Former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican who stunned the political world when she decided last year against running for re-election because she was disenchanted with political bickering between parties, says in her upcoming book that rivals should learn to work together for the good of the country.
In an interview with the Associated Press, she recounted how she realized Congress had changed when U.S. President Barack Obama and Democratic Majority leader Harry Reid refused to even consider her recommendations for the President’s health care bill.
Snowe writes about her 34 years on Capitol Hill that she says went from a place where parties worked to forge compromise to today’s obstructionist politics and partisanship. The parties, she says, have become more interested in making each other look bad and focusing on re-election than doing what’s best for the nation.
“I’m not here to suggest there was a golden era of bipartisanship,” Snowe told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s never easy to compromise, but you must. In the past we were able to work out our differences. Today, it’s all about taking it to the next election.”
The release of her book, Fighting for Common Ground, on May 14 coincides with an online push to get voters to turn up the heat on lawmakers through the Bipartisan Policy Center, a non-profit think tank founded by Democrats George Mitchell and Tom Daschle and Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker. Weinstein Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, is donating a portion of her book revenues to the organization.
She writes that there’s plenty of blame for both parties and that she’s disappointed that nothing changed after the election of Obama, who vowed to bring the parties together. Instead, she writes, Obama let the Democrat-controlled Congress loose on the stimulus bill, upsetting conservatives. Then he left Republicans marginalized as Democrats worked on the Affordable Health Care Act, further fueling tea party activists. That allowed divisions between Democrats and Republicans to grow even greater.
“With little chance of cross-party agreement, legislating became guerrilla warfare, marked by cloture motions and filibusters, legitimate devices in the senatorial arsenal but hardly the path to well-crafted legislation to attract bipartisan support,” she wrote.
Snowe, 66, came about her independence through being orphaned at age 9 and sent off to an out-of-state boarding school run by the Greek Orthodox Church. After returning to Maine, tragedy struck again at age 26 when her husband, Peter Snowe, a state lawmaker, died in a car crash. She ran for his seat and won, launching her political career.
Her life experience shaped her philosophy: “My concept of government’s role in people’s lives is that it is limited but legitimate, and essential when people have nowhere else to turn,” she wrote.
By her last term, Snowe writes that a senator’s willingness to reach across the aisle had become a “scarlet letter” instead of badge of honor. And her willingness to do so had led to frustration among her increasingly conservative Republican colleagues.