Today, departing centrist and Republican Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about why she’s leaving the Senate even though she likely would have won reelection.
It was a great piece about how our process has started to mimic the party-based all-or-nothing parliamentary process and why extreme polarization is a bad thing.
For change to occur, our leaders must understand that there is not only strength in compromise, courage in conciliation and honor in consensus-building — but also a political reward for following these tenets. That reward will be real only if the people demonstrate their desire for politicians to come together after the planks in their respective party platforms do not prevail.
This probably should have been written a few years ago instead of on her way out the door, but still, the call for reasonableness, compromise, and civility is a good message, I think. I wish she would have avoided the false balance approach (both sides are equally extreme and non-compromising!), but her next few paragraphs give a clue as to why:
I do not believe that, in the near term, the Senate can correct itself from within. It is by nature a political entity and, therefore, there must be a benefit to working across the aisle.
But whenever Americans have set our minds to tackling enormous problems, we have met with tremendous success. And I am convinced that, if the people of our nation raise their collective voices, we can effect a renewal of the art of legislating — and restore the luster of a Senate that still has the potential of achieving monumental solutions to our nation’s most urgent challenges. I look forward to helping the country raise those voices to support the Senate returning to its deserved status and stature — but from outside the institution.
(Emphasis mine). Obvious hints are obvious. So here’s to you, Olympia Snowe. Good luck on your American’s Elect presidential campaign!
[As an aside, I'd love to hear from some more politically astute people (inuyesta, Wiesman, and Nate Silver -- I'm looking at you) regarding the impact of American's Elect on the 2012 campaign. My partially uneducated opinion is that an AE candidate hurts the Republicans more as I imagine a lot of the "Moderate Republicans" (hahaha, I typed "Moderate Republican"; pretty sure that's a unicorn or something) or centrists feel a bit disenfranchised by their party and might seek another outlet for their vote. I don't believe this same phenomenon would happen as much in the Democratic party since President Obama is, by all measures, fairly moderate. I can imagine the more progressive wing breaking off and casting their vote for an American's Elect ticket that includes Bernie Sanders, but is this as big of an issue as Republican enthusiasm being neutered by Mitt-bot or scared away by Rev. Santorum? My gut says no.]