Monday, March 5, 2012
Not that long ago the Republican Party's tent was big enough to accommodate those with moderate and liberal views. There was civil debate among GOP elected officials who spanned the ideological spectrum.
And Democrats, too, found enough room for moderate and conservative members.
In the 1990s it was common to find moderates of both parties in state legislatures and in Congress.
Today, conservatives dominate the Republican Party and liberals control the Democratic Party. Sure, there are still some moderates in office but over the last decade they have found themselves becoming more and more frustrated.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, announced she would not seek a fourth term in the Senate because the body has become paralyzed by politics.
She is not alone in leaving the Senate for that reason. Snowe's departure follows centrists like Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. (a former Democrat) who said they are leaving the Senate and three who have left -- Evan Bayh, D-Ind.; Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark.; and Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The 65-year-old Snowe, who is seen by most as the most liberal Republican in the Senate, said the upper chamber of Congress has simply become too polarized and that she doesn't know whether she can be "productive" going forward, The Associated Press reported.
"It's a reflection of the political dynamic in America, where we don't look at America as a whole. We look at it through the red and blue prism," Snowe said. "And so it becomes more divisive and I think ultimately has manifested itself in the Senate and an overall process that lends itself to dysfunction and political paralysis that doesn't allow problems to be solved."
Ironically, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate openly lamented Snowe's decision to retire and agree with her that the bitter partisanship is an obstacle to leading the nation.
"There's a rank-and-file rebellion brewing here," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "Most people who come to the Senate work hard to get here and have done things in their lives of accomplishment. And I think a lot of us are getting tired of sitting around looking at each other."
Sen. Dianne Feinsten, D-Calif., said: "This body is supposed to be a great deliberative body. It's supposed to do what's right for the nation. If everything here is political, it it's to score points rather than solve problems, then what good is the United States Senate?"
Well, Graham, Feinsten and the other 98 senators have the power to make the Senate a deliberative body that puts the nation ahead of partisan politics.
What's stopping them?