In a serious blow to reasonable behavior in our nation's capital, longtime Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, announced today that she will retire at the end of her current term. This surprising decision was not due to political pressure—she was expected to be re-elected easily—and, in fact, it puts her fellow Maine GOPers in a tight spot. Her seat might now easily be taken by a Democrat, which could tip the balance in the fierce battle for control of the Senate. And, no, she's not sick or eager to spend more time with her family either. Quite simply, she's just sick of the dumb way people have been acting lately in Washington, and, frankly, who can blame her? Here's what she said in a statement:
I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and "my way or the highway" ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions. ... [W]hat I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. 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. As I enter a new chapter, I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern.
Well, that's just great—way to abandon us in our time of need! Snowe may be a Republican, but she was known for being a rational, thinking-person's Republican, a rarity in these sad times. She was also pro-choice, and, really, she was one of the last of the moderate Republicans in the Senate. She was almost always willing, unlike most of her colleagues, to reach across the aisle and try to get things done for the good of the people, not the good of her political career. Plus, her retirement will likely will mean one less woman's voice in the already male-dominated Senate—though there is one Democratic woman running in the primary for Snowe's seat, so there's a bit of hope there.
She will most certainly be missed by those of us who favor non-ludicrous behavior in our politicians, but her departure does not bode well for the future of our democracy. If Snowe, who's served in the Senate since 1994, can't handle this partisan bullshit anymore, it cannot be long before the rest of the civilized members of the Congress high-tail it out of there too, leaving us to weep even harder than we already do every time we read the news.