While the eyes of the political world were on Michigan today and the Republican primary, a more significant political event in my eyes occurred when Sen. Olympia Snowe from Maine announced she was retiring from the Senate. As a Democrat, I suppose I should be giddy about it, right? After all, Snowe is a Republican, and Democrats have a very good chance of taking that seat, with Snowe’s retirement. Her shocking and unexpected move today significantly reduces the chances of Republicans taking control of the Senate come November.
However, I don’t take Snowe’s retirement as good news. Snowe joins a host of other long-time, more moderate Senators who are retiring, including Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad, and Ben Nelson. Other long-time Senators who USED to have a bipartisan streak, such as John McCain, have increasingly moved away from the center, echoing a trend in Washington that just keeps gathering steam. The House is already a steaming pile of partisanshi$, where neither party seems capable of having a simple civil conversation, much less cooperating with each other to do the Nation’s business. The Senate USED to be the more “civil” bunch, where Senators reached across the aisle to pass crucial legislation.
So much for that. With Snowe’s retirement, with the retirement of moderate Senators from BOTH parties, and with the steady radicalization of the rest of the Senate, the Senate simply becomes a smaller and equally nasty version of the House. It’s a horrible trend, given the archaic rules of the Senate, where the filibuster already has made passing legislation a complete impossibility at times. Now, with moderate Senators fleeing in droves? It matters little who takes the Senate in the fall. Neither party will be able to pass any meaningful legislation.
Remember late last summer and early fall, when Obama and Boehner had supposedly reached a “Grand Bargain” of a debt-reduction package? Of course the radicals at both ends of the political spectrum made sure that backroom agreement went nowhere. With the continued radicalization of Congress, with moderates dropping like flies, and with the complete and utter hatred the two parties seem to have for each other, it’s damned hard to see meaningful deficit reduction legislation (or ANY truly meaningful legislation) being passed in the next Congress.