Streams

Senator Olympia Snowe on Bipartisan Progress

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This interview originally aired live on May 22, 2013. An edited version was aired on August 2, 2013 as part of a special episode of The Brian Lehrer Show. 

Former Senator (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe, talks about her recommendations for bridging the partisan divide in Washington and what she learned during her time in office. She is the author now of Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress .


Excerpt: Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress

by Olympia Snowe Copyright ©. Reprinted courtesy of Goldberg McDuffie

Introduction

When I announced I would not run for reelection to the Senate in February 2012, many people asked me the same question: Was I relieved? The implication was that I was weary of the increasing bickering of recent Congresses and that I was worn down by it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never backed down from a fight and I relish a good debate.

Some of these same well-wishers went on to express the hope that I would finally be able to relax.

No chance.

I have no intention of retiring. I love to work as much as ever.

But the Senate, as well as the, whose term ended in January 2013, was no longer a legislative body where the key issues facing the country could be resolved. I decided not to seek reelection only when I came to the sad conclusion that I could more effectively serve my country from outside the Senate than from within.

What motivated me to dedicate myself to public service for nearly two-thirds of my life was the chance to produce results for those people who entrusted me to be their voice and their champion. I found it exceedingly frustrating that an atmosphere of polarization and my-way-or-the-highway ideologies had become pervasive in our governing institutions, compromising our ability to solve problems at what was a time of monumental challenge for our nation.

The Senate as a whole simply was not doing the job granted to it under the Constitution. The Founding Fathers gave individual senators considerable power and influence, yet we were unable to offer solutions to problems on the floor of the Senate because we were prevented from proposing amendments. Few bills even reached the floor, and when they did, debate was frequently stifled or curtailed by overuse of the filibuster and other procedural gymnastics. Senate committees traditionally prepare bills that can and should be thoroughly talked through in debate, but in recent years that work has been bypassed. All too frequently, a bill was drafted behind closed doors and reported to the floor, then a quick up-and-down vote was forced on the entire proposal.

It was a stunning measure of our dysfunction that we were unable to pass a federal budget. After 2009, the last year in which a budget became law, the legislative branch failed year after year to fulfill basic functions. And year after year, Congress could only enact temporary provisions to keep the country running, let althe work essential to the nation’s long-term economic health like regulatory reform, changes to the creaking tax code, and reducing our crippling deficits and debt. How could we ever hope to balance a budget if we were never even able to pass one?

At the same time, our more extreme and more ideologically driven. Fair-minded legislators were reluctant to reach out across the aisle lest they bring on an intra-party challenge like the ones faced by Senator Bob Bennett in Utah, Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska, and Congressman Mike Castle in Delaware when he ran for the Senate.

Outstanding colleagues have had their distinguished careers derailed by a tightly organized subgroup within the main Republican Party that is more interested in taking down individuals with whom they don’t agree than in electing representatives who will find bipartisan legislative solutions to America’s problems.

Democrats were not immune to the new political reality. In, unions spent an estimated trying to defeat Senator Blanche Lincoln. She narrowly survived a primary run-off with Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, but was defeated in the general election. I served with Blanche on the Senate Finance Committee and saw firsthand her tenacious commitment to her state.

Democrats even turned on a former vice presidential nominee when in 2006, Joe Lieberman lost a primary in Connecticut to a more liberal candidate, Ned Lamont, only to run and win as an independent. Joe had built a distinguished record on national security, but was viewed as too conservative and too close to then-President Bush. These were both instances of outstanding public servants being targeted by their own party.

As the same take-it-or-leave-it divisions have been echoed in the media, more and more constituents told me they simply no longer watched the news. I understand why so many Americans are fed up with government. Thealmost universally derided as the worst ever. It was the most polarized body since the end of Reconstruction, according to , and I grew embarrassed by its partisan bickering, inactivity, and refusal to address the vital challenges facing America. Our job approval ratings were deservedly terrible—in some surveys the percentage of Americans who approved of the Congress’s performance plummeted into historically low single digits.

When someTom Coburn (R-OK) inat a, he replied, “I want to know who those.” Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) published a chart that showed that our popularity was on a par with that of Hugo Chavez and significantly less than perennial favorites like bankers, lawyers, and the Internal Revenue Service.

I’m not a person who tends to rhapsodize about the past and how things used to be better, but I know enough Senate history to understand that thetypical. Earlier in my own career, and throughout its history, the Senate has transcended its divisions, risen to the occasion as an institution, and earned its status as the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” a description that in recent times is of.

Senate’s rebuttal of President Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court with sympathetic justices in 1937. FDR took it for granted that the loyal Senate, controlled by his vice president, John Garner, would rubber-stamp his legislation that was designed to thwart any Supreme Court challenge to New Deal legislation. Instead, individual senators did what the Constitution mandated them to do and stood up to the President, and the deliberative body did what it was allowed to do when it conducted unlimited debate, both in Judiciary Committee hearings and on the floor of the Senate. Several senators made impassioned speeches in favor of judicial independence, including Josiah Bailey of North Carolina, whose powerful oratory changed other senators’ minds. Seduced by his own overwhelming popularity, Roosevelt overplayed his hand and was ultimately thwarted by a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Historian Robert Caro describes this episode in Master of the Senate, part biography of Lyndon Johnson. In 2005, Harry Reid drew the passage to my attention when he sent me a photocopy of it, along with a handwritit reminded him of me. It is the kind of friendly and collegial gesture that senators ofother.

Harry’s note coincided with a systematic Democratic filibuster of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees, which was a corrosive force in the Senate. The Republican Majority Leader sought to break the logjam by exercising the so-called nuclear option, by which a “cloture” motion to end a filibuster could be passed by a simple majority rather than a sixty-vote threshold.

A cloture motion ends debate at once and moves the issue straight to a vote. Making this process easier was perceived by many, myself included, to be a severe diminution of the rights of the minority. Fourteen like-minded legislators, Democrats—we were known as the “Gang of 14”—came together in a bipartisan spirit to forestall the nuclear option by agreeing we would support a filibuster of judicial nominees under “extraordinary circumstances.” The agreement was the very manifestation of consensus-building and the power of trust. It is not always the rules that require changing but rather how we use them.

When I departed the Senate in 2013, its landscape not only was very different from what it was in 1937, but had even changed substantially from 2005. More recently, legislative outcomes are of, and positions have usually solidified along party lines before a bill even reaches the Senate floor. Today, people rarely rush from Senate offices and cloakrooms to the floor and the galleries to hear a consequential speech. We might take solace from the fact that it wasn’t always like this in Congress, nor does it have to be this way in the future. I came to Washington inan impact (when I became a member of the House that year, I joined a cross-party women’s caucus whose work yielded real practical results), and possessed of the same spirit, I intend to continue this effort now on another stage.

The bottom line is that Congress retains the same potential intime in its history. But it requires hard work to realize that potential, and legislators have to grapple with the major questions by working with the President, with the other side, and with members of their own party with whom they might disagree. In recent years, the in monolithic opposition; senators collaborate less; they hold separate conferences and caucuses and they meet less ofthan in the past.

The Senate’s path out of dysfunction leads through increased bipartisanship and cross-party consensus-building. With the same spirit as before, only now working outside Congress, I’ll maintain my fight for these improvements and lend my voice and experience as a consensus-builder and act as a catalyst for change. It is imperative we make certain there is a real political benefit and reward to be gained for bipartisanship so we can break what has become the equivalent of the parliamentary gridlock in Congress.

In January 2013, I concluded of service in public office, in the Maine House and Senate and in the United States House and Senate. I know what we have to do to fix Washington, beginning with a call to action to empower the millions of Americans who believe that bipartisanship offers the best way forward at this tipping point for America. Through the power of social media we must mobilize from the grassroots upward to send an unmistakable message to our lawmakers that there is popular support for seeking common ground rather than destructive divisiveness.

Polls in earlywanted their legislators to compromise, but with the parties’ deep divisions, and without a receptivity to consensus-building, it is virtually impossible to get anything d. Power resides with the people through the ballot box, and we must attract and support candidates of both parties who are committed to pragmatic problem-solving.

In order to help ensure that candidates better reflect the ideological pragmatism of most Americans, we should encourage more states to follow the practice of open primaries. Campaign finance reform, including rolling back Citizens United, is essential to leveling the electoral playing field, and eliminating so-called Leadership PACs would help to abate the perpetual fund-raising our lawmakers are engaged in, which is a major distraction from conducting legislative business. We will also increase the amount of time members of Congress spend in Washington by instituting five-day workweeks at least , instead of the abbreviated Tuesday-to-Thursday legislative schedule. The other week would be reserved for members of Congress to spend time in their states or districts.

I propose in this book a number of procedural and rules changes that would rightly focus Washington on the essence of public service: working for the people our government was formed to serve. mandate that if Congress fails to pass a budget or appropriations bills are not completed, its members don’t get paid—simple as that. We should curtail the ability of Senate leadership to either block or force through legislation without meaningful debate or amendments. The filibuster reforms that were adopted inin the right direction but they were temporary and more must be done. At the same time we can act on the principles that have helped make America economically strong, which is why I believe a balanced budget amendment is an imperative.

As I said at my announcement that I would not seek reelection, by these and other means I will work from outside the Senate to make sure that the institution, and the government of which it is an integral part, do not continue to be crippled by the dysfunction I felt compelled to leave behind in 2013.

Guests:

Olympia Snowe

Comments [63]

@Independent_Noach:

It was probably your comments that first called my attention to the errors in the book excerpt. Whether these errors reside in the original book, along with the shoddy and convoluted reasoning favored by the author who seems to wish her meaning to be as vague and ambiguous as possible, or are the product of a transcription error by this show's production staff, will probably never be acknowledged.
(SNARK ALERT: They're much too busy imposing their "prissy" values about what is a civil comment.)

Aug. 04 2013 02:04 PM

@ geTaylor: Back at the time of the segment, I read through the book excerpt on this page and noted numerous typographical errors. (As of this posting, all of them remain.) I listed all of these in three posts I made, all dated May 24th, which remained the latest posts on the page until Friday's RE-airing of this segment.

As I wrote in my initial post:

Numerous sentences are unintelligible due to one or more clearly missing words. Spaces between words are missing. Even letters from words are missing.

If these errors appear in the book itself then anyone who purchased it should demand their money back.

Aug. 03 2013 11:41 PM

Can someone at WNYC spell check the excerpt from Ms. Snow's book.
The concepts are fairly convoluted without trying to parse the meaning of "Polls in earlywanted their legislators to compromise, . . . ".

Aug. 02 2013 11:11 AM

I had originally thought to post with the comment of how lovingly Brian conducted the interview - no questions about Ms. Snow's current economic interests, i.e., what industry, trade association, corporate interests is she selling her contacts in the U.S. government to. Googling "Olympia Snow Net Worth" uncovers such calumnies as "Is Sen. Olympia Snowe One Of The 375 Maine Millionaires ..." https://www.google.com/search?q=olympia+snowe+net+worth&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a

And this might have been more interesting than your anodyne exchange
"Did lawsuit factor in Olympia Snowe's departure?"
" . . . Nationally, most of the coverage of Snowe's decision to drop her reelection bid has focused on the centrist Republican's frustration with the polarized politics on Capitol Hill. But in Maine, a few newspapers have speculated that her husband's legal entanglements had a role in Snowe's sudden and surprising decision, which left her with more than $3 million in her campaign coffers and her party without a Senate candidate less than three weeks before the filing deadline for Maine's June 12 primary. . . . "
http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2012/snowe/

Aug. 02 2013 11:02 AM
Fred from Brooklyn

Wouldn't opening the primary create the risk of people "sabotaging" the opposite party by voting for un-electable candidates in the party's primary? Why should Republicans who oppose Democratic Party ideals have a voice in the party and vice versa?

Aug. 02 2013 10:20 AM
RLF from Yonkers

Seems to me that there is as much motivation for the Republicans by the fact that corps. want cheaper labor (code writers, doctors, nurses) to under cut the wages of the middle class as much as voting because they have had plenty of luck fooling the public into voting for them in the past without giving the public anything.

Aug. 02 2013 10:13 AM

Remaining errors from book excerpt: (See previous two posts of mine)

- "Polls in earlywanted their legislators to compromise,"

Looks like this was meant to read along the lines of,

'Polls in early {year} *showed that a clear majority of Americans* wanted their legislators to compromise,"

- "it is virtually impossible to get anything d."

- " Campaign finance reform, including rolling back Citizens United, is essential to leveling the electoral playing field, and eliminating so-called Leadership PACs would help to abate the perpetual fund-raising our lawmakers are engaged in, which is a major distraction from conducting legislative business."

Sentence too long, I think.

- "We will also increase the amount of time members of Congress spend in Washington by instituting five-day workweeks at least ,"

Shouldn't that be, 'We _would_ also increase...'?

- "The other week would be reserved for members of Congress to spend time in their states or districts."

What "other week"?

-"mandate that if Congress fails to pass a budget or appropriations bills are not completed,"

(That is the _beginning_ of the sentence. Looks like, 'We should' or similar words to that effect were somehow removed.)

- "The filibuster reforms that were adopted inin the right direction"

May. 24 2013 01:19 AM

(con'td from previous post)

-"along with a handwritit reminded him of me."

My guess is that this is meant to have read, 'along with a handwritten note that it reminded him of me.'

How, pray tell, does 'handwritten note that it' get truncated to "handwritit"?!

- "It is the kind of friendly and collegial gesture that senators ofother."

- "More recently, legislative outcomes are of, and positions have usually solidified"

- " I came to Washington inan impact"

- "The bottom line is that Congress retains the same potential intime in its history."
'intime' is an _adjective_ and thus would not seem to fit here.

- " In recent years, the in monolithic opposition; senators collaborate less; they hold separate conferences and caucuses and they meet less ofthan in the past."

- "In January 2013, I concluded of service in public office, in the Maine House and Senate and in the United States House and Senate."

Looks like this was meant to read, '...I concluded **X# of years** of service in public office...'

Folks, this is just /painful/.

May. 24 2013 12:13 AM

Did anyone actually read the excerpt from Senator Snowe's book that appears on this page?

I haven't even finished it yet and already, I've found at least SEVENTEEN sentences with conspicuous errors. Many, if not /most/ of which are quite egregious, if not *glaringly appalling*.

Numerous sentences are unintelligible due to one or more clearly missing words. Spaces between words are missing. Even letters from words are missing.

If these errors appear in the book itself then anyone who purchased it should demand their money back.

Here is what I have found so far:

-"But the Senate, as well as the, whose term ended in January 2013,"

Looks like 'house' is the missing word.

- "let althe work essential to the nation’s long-term economic health"

"althe"? Looks like that should have been 'alone the', as in, "let alone all the work".

- "At the same time, our more extreme and more ideologically driven."

- "In, unions spent an estimated trying to defeat Senator Blanche Lincoln."

Looks like the word 'Arkansas' and a dollar amount are missing from this sentence, which apparently should have read, "In *Arkansas*, unions spent an estimated {x # of dollars} trying to defeat..."

- "Thealmost universally derided as the worst ever."

Should that be, 'They are almost'?

- "It was the most polarized body since the end of Reconstruction, according to , and I grew embarrassed by its partisan bickering"

'according to' _whom_ ??!!

- "When someTom Coburn (R-OK) inat a, he replied, “I want to know who those.” "

-"but I know enough Senate history to understand that thetypical."

- " a description that in recent times is of."

- "Senate’s rebuttal of President Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court with sympathetic justices in 1937."

- "Historian Robert Caro describes this episode in Master of the Senate, part biography of Lyndon Johnson."

Not sure about this one. At the very least, though, something like, 'which is, in part, a biography...', would appear to be more clear.

(cont'd)

May. 24 2013 12:11 AM
Jim

@Noach

I might rephrase that to put France at the extreme of the spectrum. Surely, we do not want emulate France, or even slightly more right-leaning England for that matter, on multi-culturalism and welfare. I'll leave it to the seminal works of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to make my case.

May. 22 2013 06:43 PM

France: a self-proclaimed "Socialist" can be elected Prime Minister...

U.S.A.: A President whose signature piece of legislation is a massive taxpayer-funded subsidy to the insurance and pharma industries, and a Senator who opposed even a public option-- mere 'bupkis'; a bone; a pittance-- are smeared as "Socialist"....

People have no idea how far off the spectrum we are.

May. 22 2013 12:36 PM
Voting In Sanity from Larchmont, NY

SO sad that Senator Snowe doesn’t seem to know that simply changing our ‘single option’ method of voting into Score Voting--just like we rate products & services on the internet--would virtually eliminate all of our political problems. If you, the reader here, approve of being able to rate ALL your preferred candidates, please let Brian know; maybe he’ll do a show on how allowing us to rate all the candidates would actually allow for more agreeable centrists to run and actually win--therefore reducing partisanship and government stagnation, eliminating the need for political primaries (and parties), reducing the influence of big money, making gerrymandering unworkable, and helping to promote World Peace! Meanwhile, for more easy-to-understand info on how this well-known concept would seriously change our world much for the better, here’s the sociological proof on a 3-minute video ‘primer’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4LqypgNIOw, and here’s a 3-page explanation at www.VotingInSanity.org.

May. 22 2013 12:31 PM

oscar from ny, 9:25:

<<their is no found resolution among the ppl of congress, it seems everyone has their own agenda, don't care or are misinformed.>>

Actually, I think the fundamental, overarching agenda of congress is rather clear: to protect and serve the interests of the corporate-financial-military elite. The two parties are more like wings of the same bird of prey.

"Earlier congress was grilling apple™ on some nonsense,"

You mean "some nonsense" such as the abysmally abusive, atrocious conditions under which their products are manufactured that were amply exposed?

Well, you'll be happy to know that WNYC apparently isn't too bothered by such trifles.

-During and every membership drive going back as far as I can recall, Apple products were prominently featured as sweepstakes prizes. "Generously donated", of course, by Tekserve, "The Apple Specialist" (whose altruistic largess we are reminded of in numerous "non-commercials"...)

-Have you noticed how often, on the WNYC web site, that the photo chosen to accompany a segment having anything to do with computer/Internet/digital technology -- but categorically NOT _Apple_, per se-- conspicuously and distinctly features an Apple product? I cite specific examples in a post I made yesterday:
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/bl/2013/may/20/yahoo-tumblr/

<<hasn't apple at least give the world I phones computers, technology?..>>

At what cost?

Do the ends justify the means?

And who says that technological advancement is invariably, /a priori/, ON BALANCE, a _good_ thing for humanity? The assumption that this is somehow axiomatic greatly serves the corporate elite that drives this relentless march of (largely vain, materialistic, hedonistic) consumerism at all costs.

<<government always goes for the good guys, why don't they attack the banks, the money lenders, all these insurance frauds taking a toll on America,>>

You can relax... I'm sure that whatever "grilling" of Apple that you may have seen by Congress was little more than grandstanding.

<<We have a president who is clearly scared to take on these frauds>>

Scared?

Are you forgetting that the financial sector were the greatest donors to Obama's campaign? (At least the first one. Not sure about the second.) Isn't the President just doing exactly what what he was put in office to do?

May. 22 2013 12:22 PM

@jagiaffw

I hear you...I think.

The public option (MEDICARE for All) is not socialist. Socialism does not equal government run. The 'wingers make a lot of hay out of the listening public not knowing what socialism actually means. Just because a politician or pundit calls a program 'socialist' does not make it so. It is just another dog-whistle.

Socialist is when the government owns the means of production, in this instance when the healthcare workers AND the hospitals are owned by the government. The public option just gives us one more avenue for providing the administration and maintenance of the collected healthcare premiums - a not-for-profit, which really isn't too much to ask, is it?

May. 22 2013 12:05 PM
claire from New York

Instead of voting for "candidates" to make decisions, we the people should be voting on the "issues".

May. 22 2013 11:44 AM
david from NYC

My thought has been increasingly tending toward "Why are we so beholden to merely a two party system? ". The two party system to me it seems at the end will prove to be no better than China's one party system. China is 'The Peoples Democratic Republic of China.' The U.S. is the 'Republic of the United States of America.' We just have one more party than China and seem to be tending towards China's still terrific economic disparity. In China the spread between the wealthy and the poor is still extraordinarily large despite it's 'laissez faire' economic policies. Which illustrates how Reaganomics laissez-faire policies are merely free market and not democracy based capitalism. (Thank you Henry Kissinger and Milton Friedman.) So, at the end, our two party system may be no better than China's one party system. Laissez faire is great for destroying what democratic process remains here in the U.S. and is great for exploitation by potential oligarchs represented by those corporate lobbying interests currently tying up Washington now. Thus, I am thinking that we need to have not just a 3 party system, which we get so excited about... but a true multiparty system that special interest groups such as those huge corporate lobbyists, outside national interests and Koch brother extremists can still participate in, but, with less of an ability to hamstring the rest of the nation's interests. Perhaps the international tax shelters that actually turn many American corporations functionally into foreign interest companies who further exploit American human resources would be better addressed, as well. Yes, the more I think about it the more I think that a multiparty system could be a big part of the solution.

May. 22 2013 11:26 AM

@MC
"Maybe by demanding that the leftist, Obama-defending mainstream media start playing it down the middle?"

And who would you have us follow? Breitbart? Drudge? FoxNews? These are all slanted much further right than any mainstream source that you can name. Where do you go when even the facts are in dispute? How can we arbitrate?

The mainstream media DOES play it down the middle. Even NPR - esp. Ari Shapiro and Moira Liason - bend over backwards to try to make sense out of GOP positions.

The abrogation of responsibility is from the 'cheapening' of the collection process where undated file footage and audio is aired without attribution of the source or original air date.

May. 22 2013 11:17 AM

(*not seriously*, but I can imagine her language being interpreted this way)
Ms Snowe, early in the interview, "outed" herself as a closet Socialist with its Socialist agenda, by slipping in the words, "in the public interest". We know that "public" means Government and Socialist -- as, when, in the healthcare debate a few years ago, the "public option", was sensibly rejected because, as one of the Republicans emphasized, the "public" option really means the "government" option, which means Socialism. Anything proposed as being "in the public interest"" is part of the Socialist vision put forth by the "Democrat" party, and our goal must be, above all, to endeavor to see that the Socialists fail.

May. 22 2013 11:06 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

she is as much a hack as lehrer.... a hack interviewing a hack

May. 22 2013 10:53 AM

"You can say the Democrats have become more centrist, but the problem is that the "center" has moved more & more to the right."

On issues of economics and the (ever-increasing) power of the Executive branch, at least, this certainly appears to be the case.

Nixon, called "the last liberal president", was to the /left/ of Obama in many respects.

May. 22 2013 10:53 AM
jm

How can we hope to implement any change when we have to accommodate such a range of opinions? Isn't it for the best if the US eventually divides into two countries?

May. 22 2013 10:53 AM
Jesiah from upstate ny

@antonio from Bayside

I agree there is absolutely no talk about the other 10 parties that actively participated in the 2012 Presidential election and whose ideas are very credible if not more credible than the policies generated by our "two-party" system we are so worried about keeping centralized. Snowe's argument seem pointless

May. 22 2013 10:51 AM
Dnh-NYC from Manhattan

If you don't like the two party system, don't vote for it. Vote for your democratic or republican candidate on a third party line. When Dem and Rep candidates get a majority on their votes on third party lines, everyone in Washington will get the message.

May. 22 2013 10:51 AM
CCMontclair

C'mon, Brian, ask Olympia to name all of the "far left-wing" Democrats that correspond to all the far right-wing Republicans! How can she stay with that tired, pathetic shibboleth that it's "both" sides that are the problem.

May. 22 2013 10:51 AM

Demagoguery is one of the most effective tools by which the predatory 1% retain control.

Convincing people that opposing their own interests is supporting them.

Manipulation. Deception.

Exploiting fears, legitimate grievances and noble sentiments and sensibilities.

Invoking the dreaded bogeyman of "Socialism"/"Communism"; conjuring-up images of the horrors of Stalin and Mao...

The completely /false/ dichotomy that is created by the way the political spectrum aligns, where (legitimate, noble) traditionalism/cultural conservatism has been wedded to economic Darwinism, jingoistic militarism and a police-"national security" state.

This accounts for a great deal of the (often largely manufactured) divisiveness we see.

May. 22 2013 10:49 AM

Listening to her here is perfect example of her speaking out of both sides of her mouth. She has always been brilliant at that.

May. 22 2013 10:48 AM
Fred from Brooklyn

I'm also in favor of some form of term or consecutive term limits. But how about some simple rule changes such as: One day a week becomes bipartisan lunch day where members of congress must go to lunch with a member of the other party. These folks don't even talk with each other. It's very easy to despise from a distance.

May. 22 2013 10:48 AM
Amy from Manhattan

You can say the Democrats have become more centrist, but the problem is that the "center" has moved more & more to the right.

May. 22 2013 10:47 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Political parties are private entities. Why should taxpayers have to pay for the running or supervision of primaries?

May. 22 2013 10:46 AM

robert, I wont say these ideas are good in the academic

May. 22 2013 10:44 AM
antonio from baySIde

We need 10 parties! We have to abolish the mechanism which oversees the access to debates! This should be on a Referendum They control the questions, ho gets to participate. Did anyone know there were a libertarian party and a green party?!!!

May. 22 2013 10:43 AM
Fred L from Brooklyn

Why should primaries be "opened" to people not in a party? Wouldn't this greatly run the risk of people voting for weak candidates in rival parties? Why should hardcore conservative Republicans have a voice in a party whose goals they completely oppose (and vice versa)?

May. 22 2013 10:42 AM
Jesiah from Upstate NY

I'm sorry but I just don't see the benefits of totally eliminating two polar opposites of the political spectrum. It frightens me that we can't tolerate extreme differences when in fact that is what brings about change to the system. Snowe's suggestions seem like its an attempt to bring all sides of the spectrum to a comfortable status quo.

May. 22 2013 10:42 AM
Denise from NJ

Many of us at my workplace think that there should be a Constitutional amendment, the two primary concepts are:
One 6-year term for each member of the Federal Government, in the House, Senate, and White House.
Congress shall pass no law that exempts members of Congress.

abbreviated the list in the interest of time.

May. 22 2013 10:41 AM

I would prefer to see an unaligned ballot line listing all office candidates & allowing voters not registered with a party to indicate their preference. That way the parties & the media can see a discrete indication of party voters towards candidates as well as the preferences of voters not registered in any party.

A variation might be that independent and/or would be asked to mark a separate box indicating their non-party registration status.

May. 22 2013 10:40 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

How about putting term limits on Congress?

How about eliminating for paying for single party primaries?

Sen. Snow - how long have you been in office? Career politicians, including Snow, have been the bane of our existence.

May. 22 2013 10:39 AM

Why not ask her why she voted in complete lockstep with Leader Mitch McConnell while she was in the senate. Where was her independence and bipartisanship when she had an opportunity to make a difference.
Now she is selling her books and remaking her image and Brian is helping her do so. Why ?

May. 22 2013 10:38 AM
Scott

How about getting rid of plurality voting? While not a sufficient cause for political polarization, it is necessary. To see why, consider that Ms. Snowe is among the most popular Republicans for Democratic voters. What has that ever gotten her? Nothing, because under plurality voting, any voter selecting a Democrat forfeits their right to express a preference among the Republicans. This effect can reduced somewhat by open primaries, but they still leave Democratic voters the choice of supporting the Democrat or expressing a preference among the Republicans. Why impose such a choice on voters when we could institute pairwise-ranked voting, that is voting where voters rate all candidates on the ballot with one candidate outpolling another by having more voters rate him/her higher and winning by outpolling all other candidates? Then being the most popular pol to voters of the other party would be useful to one's political prospects ending the selective pressure for increasing polarization.

May. 22 2013 10:38 AM
carl from queens

'' second term course'', should be, second term curse...

May. 22 2013 10:38 AM
antonio from baySide

Sorry but I have to push back about the preamble before the interview...
On various shows on npr/wnyc I have heard a lot of white washing about the IRAQ war...
I know this statement may be harsh but I don't have to ever watch FOX news because I get my conservative fill here.

The spectrum is as follows;
The republican party is the lunacy party, which has made the democratic party the centrist/rightish party...

And for the last time we are a republic not a democracy...

May. 22 2013 10:37 AM
Steve from manhattan

Appreciating much of what Ms. Snowe is trying to accomplish, I can't see allowing everyone to vote in all primaries. While I would want to abolish all parties and party system altogether, until that happens, they are our political reality. So if I am a registered Democrat, and I wish to vote and push my preferred (more progressive) Democratic Party candidate, why would I ever allow the better funded and better organized Republican and/or conservative extremists to enter the fray and dictate my political options? They would obviously come out in droves to defeat any progressive or liberal candidate and support the most conservative candidate, thus paving the way for their more conservative candidate to have a better chance to win the election. We already have lost any fairness in our democracy -- let's not make it even worse...

May. 22 2013 10:36 AM
Peter Ungar from New Rochelle, NY

It would help to introduce initiative and referendum on the federal level. Then Congress would not have to grapple with issues like abortion and immigration. Also, single issue groups would not be able to get their items passed by pressuring legislators, which is easier than convincing the majority of the voters..

May. 22 2013 10:34 AM
car;l from queens

the best and only way to eliminate the second presidential term course, is to make it a one six year term... a second term possible, but not consecutively...

May. 22 2013 10:33 AM

One of her suggestions seems to be let anyone vote in either primary? Then what is the point of the being in a party? Why not as mayor mike wants open elections no parties. No middle men.

May. 22 2013 10:32 AM
Milton from Westchester

You will simply never have bi-partisan agreements or commonality if the two sides of a debate are too polarized. In fact, disagreeing and refusing to work with the other side will be seen as a POSITIVE for the more extremists. The problem is that so many of the elected officials - on all levels - are most definitely NOT representative of the "People", even those in their districts. Thus, an essential first step is to - as Sen. Snowe says - undo the gerrymandering that leads directly and inextricably to extreme partisan politics. See:
http://milewin.tumblr.com/post/40533532842/gerrymander-nation

May. 22 2013 10:27 AM

Imagine, for a moment, that Sen. Olympia Snowe, were:
- at least as progressive as Bernie Sanders (I-VT), on economic issues, foreign policy and civil liberties
BUT...
- were staunchly, solidly _conservative/traditionalist_ on issues such as abortion and the "LGBT/GLBT"/Pro-Buggery agenda.

Do you suppose she would still be such a darling of the WNYC/NPR/NY Times/Washington Post/etc., etc. crowd?

And speaking of Bernie Sanders, when was the last time he was on this show or WNYC?

(Oh, and while I'm at it, I would like to remind Mr. Lehrer, his staff and anyone else in a position to influence programming on WNYC that Richard Wolff and Doug Henwood are both Marxist economists right here in NYC...and I'd be rather surprised if either wouldn't readily accept an invitation to be on the show...)

May. 22 2013 10:26 AM
sanych

@Bassett

Totally!

On both comments...

May. 22 2013 10:26 AM
Drew from Denver

Getting big money out of politics seems out-of-the-question.

How about instead eliminating gerrymandering and replacing it with regular shaped (octagonal or something like that) combined with open primaries to reduce this polarization and give voice to the moderate voices in the electorate who make up the majority.

May. 22 2013 10:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The Democrats on the committee gave up same-sex spousal rights in the immigration bill. What did the Republicans give up? Anything? Did I miss it?

May. 22 2013 10:21 AM

If she really wanted to make a difference , she would be speaking out against all the money in the electoral system.
The money from which she became rich. There is no way to make our electoral system responsive without getting big money out of it.

May. 22 2013 10:17 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The main thing is to fix the filibuster. Make the opposition (whichever party it is at the time) actually talk the whole time, not just threaten to.

The title of Sen. Snowe's book bothers me. You don't reach common ground by fighting for it. Or was that the point?

May. 22 2013 10:17 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

@Susan Schneider-

Maybe by demanding that the leftist, Obama-defending mainstream media start playing it down the middle?

They have shamelessly abrogated their responsibility for objectivity by their advocacy and activism.

May. 22 2013 10:16 AM

Senator -

My major determinant for the well-being of Americans is the amount of goods and services that the average income commands - roughly the ratio of average income divided by GDP. That amount has fallen - due to population growth, monetary growth and tax policy so that the average income commands approx. 30% less today than the MINIMUM wage income could command in 1968. There is, for me, no greater sign of the failure (and the death) of the American Dream. Our greed has killed it. The average income no longer pays for the things that keep an economy strong - education, day care services, healthcare, housing, vacations....Our economy can do nothing but fall if we do not repair the problem.

Has Congress and our executive failed or did they mean to do it?

The 'heavy lift' will be fixing our horrible income distribution but I don't see any way to get it done. Do you?

May. 22 2013 10:16 AM
Bobby G from East Village

I once saw a Republican Congressman on a Sunday morning talk show say that his job was to demonize his political opponent.

Let's make a pact to respect each other and recognize that opposing views have validity.

May. 22 2013 10:16 AM

Snowe is nothing more than a political hack who left the senate because she lost her power. Why did she not speak up publicly while she was a senator. She is the reason that there is no public option in the ACA , she has made a fortune from the insurance industries and from wall street. Her family is knee deep in the schools for profit schemes. She is a complete sham and while everyone deserves to be heard, she does not deserve the honor you are giving her on this show.

May. 22 2013 10:13 AM

The guest ignores the fact that Clinton and Obama are compromises to the right, from the Great Society leaders.
Alas the republicats have taken that as a mandate to move to the radical right. result: extinction of the north east republicats, extinction of the west coast republicats, regional party for the anti science ilk.
North eastern gops moderates know their last primary is coming
Santorum 2016!

May. 22 2013 10:13 AM
Jesiah from Upstate NY

We need to publicize all election monetary contributions and make it a level playing field for ALL parties running for office in our government. We need more parties with different ideas instead of what we believe to be a "two-party" system.

May. 22 2013 10:12 AM
Susan Schneider from Chatham NJ

How do we keep blatant lies and misinformation from shaping the public debate, and therefore legislation?

May. 22 2013 10:11 AM

What are you gonna be a Lobbyist for. The system is broken because its too over reaching. Cut big government.

May. 22 2013 10:10 AM
Frank from NYC

Bipartisan means something different in Washington: it means Democrats caving and Republicans gloating about it. See also: immigration vote yesterday.

May. 22 2013 10:09 AM
sold out

we have a sold-out congress - and this and that - but what we also have are feet to get up and and voices to use - we need to take this upon ourselves!!!

May. 22 2013 10:09 AM
sanych

Congress' low rating is a reflection of the simple fact that government is bloated and fails to perform its function.

The simple fact is also that the country is much worse shape then when Senator Snowe was first elected to Senate in 1994. She may want to reflect on this during the interview, but I think the answer is in the title of her book.

In Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story" which takes place in the near future this country is ruled by a single party called "Bipartisans".

If the goal is to find a "common ground", why just simply steal Shteyngart's idea and FORMALLY join R & D parties?

May. 22 2013 09:40 AM
oscar from ny

There are stalemates because their is no found resolution among the ppl of congress, it seems everyone has their own agenda, don't care or are misinformed.
Earlier congress was grilling apple™ on some nonsense, hasn't apple at least give the world I phones computers, technology?..government always goes for the good guys, why don't they attack the banks, the money lenders, all these insurance frauds taking a toll on America, usuary is the ultimate god for these politicians made tax collectors that little by little have devestated the u.s.
We have a president who is crearly scared to take on these frauds and simply things are eventually getting worse...is there anyone out there?...

May. 22 2013 09:25 AM

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