Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

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John F
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Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by John F » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:56 am

Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate
By Olympia J. Snowe
Published: March 1

Two truths are all too often overshadowed in today’s political discourse: Public service is a most honorable pursuit, and so is bipartisanship.

I have been immeasurably honored to serve the people of Maine for nearly 40 years in public office and for the past 17 years in the United States Senate. It was incredibly difficult to decide that I would not seek a fourth term in the Senate.

Some people were surprised by my conclusion, yet I have spoken on the floor of the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned.

During the Federal Convention of 1787, James Madison wrote in his Notes of Debates that “the use of the Senate is to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.” Indeed, the Founding Fathers intended the Senate to serve as an institutional check that ensures all voices are heard and considered, because while our constitutional democracy is premised on majority rule, it is also grounded in a commitment to minority rights.

Yet more than 200 years later, the greatest deliberative body in human history is not living up to its billing. The Senate of today routinely jettisons regular order, as evidenced by the body’s failure to pass a budget for more than 1,000 days; serially legislates by political brinkmanship, as demonstrated by the debt-ceiling debacle of August that should have been addressed the previous January; and habitually eschews full debate and an open amendment process in favor of competing, up-or-down, take-it-or-leave-it proposals. We witnessed this again in December with votes on two separate proposals for a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

As Ronald Brownstein recently observed in National Journal, Congress is becoming more like a parliamentary system — where everyone simply votes with their party and those in charge employ every possible tactic to block the other side. But that is not what America is all about, and it’s not what the Founders intended. In fact, the Senate’s requirement of a supermajority to pass significant legislation encourages its members to work in a bipartisan fashion.

One difficulty in making the Senate work the way it was intended is that America’s electorate is increasingly divided into red and blue states, with lawmakers representing just one color or the other. Before the 1994 election, 34 senators came from states that voted for a presidential nominee of the opposing party. That number has dropped to just 25 senators in 2012. The result is that there is no practical incentive for 75 percent of the senators to work across party lines.

The great challenge is to create a system that gives our elected officials reasons to look past their differences and find common ground if their initial party positions fail to garner sufficient support. In a politically diverse nation, only by finding that common ground can we achieve results for the common good. That is not happening today and, frankly, I do not see it happening in the near future.

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.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, and reversing the corrosive trend of winner-take-all politics will take time. But as I enter a new chapter in my life, I see a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.

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.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ ... story.html
John Francis

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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by lennygoran » Fri Mar 02, 2012 11:47 am

John F wrote:Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate
I agree with much of what she says and it's why I've decided to become an Independent! Len

jbuck919
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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:21 pm

Very diplomatically, and in a way that those she is addressing will perhaps and unfortunately not recognize themselves, she is putting it back to the voters--and she is right.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by John F » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:13 pm

The tradition of senatorial courtesy, if nothing else, would have kept her from sticking it to her colleagues.
John Francis

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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:29 pm

John F wrote:The tradition of senatorial courtesy, if nothing else, would have kept her from sticking it to her colleagues.
If you are implying that she is laying the electorate out in lavender while sparing her colleagues, then you are missing the point. We will get immoderate behavior from those in office as long as people don't specifically put them out of office, and as you know very well, that applies to New York State as well as the United States.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

John F
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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by John F » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:32 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
John F wrote:The tradition of senatorial courtesy, if nothing else, would have kept her from sticking it to her colleagues.
If you are implying that she is laying the electorate out in lavender...
Why would you think that? I didn't say it and what I did say doesn't imply it.
John Francis

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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by Werner » Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:03 pm

Two examples of our current politics and their implications:

The loss of an esteemed member of the opposition party - when such people should have special respect - and the House Intelligencw Commitee's approach to bipatisann cooperation/
Werner Isler

John F
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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by John F » Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:47 am

Yes, the political center can be saved

By Susan Collins, Published: March 8

Susan Collins is a Republican senator from Maine.

The recent retirement announcement by Sen. Olympia Snowe is a disappointment to the people of Maine and to me personally. Olympia has devoted her life to public service, and her decision to abandon a race that she surely would have won speaks volumes about the dysfunction in Congress. It has also prompted many people to ask me whether moderates have a future in the Senate.

Olympia will join the pantheon of great leaders our state has produced — Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell. These committed public servants understood that they were sent to Washington to solve problems, not to score political points.

But this is no longer the Senate of Smith and Muskie, of Cohen and Mitchell, and soon it will no longer be the Senate of Olympia Snowe. The change is particularly troubling in these perilous times. With a $15 trillion debt, 13 million people unemployed, oil near $110 per barrel and turmoil throughout the Middle East, there is an urgent need for leaders from the sensible center who realize that neither party has a monopoly on good ideas. The challenges we face will not be met by those who believe compromise is a dirty word.

What has been lost in recent times is a commitment to Congress as an institution, a sense that we are collectively responsible for addressing the issues that confront our country, and that if the institution fails to perform each of us bears responsibility. Just when we most need to function as a team, it appears many of us are unable to see beyond our individual self-interest or the interest of our political party.

When I was a freshman, Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island, as fine a gentleman as has ever graced the Senate, advised me never to campaign against those with whom I serve. The Senate is too small a place for that, he counseled. Campaign for your fellow Republicans and go to states with open seats, but do not campaign against your Democratic colleagues. It will poison your relationship with them, he warned.

Most senators no longer follow the “Chafee rule.” And, yes, hyperbolic — even vitriolic — campaign rhetoric poisons relationships and makes it more difficult for Republicans and Democrats to work together.

If I had to compress all that has gone wrong in one phrase, it would be “perpetual campaign.” The gridlock in Congress and the hyperpartisan attacks that fill the Internet reflect a politics unworthy of the American people.

The increasing polarization that has prompted centrists in both parties to depart has convinced me that the center will hold only if we put the same effort into unity that partisans put into division. Predictions of a disappearing political center are a warning of a bleak future that we can avoid only by adhering to our nation’s founding principles. Yet I remain confident that principled, common-sense solutions will never go out of style and that the American people still expect government to make real progress on the issues that matter.

Indeed, there are flickerings of bipartisanship that may pull the Senate back from the brink. The “Gang of Six,” which sought last year to produce a bipartisan plan to address the debt, attracted more than 40 senators to a meeting where, one after another, senators stood up and announced that they were prepared to compromise and to take the political heat in order to deal with our unprecedented debt. It was encouraging that this group — with nearly equal numbers from each party — included not just moderates, who usually can be counted on to forge coalitions, but liberals and conservatives as well.

More recently, a bipartisan group of senators convened to discuss energy policy and committed to putting together a real plan for our country.

Just last week, Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Mark Pryor organized a debate on the Senate floor in which we urged our leaders to consider each appropriations bill in a way that would help restore public confidence, lead to more carefully considered legislation and restore the Senate tradition of free and open debate. Congress must avoid the spectacle of once again missing the deadline for approving spending legislation, which ultimately produces bills that are thousands of pages, while members are left with insufficient time to scrutinize their fine print and trillions in spending.

The rise of the independent voter (40 percent of Americans, according to Gallup) signals a deep dissatisfaction with both parties. The wide electoral swings of recent years suggest that voters have lost patience with candidates who run as pragmatists but then govern as partisans. These trends, and the embryonic signs of bipartisanship in the Senate, give me confidence that the political center will reemerge. That is, after all, where most Americans are.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ ... story.html
John Francis

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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by david johnson » Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:05 am

Olympia for president.

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Re: Olympia Snowe: Why I’m leaving the Senate

Post by jbuck919 » Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:01 am

The wide electoral swings of recent years suggest that voters have lost patience with candidates who run as pragmatists but then govern as partisans.
The wild electoral swings have been due as they always are to people unhappy with something and trying to find a different government to make it better.

As for the situation embodied in her supposed explanation, virtually all of the people who have run from the middle and voted on the fringe are Republicans (though not all Republicans have done that; some have run and voted on the fringe and others have run only on bashing the Democratic opposition and then followed the herd in voting). Here and elsewhere in her article she is trying to keep the blame bipartisan as a value in itself. She may actually believe that both parties are equally to blame, in which case she is just plain wrong, or she may think that even as an opinion columnist she has to maintain conventional journalistic obectivity, which is also, well, just plain wrong.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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