely the truth is that Manchin and Collins knew exactly what they were doing in helping confirm Gorsuch and Kavanaugh—they were taking meetings, asking questions, and pretending that they were satisfied with the obvious lies they received as answers in an attempt to amass what they thought was plausible deniability for when Roe inevitably went—pardon my French— tits up. Collins and Manchin didn’t care about actually protecting abortion access; they cared about appearing to care about protecting abortion access.

They thought voters would be stupid enough to believe that they were doing due diligence to protect women’s reproductive autonomy, and now, they think voters are stupid enough to believe that they were hoodwinked.

Voters, on the whole, can be pretty stupid. But we’re not that stupid.

I do, however, believe part of Collins and Manchin’s statements today. I believe that they’re actually, truthfully “disappointed” and “alarmed” with today’s Dobbs ruling, but not because they’re worried about abortion.

I believe that the Senators are disappointed and alarmed because now they both look like absolute dupes and/or liars. It’s rare that a bad-faith judgment call made so publicly backfires this quickly; Kavanaugh and Gorsuch wasted no time making absolute fools of all of the dopey centrists who claimed they wouldn’t fall in line with Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas’ unbridled nutbaggery the second they took to the bench. Susan Collins and Joe Manchin look like complete horses’ asses.

Beware of ‘Helpful’ FemTech in the Post-Roe World

I believe that Collins and Manchin thought they had more time before their words would be served back to them piping hot. Maybe they thought they’d be long gone from public life by the time Roe fell. Maybe Manchin pictured himself cruising around West Virginia in his Maserati, glad-handing coal executives, a Beverly Hillbilly back in his native habitat. Maybe Collins was planning on using the money she’d earned from selling her house in Bangor (it went on the market two days ago) to buy a little pied-a-terre down south, so that she could properly enter her Coastal Grandmother aesthetic phase before a backdrop of palm trees.

With apologies to whatever staffers on Teams Collins and Manchin wrote those pretty little words, it’s going to take a lot more than a press release to unfuck what they have helped to fuck up, and it’s going to take a lot more than a declaration of surprise for voters to believe that Manchin and Collins had no idea this would happen.

There’s bullshit, and then there’s fucking bullshit. And this is fucking bullshit.

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