Olympia Snowe, Republican Senator of Maine, recently announced that she will not seek re-election in November. This is very sad news for us all, regardless of party. We shall miss her.
I have been immeasurably honored to serve the people of Maine for nearly 40 years in public office and for the past 17 years in the United States Senate. It was incredibly difficult to decide that I would not seek a fourth term in the Senate. [Here]
In her press statement she reminded us that she has “served the people of Maine for nearly 40 years in public office and for the past 17 years in the United States Senate.” [Here] In itself that record is remarkable, but it is the quality of her service to the people of Maine and to each of us throughout the country that distinguish those years.
Frank Bruni in the NYTimes admitted to having “a kind of crush” on her, adding that “she moved, dressed, and treated people--even reporters, and even when we hounded her through the hallways of the Capitol--with an unforced, uncommon graciousness.“ [Here]
Bruni added that he liked her most for her “disobedience.” He was putting his finger on why she will be so deeply missed by all of us. I admit that when the Senate is locked in some bitter, partisan debate, I keep my ears cocked to hear what Snowe has to say and what positions she has taken. I never automatically agree with her--she is, after all, a moderate Republican-- but I know that her opinions are honest, hers alone and should be listened to.
Snowe’s uncommon natural graciousness that Frank Bruni mentioned, is even more remarkable when one remembers the tragedies that she experienced early in her life and which would embitter and harden most people. Snowe was orphaned in childhood when first her mother died of breast cancer and a year later her father died of heart disease. She was then moved to her aunt’s home in another town and, from there. sent to boarding school. Her uncle also died a few years later.
The next terrible blow came when early in her marriage to Maine State Legislator Peter Snowe, her husband was killed in a car accident. Instead of collapsing, she listened to the urging of friends and colleagues and ran for her husband’s seat and won, thus beginning her long legislative career in Maine and in our nation’s capital. She first served in Maine’s House, then its Senate and next, in 1978, the U.S. House of Representatives.
While serving in our nation’s House, she met and married fellow Maine Congressman John McKernan who was later elected the Governor of Maine. She thus became First Lady of Maine from 1989 to 1995. Snowe was holding that honorary position in 1995 when she was sworn in as Maine’s U.S. Senator.
When Olympia Snowe wrote that she had “serve[d] the people of Maine for nearly 40 years in public office,” she was referring to her legislative service in four different bodies, two in Maine and two in Washington. She is a seasoned, intelligent, experienced, skilled and highly respected Senator. To forego that role means that the political pressures and perhaps disappointments for Olympia Snowe must have been overwhelming.
This is what she has told us about making her decision: [Here]
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.
How tragic for Snowe and for the country. If debate is no longer meaningful, the Senate is no longer a deliberative body. When that happens, our democracy ceases.
What comes next? Corporate governance? Dictatorship? Theocracy?