Snowe departure hollows out center by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe has announced she won’t run for reelection, and, as disappointing as that is, who can blame her? A thoughtful moderate, a person who can work across the aisle for the good of the country, she will not run for a fourth term. Congress is no longer working on issues, she said. The two parties are working in parallel universes.

The Senate used to be a place for moderating the ideological extremes of the House of Representatives, now made worse by redistricting patterns. Snowe’s departure intensifies the hollowing out of the center.

Snowe will be turning 65 soon and apparently can no longer stomach the dysfunctionality of Washington. Certainly, it’s difficult to watch from the outside. One can only imagine what courage and determination it takes to work effectively inside that system. Snowe was a throwback to liberal/moderate Republicans of yore, like Brooke, Kuchel, Javits, Keating, Case, Percy, Goodell and Hatfield, fiscally cautious, but reformist on social issues. Snowe, putting country ahead of party, crossed the aisle to support reproductive rights, the stimulus bill and Dodd-Frank She voted for the health care reform in the Senate Finance Committee in order to bring the bill to a vote, though she cast her vote on the floor against the final version.

The once “big tent” Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt has long made its liberals pariahs, Log Cabin Republicans embarrassments and Ripon Society members quaint relics. Increasingly even its moderates like Arlen Specter, James Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee,were told they weren’t welcome, disparaged as RINO’s (Republicans in name only).

Even upstanding conservatives like Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch have faced challenges because they weren’t true believer enough. Is there any wonder that Snowe would bow out? Sadly, she is but the latest to be beaten down and driven out by the poisonous atmosphere. It will be interesting to see how she follows through on her stated desire to advance a public agenda, working from the outside.

Even though Snowe’s safe Republican seat is now up for grabs, possibly by a Democrat or even Independent former governor Angus King, it’s almost a clichéd sad commentary that the atmosphere in Washington is now so toxic for the likes of Snowe. Her announcement makes me want to reach out to her compatriot Susan Collins, also a Republican from Maine, hug her and tell her to hang in there. But then , unlike Olympia Snowe, she just voted for the Blunt Amendment and is a paler version of departing colleague . But she too is under attack from purist zealots who’ve captured the heart (if not the head) of the GOP. Have we reached the point where, like the sea wall erosion on Nantucket, once- inland property, becomes desirable waterfront?

One Response to Snowe departure hollows out center by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. Greg Page says:

    The loss of Olympia Snowe from the GOP “Big Tent” seems like another reason to vote for Scott Brown this fall — not an ideologue or a party-line kowtower, but a real centrist in the Senate. There aren’t enough of those from either side of the aisle.