I really couldn't help myself with that headline. At least some of the sarcasm behind it comes from me just being sad at hearing that Olympia Snowe isn't running for reelection, which will likely lead to a boilerplate liberal Democrat of some kind taking her seat and making what's already the most deeply divided Congress in modern times even more so.
That bad news is somewhat mitigated by the good news that Bob Kerry, former moderate Democrat from my own state, Nebraska, looks to have changed his mind and will be coming back to run for U.S. Senate after all. Weeks ago he said no to the idea publicly, but I have some inside information that leads me to believe he will be announcing his candidacy after all. Hopefully that little birdy has accurate information, because while I was no fan of Ben Nelson, his generally moderate voting would have been missed. The Republicans running for the seat here are a seriously lacking bunch, so I think Bob Kerry would have a very good chance of winning.
But back to Snowe...
Her retirement adds yet another great moderate to the pile of those who have left citing the deep partisan rancor that has been so rampant in Washington, and within the two major parties, over the last few cycles. The RINO (Republican In Name Only) hunting that has been going on for years is so bad that Dick Lugar is now considered a moderate, and had to fight off an attack from his right wing to make it to the general election. Lugar is no right winger by any means, but he's certainly no moderate either.
James Joyner, who runs the great right-leaning blog Outside the Beltway, joined in on the speculation that Olympia Snowe might jump in the race for the Americans Elect presidential ticket. In the post, he also includes some speculation that she could join a ticket with former Oklahoma Senator David Boren.
I can't say I'm at all familiar with Boren, but I am a fan of Snowe, and any ticket she's on would be one I'd seriously consider voting for. A ticket with her at the top, or even as the VP, would have a much better shot than one with Buddy Roemer as the right-leaner. She might even be a better pick than David Walker, mainly because she has better name recognition, having had much more national press attention for her swing voting tendencies over the years.
The narrative that the bigger media outlets seem to have grasped onto here is that the center is crumbling. If you want to be more specific, what is crumbling are the connections to the major parties by remaining centrists and moderates—both members and electeds. Internal to the parties, the left and right won a long time ago; it's just going to take a while to finish the job of fully purging their parties of centrists and moderates. Both are beyond saving, and neither are worth the effort to save anyhow.
The media is extremely late to the game if they think that this hasn't been happening within the Democratic and Republican parties for many years, but they'd be a lot more accurate if they said that the inequality in representation in Washington was what was crumbling. The center among the American people isn't crumbling. So much buzz about the potential for someone like Snowe dropping her party for a run with Americans Elect is proof that the center is finally starting to stir out of its slumber.
I'm still convinced we're at least a few years away from a major spark in what I call the "Big Tent Center", but, outside of the two major parties, we're far from crumbling. We're yearning for something better that what the two parties have to offer. As the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum, and the growing gap that the Democrats and Republicans are leaving in the center is just starting to be filled.