Jonathan Chait at NYMag on the loss of yet another Senate “moderate”:
The retirement of Olympia Snowe, at the young (by senatorial standards) age of 65, has again dramatized the perilous condition of the Senate moderates. They have been scorned, marginalized, and hunted close to extinction. Yet the striking fact about Snowe’s career is that, far from being shunted to the sidelines, she has wielded, or been given the opportunity to wield, enormous power. She has used it, on the whole, quite badly.
When George W. Bush proposed a huge, regressive tax cut in 2001, Snowe, sitting at the heart of a decisive block of centrists, used her leverage to support the passage of a modestly smaller and less regressive version. When Barack Obama proposed a large fiscal stimulus in 2009, Snowe (citing fears of deficits that she had helped create) decided to shave a nice round $100 billion off his figure and call it a day. If a Gingrich administration proposed spending a trillion dollars to erect a 100- foot-tall solid-gold Winston Churchill statue on Mars, Snowe would no doubt decide, after careful deliberation, that the wise course was to trim the height down to 90 feet and perhaps use a cheaper bronze alloy in the base…
That last sentence of the excerpt? Sums up Snowe nicely, I think.
They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.
I refuse to apply the word “moderate” to anyone in the Senate who routinely blocks cloture votes. If you’re enabling bad faith obstructionism more often than not, you aren’t a moderate, you just play one on TV.
Oh, what a great thread title! Very, very nice.
… and be primaried for being a RINO.
@efgoldman: This bears repeating EVERY time someone calls her or Collins a moderate.
I thought that movie was kinda dumb, but it made for a great thread title. Well-played!
she was a fucking fraud.
moderate my ass
Halfway between crazy and sane is still half-crazy.
Hey, anybody still seeing that weird behavior of Balloon-Juice? Just started happening to me (Firefox on Vista). Interestingly, if I delete the slash at the end of the URL in the address bar and hit, everything clears right up. So far. Or is it just me?
Great post title – I really liked Smilla’s Sense of Snow.
There seems to be a real competition going for greatest thread title here at BJ. There should be an award at the end of the year — except I can’t think of a cool enough award title.
As for Snowe, she gives herself credit for a sense of rationality she does not actually possess. It’s her smug self-satisfaction, matched only by Joe Lieberman, that irritates me the most.
Chrome on OSX, and I have absolutely no way to predict what the comments are gonna look like. Sometimes they’re as expected, sometimes they’re the Mobile version, and sometimes they’re just a weird white box on a black background.
Makes for interesting browsing, I suppose. Might gin up a solo drinking game out of it. With gin, of course.
“Smilla’s Sense of Snow” was a really quite decent novel. The movie, not so much.
I haven’t seen matoko chan in a couple of days, no.
@Soonergrunt: ARGH, you said her name, now she’ll show up!!!
@Woodrowfan: Yeah, but she does that anyway and that comment was so worth it.
Snowe’s “Why I’m Leaving the Senate” op ed from the Wa Post.
What IS she planning?
@Neddie Jingo: So when do you re-open the blog? I mean Sept, 2010 is a long time ‘twixt posts.
Good to see you’re still alive tho’, by Neddie Jingo.
Krugman was thinking along the same lines with his his blogpost title:
Jonathan Chait’s Sense of Snowe
@Elizabelle: Five will get you ten she shows up with those “Americans Elect” jerkasses.
Rumor has it, a Presidential run under the Americans Elect banner.
Yeah, I’m concerned about American Select.
Especially once our center-right media starts applauding them, constantly.
For promising they will do what President Obama is already doing, at great personal effort, and without much recognition from same center-right media.
Your internets are in the mail.
What Olympia Snowe proved to the left is that a voting record and stances on issues means shit to voters when they’re presented with a prepackaged marketing ploy about who someone “is”
Snowe won 69% and 74% in her reelections in a neutral year and a Democratic year. She was favored to win reelection by a huge margin this year.
In another Democratic year, her less-moderate sister Collins slaughtered a progressive candidate who many thought would beat her- Ton Allen.
It’s not about issues or votes, its about marketing a candidate. I never really got that the left understood this- it doesn’t matter if so and so hates Wall Street if she is presented as some hippie-loving hyena, but Snowe and Collins has always been proof of it to me.
Snowe snuck this line into her WaPost op ed:
Isn’t one problem that the Senate is requiring a supermajority for legislation that did not used to need it?
And when did that rule change pop up?
@Neddie Jingo: This is exactly the way my BJ has been behaving in the last few day and it’s damned frustrating. I hate the mobile sight and don’t even use it on my Iphone. I’ve cleaned my caches and tried in different platforms, and I want to stab something everytime something other than the BJ I want shows up in whichever browser.
I don’t quite agree with this. I mean, yeah, I don’t at all disagree with the observation and conclusions drawn, but I disagree that ‘moderate’ is conceptually bullshit. A century ago they were called ‘progressives’. But that was at a time when you could form a progressive coalition. Today you can’t form a moderate coalition, and to a large degree there’s not much point given that the Democrats have become that moderate coalition.
Ever since Noot’s Contract with America days, when politics went full-bore ‘yer with us or agains’ us’ it became impossible to form moderate coalitions, and you wound up with folks like Snowe that could never propose moderate policy because the was nobody else with her. She wound up chipping $100B off here and there because that was the extent of the power she and Collins and maybe a few others could wield. That’s not a failing of moderate viewpoints – it’s instead a failing of moderates to be able to function in the broader political climate. The moderate health care bill turned out to be PPACA, but Snowe wasn’t needed to introduces it, and worse, she wasn’t really able to support it (even though she likely loved it) because then she wouldn’t be with the GOP. We saw the results of that with Specter – even when he’d try and strike a moderate position and side with Dems, he couldn’t carry it out because he knew he’d get primaries out of office, and that’s exactly what happened.
So yeah, Snowe could have sided more strongly with Dems against the Bush tax cuts, but then what? Chait takes it as a given that she’d still be around to do something with the stimulus, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I think she would have been primaries out, and would we have a Democrat in that seat, or a more extreme Republican? And then you can make no predictions about what would have happened with the stimulus.
So yeah, Snowe made bad decisions, but there simply were no good decisions for her to make and keep the seat. This is the same calculus we’ve always made in Nebraska, and will again this year. We’re better off with a Nelson or a Kerrey than with a Johanns. Not only because of the individual votes that they’ll make, but because they keep Dems in the majority which means Dems set the agenda – and that’s HUGE power – more power than that one vote, in fact. So Snowe played the complete losing hand she was dealt as long as she could to keep her seat. Cowardly? Yeah, probably. But from her perspective, she was doing a better job than an ideologue from either side so I can’t really blame her for trying to keep her seat. As infuriating as moderates can be, without them, nothing passes – EVER. If you had a Senate full of Inhofes and Sanders, nothing would ever pass. And we’re increasingly heading toward that outcome on the right. So yeah, we lost $100B on the stimulus, but swap her out with a DeMint, and it probably would have had to be $200B. Swap her out for a Sanders, and it would have been no loss. That’s not her fault. That’s politics. That’s how this works. Don’t blame people for doing a shitty job when you’re pretty much demanded that they do a shitty job.
And the alternative scenario she had was to stick with the party. Is that better? Should she have gone for a GOP win on the stimulus rather than getting a stimulus passed? Because that’s the alternative? It seems odd to blame Snowe for focusing on a legislative outcome and giving all of the ideologues a pass on this. The stimulus wasn’t $100B too low because of Snowe. It passed because of Snowe. It was $100B too low because of Inhofe and Demint and the guys that wouldn’t vote for it for any reason whatsoever. They’re the real reason that the outcome sucked. Snowe is the reason we even have an outcome.
Americans Elect, for a voter who wants everything Obama is doing, except with a white person doing it.
There are quite a few from the other side of the aisle with a republican sense of bipartisanship.
An Americans Elect candidacy for … gee, I dunno. Or maybe she’s gonna wind up driving a think tank.
She’s actually been behaving herself lately — well, she’s brought something to the party the last few times I saw her nym. And she hasn’t called me that name for a while.
@CaseyL: Shoot me now.
No wait: not until after the BJ meet-up next Saturday. Then you can execute me. :)
The issue here isn’t so much Snowe as it is with voters.
What would the stimulus have looked like if there was a Sen. Tom Allen or Sen. Jim Martin or a Sen. Jean Hay Bright or Sen. Jim Pederson.
At the end of the day, Snowe is a symptom of a larger problem. The good news, or the left at lest, is her replacement is likely to be an ideologue, I use that term lovingly, in Sen. Chellie Pingree who won’t “reach across party lines”
But is that bad news for the country even while good news for the left? I dom’t know.
A lot of it is “not a Democrat doing it”, I think.
I think that’s the case for Mustache Friedman.
Man, Chait has been kicking all kinds of ass since he left the New Republic. It must be such a relief not to have to deal with Marty Peretz anymore.
@Elizabelle: If Billionaires Select puts forth a ticket, it will be charisma-free and take more from the entirely crazy Republican Party.
If she made it through the primary. Mike Castle probably would have won handily in DE last cycle but a minority of extreme GOP voters knocked him out of the race.
Last year, polling showed that Snowe was in trouble. Right now, it’s a coin flip, mainly because the tea party is split between two candidates. Look at Lugar going negative this cycle – that’s a bad place to be in when you’re an established incumbent – fighting desperately for votes from your own party and relying on the other party to ultimately carry you into office.
well to be fair, Snowe was a GOP moderate, which is a vanishing species. there are plenty of Democratic moderates (like Most of the Dems in the Senate))
Thanks much, Ronzo.
Yeah, work and a weird schedule (two-hour commute each way) tend to put a crimp in the old logorrheic hose. That, and kinda having run out of things to say. But I haven’t forgotten about it. I’ll be back.
Is replacing a fake-moderate Republican with a liberal Democrat, and possibly keeping Democratic control of the Senate, good for the country? I think I can answer that one without losing too much sleep.
The other title you could have used for this (for Phoebe Snow fans) was “It doesn’t look like shitSnowe”.
Here’s what seems to be a fair article by Charles Babington for AP.
Analysis: Snowe Departure will widen partisan Gulf
Of course, fair means quotes from “No Labels”, “Third Way”, one Democrat and two Republicans.
But it’s pretty good.
I respectfully disagree with your disagreement. I think Snowe had options. From what I understand, she has enormous popularity in her state. Even if she’d been edged out in a primary with a teatard — which is by no means certain — she likely could have won as an independent. Joe fucking Lieberman was able to pull that off.
Given her popularity and the idiosyncratic Maine electorate, she could even have crossed the aisle and survived, unlike Specter.
Furthermore, the stimulus vote in 2009 was before the GOP went full metal teatard — and the Bush tax cut vote in 2001 was LONG before it.
She deserves no slack, imo. Just another rich-ass career republican, willing to uproot whatever feeble principles may have taken root in whatever feeble semblance of a soul she might possess at the slightest prospect of paying a political price.
I was surprised to read there that she is 65. I would have taken her for over 70, and I am old myself. I guess it’s true that your face will stick that way. Perhaps she is made of wood.
Right. Policy needs moderating forces – and there’s lots of ways do to that, so I’m not advocating for the way that Snowe did it, but it is one way. Unfortunately, these moderating forces are vanishing – or being abused. The filibuster was a moderating force, and now it’s not. Now it’s a weapon. Moderates used to be a moderating force, and they’re gone as well. Simple ideological diversity used to be a moderating force – with social conservatives but economic progressives on the left, and the reverse on the right and so on. That’s also gone.
I mean, step back and look at the fears on the left. As much as we complain about the filibuster, the left is terrified to not have it in some form there, because we want the security of it as a moderating force. Snowe filled that role to some degree, sometimes to our benefit, sometimes not. The problem is that we only look at what we lost due to Snowe, not what we gained. If we look at everything through the same our side wins/their side loses prism, then no wonder Snowe is getting out – she literally can’t please anyone.
Not just you and thanks for the tip!
son of a bitch!!!
Rush Limbaugh Apologizes To Sandra Fluke
Apology or no, I hope this thing brings the fat fucker down!
I never understood why Snowe didn’t tell the GOP that she would become independent, but caucus with them, if they pushed her too much.
It seems she could easily have won re-election. (Or would she, an experienced Senator, have been picked off by a Democrat?)
Wondering if Lindsey Graham will have to take this tack in 2 years when his term comes up. He’s going to get primaried. He’s in DeMint land now.
Open thread, so not OT: Limbaugh just apologized to Fluke on his website.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
If moderate is determined by someone who wants both a party affiliation AND a process open to compromise, then they are for sure extinct in the American pol wild, for the foreseeable future, imo.. As we are in a period of struggle with a GOP that is dying, at least as it has been, and when that happens the natural response is for them to grasp for a little more and more purity to make it all better. Which is exactly the wrong thing to do. And that goes double for a party that exists for no other reason than to oppose change, and maintain the status quo.
There is very little the conservatives are for these days, beyond permanent war and maximizing profit for the few. They are defined by what they are against, which is everything liberal and progressive, and the urge is toward being better and more of what your purpose is for existing in the first place.
And in a two party system, one side or the other gets to pick the rules of engagement to the lowest denominator, and those are the rules the other side must accept in order to win. At least to the necessary degree.
I think democrats are in pretty good shape over all. Not perfect, with still surges of GOP light left over from the country’s and its voters, 30 year experiment with the hard right. And taking to the populist bent is wide open for them to make hay with. The biggest mistake they could make would be doing the same over reach as the republicans, and instead, focusing like a laser on what works to achieve their policy goals. Which are things like near universal health care coverage, without going all or nothing for a single payer system, for now. As well as other end result progress for the 99% whose lot they are charge with improving.
We have a super smart, if imperfect president, who is a good learner, and understands the current politics as well as anyone – as well as a pretty stable rank and file voter base, along with the reps they picked to represent them.
There is nothing wrong with the more pure in ideology to voice their wants, but only if it is done within the dem tent. If we don’t end up in ashes due to global thermonukular warfare, I like the odds better than I did. Thanks to the GOP porcupine, flopping over so every one can see the soft underbelly of what they are really about.
After 2010, her number was up. She sees what’s happening in the GOP in the House. She saw how the 2010 primaries went. She’s done – the GOP wants her out, even if the ME voters want her in.
Yeah, she could have gone independent like Joe, but he’s done too. He saved his seat and nothing more.
Everyone seems to think there’s a path there – there isn’t. The GOP is racing right and there’s no overlap to hide in any more. Living in the no-mans-land of being a non-Democrat and a non-Republican is useless. You generally need the support of your parties to survive. And now that anyone can drop a few million dollars to take someone out of seat, it’s just a matter of time before that happens in a coordinated way.
@lamh35: @Elmo: Not buying it. “I was only making a joke” is no fucking excuse. Let the fat pig keep squealing.*
*With apologies to all those of the porcine species.
Well, it’s kind of an apology, with this Limbaugh junk in the middle:
And that fits in perfectly with what some Balloon Juicers have been saying about Rush knowing how his audience views this one.
Which is why Rush demanded video proof, and Kathleen Parker schooled him on it!
tisk tisk. Didn’t Suzie-Q teach you better than that?
Olympia Snowe’s problem in a nutshell:
Rush Limbaugh, in the midst of everything.
Heh. Just stumbled across this, completely by chance: Olympia Snowe wasn’t quite so keen on the filibuster when her party controlled the Senate.
But when she’s out of power, she’s all about the bipartisanship.
True, but by 2001, there were so few moderates left – particularly on the right – that there was no ability to build momentum for different tax proposal. Remember, there’s really two sources of power – the power to craft new policy and put it before the public and the power to get it passed – and they’re entirely different. Snowe retained the power to get things passed basically by demanding trims around the edges in exchange for her vote. But she long before then lost the power to craft new policy – and that’s what needed to happen in 2001. There’s no reason why the 2001 tax policy couldn’t have been revenue neutral – reducing marginal tax rates in exchange for closing loopholes, revised regularly as the debt got paid down. That would have been a moderate plan – but nobody could have gotten attention for a plan like that except on the left. And the loss of that power is a big problem and she could easily see the trend – from the contract with america through the impeachment hearings through the 2000 vote fight the partisanship and ideological rigidity on the right was cranking steadily up. Her days were numbered.
You can only be as moderate as you have the power to be. And the Dems do this all the time as well – where Harry and Nancy give members of the caucus the opportunity to vote against the caucus if it will help them in their campaign at home. Does that make them bad Dems if there’s no impact on the vote? But the only path for almost every piece of legislation since 2006 was through Snowe’s vote.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Elizabelle: I’d defer to Davis or other mainers on the politics there, but as an indie she would have faced two opponents (at least) and there are enough Tea Baggers in Maine to get nutty LePage into the governors office. With a couple of obvious exceptions– McCain, Lieberman, Bob Kerrey– she’s probably the most overrated politician in Washington. All the piety and mewling about her departure is bad enough, hte fact that she’s being used to paint people like Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson as her fellow noble moderates makes want to just give up on politics.
Last part of Snowe’s WaPost op ed:
I wonder if “American Select” is a feint, and she’s actually going to partner with Norman Ornstein, Thomas Mann, maybe some other good government types and push for reform in the Senate from outside its hallowed halls.
Can you imagine the former Republican senators and congresscritters who have been watching, appalled, at what their life’s work has turned into? (Democrats, too. But I’m thinking Warren Rudman, Bob Dole, even Trent Lott, and Democrats who used to work with them, would love to speak out now.)
She has a lot more to say about “legislating” than leadership in her essay.
And she might be even sicker of Mitch McConnell than we are.
Maybe it’s a SuperThink tank, or maybe an entity with some serious money behind it, to support moderate problem-solvers?
Wile E. Quixote
Olympia Snowe is a moderate in the same way that Albert Speer was a moderate. Good fucking riddance.
Wile E. Quixote
There’s a better and more recent example of a senator dumping their party and running as an independent and that’s Lisa Murkowski. Murkowski ran a write-in campaign after losing to Joe Miller in the primary and handed Miller his ass, despite the fact that Miller was backed by the Republican establishment and Snowbilly Snooki.
@Wile E. Quixote:
And what does her voting record look like now? Does she look like an independent to you?
@Neddie Jingo: I’ve just informed my delighted husband. He’s been worried about Neddie Jingo’s well-being since your last post.
Well, it is an open thread…
In case anyone hasn’t been up on going-ons w/ Cato during the Full-Koch Takeover attempt: Kochs nominated Hindrocket to the board. Seriously.
Davis X. Machina
If Snowe had lost her primary, she’d have won as an independent with an absolute majority in a 3-way, and handsomely in a four-way race. And I don’t think she’d have lost her primary. Tea-baggery here is a spent force. The Press Herald had a piece not too long ago telling LePage to knock it off, written by members of the Republican caucus in Augusta.
Lisa Murkowski did it in Alaska starting from a much less favorable position.
@Martin: You miss the point. Snowe could have done what her actual supposed conscience told her to do and still won re-election and kept her committee chairs and whatever other bullshit.
Olympia Snowe is moderate compared with Ron Johnson (mindless wingnut from Wisconsin), but she’s conservative, in fact, very conservative, when compared with Ben Nelson, whose voting record isn’t exactly a model of liberalism.
Snowe voted with the extremists most of the time.
@muddy: I agree. I am older too and I have long thought she appeared to be in her 70’s. Not just the way she looks, but the way she moves. Stiff and slightly humpbacked.