Most local individuals would be far from alarmed to learn that a Maine woman recently announced her decision not to run for a fourth term as senator. In fact, there are few folks who devote enough attention to remember the names and term numbers of local politicians, let alone ones coming from the opposite end of the nation. However, it is not former Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s leave of politics, but rather her reason behind the retirement, that should catch our attention.
In her article written for the Washington Post, the revered senator, who was known for regularly strolling the streets of Maine and asking residents which cause they wished to see addressed, lamented “the dysfunction and political polarization in the (Senate).” She went a step further with her succinct remark that the Senate has deviated far from “what the Founding Fathers envisioned” and “is not what America is all about.”
Sen. Snowe, placed on Time’s 2006 list of America’s 10 Best Senators next to notable dignitaries such as Ted Kennedy and John McCain, will continue to hold a place in the hearts of the citizenry as they remember how she tirelessly fought to retain two Maine military establishments, help the dilemma of covering heating costs in Maine for the financially disadvantaged, and continued to push the Bush administration to further decrease tax-cut proposals.
However, what sets Sen. Snowe apart from other individuals who have likewise dutifully fulfilled their political roles is her boldness to recognize the deteriorating condition of the Senate, or rather, the entire political system. Most politicians are quick to address the fiascos in the country but refrain from bluntly pointing out the flaws of the politics itself.
First, it is interesting to note that George Washington railed against the formation of political parties for the new nation, fearing they would sharply divide the individuals who were elected as the voices of the American people and were supposed to be only upholding the tenets of the Constitution to the highest regard. Washington has often been classified as a Federalist because most of the policies he implemented had more Federalist origins, but he nevertheless was open to fair ideas of the Democratic- Republican Party of the time if he felt that they would better serve the American people.
While this is not to say that political parties themselves are the destructive agents behind the national issues, it is difficult to neglect the fact that the great divide Washington had warned of is not finished severing.
In a reference to the current condition of the Senate, Sen. Snowe pointed out that “everyone simply votes with their party, and those in charge employ every possible tactic to block the other side.”
Not surprisingly, the essence of this comment extends itself to the larger political scale. In the turbulent times ahead – while the national debt amasses, gas prices skyrocket, and the education system falters — maintaining the tenets of one’s political party simply for the sake of it is a poor course for a politician to adhere to in any realm of government. Victories for one’s party do not translate to victories for the nation as a whole.
As Sen. Snowe rightly professed, such a destructive trend can only be reversed “if the people demonstrate their desire for politicians to come together after the planks in their respective party platforms do not prevail” and realize that there remains “a critical need to engender public support for the political center, for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us.”
In the midst of the GOP primaries, and with the 2012 presidential election just around the corner, there is no better time than now to ponder the current condition and future of our politics, and fill the appropriate role as citizens by being wise in voting. Sen. Snowe’s summation ought to strike just how far we have veered from firmly retaining our national greatness, and it remains up to the people of today to curtail the mushrooming issues in our political system. While my status as a minor renders me unable to help bring about that restoration, I hope the current generation will come together to retrieve the dignity of American politics for future eras and leaders.