Olympia Snowe Complains about Washington
Recently retired Republican Senator Olympia Snowe thinks Washington is broken. And she wants you to know about it.
Snowe, a moderate whose critics accuse her of being a RINO, was a state legislator in Maine before becoming a Congresswoman in 1979. After sixteen years in the House of Representatives, Snowe won a seat in the United States Senate, a seat she held from 1995 until January of this year.
Following the playbook laid down by her predecessors, Snowe -- who did not seek re-election despite winning her previous Senate races by wide margins -- recently published a book about what ails modern politics.
That book, Fighting for the Common Good: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, is supposed to be a memoir about Snowe's career as a centrist fighting for justice in a world dominated by corrupt politicians. In reality, as Betsy Woodruff of National Review Online explains, Snowe's 281-page book is tedious, superfluous and chock full of clichés.
I respect Mrs. Snowe and believe she wants what's best for the country, but I can only agree with Woodruff's argument that her book "never acknowledges that some differences on really important issues regarding our country's future may actually be irreconcilable." Nor does Snowe acknowledge "that voting on public-policy decisions based on ideologically informed understandings of human nature... isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world."
In promoting her book, Snowe has relied upon an all-too-obsequious press corps. In interviews on reliably liberal outlets like MSNBC, Snowe has said that she believes Republicans need to stop being so intransigent when it comes to working with Democrats. She has also remarked that she agrees with Bob Dole, who, at the age of 89, recently told Fox News that the GOP needs to rethink its approach to politics.
Predictably, the mainstream media ran with Snowe and Dole's comments, hailing them as battle-scarred moderates seeking to promote common sense principles in an environment permeated with close-minded thinking.
To be sure, Dole and Snowe are right about a few things. Stubborn politicians who vote no on every bill do not help the political process. And the GOP does have to rethink its approach, especially when it comes to reaching out to new demographics. But I'm afraid they miss the larger issue. As Woodruff rightly argues, compromise in Washington these days is a one-way street for Republicans. It is always the political right that has to move to the center. Never the political left.
Democrats rarely moderate their views. I can't ever recall a Democrat saying, "Hey guys, we should slow down on pushing this gay marriage thing. Most African Americans do not think it is a civil rights issue and, when given the chance, the American people have voted it down time and time again. Let's moderate our views on that."
Next year, Carl Levin, a six-term Democratic Senator from Michigan, is stepping down. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself after his career is over. Will he admit that his party is to blame for the breakdown of the nuclear family? Will he tell his former colleagues to stop raising taxes and spending money we don't have? Will he demand that Democrats moderate their position on abortion? Even if he wanted to do any of that, would the media give him a platform? I strongly doubt it. I strongly doubt any of it will happen. As Bruce Hornsby once said, "that's just the way it is."
Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct instructor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He blogs for CatholicVote.org. Follow him on twitter @StephenKokx