What Will Snowe Leave Behind?

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Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine speaks to media outside her office on Capitol Hill in Washington. February 2012 (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine speaks to media outside her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 28, 2012. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

Yesterday, Sen. Olympia Snowe announced that she has decided not to seek re-election in November, and will be retiring from Congress. The 65-year-old moderate Republican from Maine, who was first elected to the House in 1978, told The New York Times that the increasing divisiveness and lack of civility in Washington was the reason for her decision:

“I do find it frustrating,” she said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”She added: “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”


Besides the expected focus on the continued loss of moderate Republicans in Washington, The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson wonders what Snowe’s departure will mean for women in the Senate, particularly Republican women. She points out that there are only 17 women in the chamber, and only five of them are Republicans.

“[O]ne of them, Susan Collins of Maine, said that she was ‘absolutely devastated’ to be losing her. (Far more conservative Republicans sounded less than thrilled, too; Snowe is unlikely to be replaced by a G.O.P. candidate, and that could decide who gets the majority.) That shortage of women may explain nothing, or, when it comes to issues like access to birth control, quite a lot.”

Don’t count Snowe out yet, writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait. After parsing some of the wording in her retirement statement, he wonders whether she might be planning to join the presidential ticket of the third-party organization Americans Elect. The bipartisan group aims to bring moderates from both sides of the aisle together to pursue a platform that is just to the right of the Obama administration.

As for her seat, there is already talk of drafting Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) to make a run for it. She is the first Democratic woman from Maine elected to the House in 2008 and an ally of Massachusetts Senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren. No comment yet on whether she’ll make a run, but we’ll know soon. The filing deadline for candidacy is March 15.

Just In: In Politico’s “Influence” blog, Anna Palmer and Dave Levinthal wonder what Snowe’s announcement, which apparently caught a lot of people off guard, means for the commerce and finance committees she served on: “Her departure will catapult more junior conservative members, like South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who is in line to be the most senior Republican on commerce. One PI tipster predicted there was a ‘big sea change’ about to occur on commerce.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703077383 Brandie Ahlgren

    Sad to see moderates leave civil service, Republican or Democrat.

  • Sjsommer

    this is a huge loss for any moderate on either side of the aisle.  I can’t remember when i voted for a republican, but if i lived in maine i would continue to vote for her. i hope she helps recruit a moderate leaning woman (from either party) to take her seat.  In fact i hope she mentors losts of moderate leaving women for lots of public service positions at any level of govt.

  • Needledoneit2

    Women observe we are loosing one of our representatives (ours )

  • GradyLeeHoward

    No one is immortal; West Virginia and South Carolina notwithstanding; though they did try to let comatose Senilitors (Thurmond, Byrd) cast votes. Senator Snowe is tired and wants to avoid conflict. She deserves her retirement. Maine could conceivably elect someone more capable. That’s how it works.  

  • Anonymous

    I live and vote in Maine and had high respect for Senator Snowe …. until recently.  She had begun to become a party stalwart voting for filibusters almost every time (pressured by her leadership?  Who knows, but probably).   It was esp. discouraging when she went “party” as regards the new Financial Watchdog agency and joined the filibusterers to try and stop the appointment of Cordray as it’s director (this was not her style AT ALL).   She was losing it and many of us were feeling it was time to support someone else.  That said, she has announced that she plans to work from the outside to make Congress more responsible and effective.  We’ll see what that means next year once she’s no longer in the Senate (she assures everyone she has no interest in running for President).  Meanwhile we’re watching her votes to see if she becomes more ‘moderate’ again.

  • Anonymous

    If I’m paying attention correctly, Snowe is only one moderate Republican throwing in the towel this term.  A similar thing happened in Canada when Stephen Harper and his Alberta rednecks took over the Conservative party.  All the conservatives we called “Red Tories” jumped ship and left us with the theocrats.

    This is not a good sign.  I hope those rumors about a third party are true.  Both the GOP and the Dems are worn-out parties.  Dems are too far to the right to be able to call themselves liberals, and you might start seeing the few left-leaners still in the party start to jump ship too.  Like the Canadian Liberals, the Democrats have forgotten their history, and if our Liberals, currently on enforced timeout, are any indication, your Dems are too far from their true legacy to re-embrace it.  From where I sit, most thoughtful Americans are either some form of Libertarian or Social Democrats.  It’s high time your 2-party system represented them.

  • Virginia_jarvis

    In the ‘spirit of compromise’ the dems keep selling us out and going ever further to the ‘right’. They have been bought out too is what the trouble is and have not the intelligence to stand up to bullies. But then we never were what we thought we were. or do now either.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    To receive party support at election time, and to not be dumped for a proto-fascist in the next election, Republican Senators now must vote with the herd. I recall the final years of my old associate Arlen Specter. He was too tired by then to fight, somewhat like Snowe.

  • GradyLeeHoward

    So…. is she gonna join Occupy?

  • GradyLeeHoward

    What do moderates do? They keep everything going the same way, don’t they. 
    So how much more Plutocracy can we endure? I was a passionate moderate  Republican until 1996, but no more. How can anyone with a conscience be anything but a Neo-Abolitionist (to abolish wage slavery and debt peonage, extend human rights to the workplace) today?

  • Barbara J. Czerwinski

    I do wish Sen. Olympia Snowe would stick it out and give them a run for their money.  This is how they win. By overwhelming the opposition.  Too bad the public has such a short memory.  I would like to see all her friends, both public and privare rush to her side and show a lot of support.  There is power in numbers!!!           Barbara J. Czerwinski

  • Deweywho

    No one wins when democracy stumbles.  Today our government is controled by monied interests who control the thinking of a misinformed public.  What has happened to the Fourth Estate…

  • Wrensis

    Let us hope that she considers a serious run at America Elect