Political Animal


October 16, 2011 9:45 AM What passes for moderation

By Steve Benen

As Occupy demonstrations reached Maine this week, some activists want to know why their “moderate” Republican senators didn’t hesitate to kill a credible jobs bill this week, despite its inclusion of popular, bipartisan provisions. Jamison Foser noted that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has already explained her position, though I don’t imagine protesters will find it especially satisfying.

In her five-paragraph statement about her vote against the jobs bill, Snowe indicated an objection to only one of the bill’s provisions: the surcharge on adjusted gross income in excess of one million dollars a year, which would affect only one-tenth of one percent of Maine residents.

So it’s pretty clear what side Snowe is on: She sides with the richest one-tenth of one percent of Mainers, and against 99.9 percent of her constituents. It really doesn’t get much clearer than that. But just to drive the point home, Snowe spoke to group of businessmen [Friday] morning, where she courageously told them their taxes are too high and they are over-regulated.

Also remember, this comes just a few weeks after Snowe tried to argue that government spending is “clearly … the problem” when it comes to the nation’s finances, which is a popular line among conservatives, despite being wrong.

To reiterative a point from last month, there’s some prime real estate in the political landscape for genuine GOP centrists who could have a significant impact. Real Republican moderates, if they existed, would not only generate considerable attention, but could potentially have an instrumental role in shaping policy and helping Congress actually function for a change.

But that’s not an option. The best of the best — relatively speaking, of course — is Olympia Snowe, and she’s so terrified of a primary challenge and breaking ranks with her party, she’d rather kill a jobs bill without a debate during a jobs crisis than ask millionaires and billionaires to pay just a little more.

Where have you gone, Mark Hatfield; a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • jhm on October 16, 2011 10:02 AM:

    GOPers (and two DINOs) didn't just vote against President Obama's jobs bill, by filibustering a motion to proceed, they signaled that they were against _any_ jobs bill. They didn't even want to debate a bill; didn't want to have a chance to vote on all the various parts which they claim are so horrible; didn't want to offer amendments, or a substitution (assuming they come up with any). There would have been the opportunity to filibuster the final result is these votes had not gone their way, so there isn't even that excuse. This was a denial of the only legislative effort yet to introduce a jobs bill from reaching the floor of either body. It should be reported as such.

  • J on October 16, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Actually there used to be several of them. I remember watching the '76 Republican nominating convention on TV, the one that the Reagan forces that were to triumph the next time round came close, and were the loudest force present. Jacob Javits, then elderly and wheel chair, gave a speech in which he said we must not forget those less fortunate than ourselves. He was roundly booed. I date my sense of the right-ward trajectory of the present day Republican party from that moment.

  • c u n d gulag on October 16, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Since you asked:
    The GOP Centrists are now the Red Dog Democrats ('cause there ain't nothin' blue 'bout 'em).

    And the Moderate GOPers are now the Center-left Democrats.

    Today's Republican Party ought to be rebranded as Nihilistic Fascists, of Fascist Nihilists.

  • berttheclock on October 16, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Mark Hatfield, indeed. The son of working class parents, he worked for the common man and woman. As a Naval officer, he saw the horrors of war at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and the aftermath of the A-bomb in Japan, then, he was sent to, then, French Indo-China, where he observed the huge wealth differential between the French colonialists and the peasants. In Oregon, he saw the affects of racial discrimination against African-Americans, when, he helped some African-American musicians find accomadations after they had been turned away for hotel rooms in Salem because of their race. He introduced and passed needed legislation to change this evil practice. Mark Hatfield came from a long lost generation of proud liberal Republicans, who believed in equality, financially, politically and socially, for all. He was light years away from the, now, RepuGnant Party.

  • martin on October 16, 2011 10:19 AM:

    So,for the love of god, can we stop pretending Olympia Snowe is a moderate. There are no Republican moderates in either chamber of congress. Let's just move on.

  • jayackroyd on October 16, 2011 10:27 AM:

    It's not position on the political spectrum that's making me nuts wrt the republicans. It's their complete unwillingness to govern, to engage in any kind of policy discussion that's grounded in any kind of actual reality.

    Warren Rudman, for instance was no moderate. But he lived in the universe with the spherical earth and a blue sky.

  • FRP on October 16, 2011 10:36 AM:

    I lament that Sen. Chuck Hagel has no admirers here . The fellow was as shocked by the arrogance and intractable truculence of this hybrid theocratic "political" party .
    The only thing reflective of the term political in the recent theocratic incarnation of the right , is they wish to exercise the legal arrival of accepted power , unilaterally .

  • Steve Paradis on October 16, 2011 10:55 AM:

    Garry Wills said recently that you vote for the party, not the person. The parties--especially the GOP--are so locked into their positions that no room exists for the Hatfields.
    Every state has a GOP elder statesman, winner of many elections with large majorities across the spectrum, now shunted aside by Bachmanites as being RINO's because they won't embrace the insane politics of the new GOP.

  • H.Finn on October 16, 2011 11:28 AM:

    The only other place you will find the level of cognitive dissonance that exists within the Republican party are dictator states.

  • square1 on October 16, 2011 11:29 AM:

    "What we're gonna do is ask Senators Snowe and Collins what side they're on. Are they on Wall Street's side or are they on Main street?" [nurses union president] Giles asked the supporters.

    This is a common rhetorical mistake of Democrats/liberals. They ask questions. They don't make statements. Republicans, otoh, accuse their political opponents of various things and invite their opponents to prove them wrong.

    With all due respect to Ms. Giles, all this statement does is make her and her union look like suckers. Snowe just killed debate on the jobs bill and Giles is asking which side Snowe is on? Seriously. Didn't the vote just tell you that? Here's a novel idea. Just accuse Snowe of being a corrupt tool of Wall Street and let the Senator dispute it if she feels like it.

  • Jim on October 16, 2011 11:33 AM:

    I'd love to see William Cohen, Angus King or some other old-school Maine Republican or Independent threaten one of these spineless weasels from the actual center.

  • Jim on October 16, 2011 11:41 AM:

    FRP on October 16, 2011 10:36 AM:
    I lament that Sen. Chuck Hagel has no admirers here .

    Am I missing an earlier discussion? I admire Hagel, I only regret that--like Cohen, John Warner, Howard Baker, I suppose we could throw in Colin Powell-- he refuses to commit to a fight against what they know (what I think they know) is the destructive lunacy of their own party. They mumble some vague platitudes, genuflect to the Broderian altar of "both sides have their extremes", and stay out of the fight. I suppose they're marginally better than the Snowes and Lugars who actually join the crazy to maintain their titles. Collins I don't put in quite the same camp, because everything I've seen suggests she's too dumb to actually understand the damage she's doing.

  • bigtuna on October 16, 2011 12:00 PM:

    And if one thinks about this surcharge, it is on the AGI of > $1 million. Of the 323,000 Americans who filed tax returns with that level of AGI, I bet most have shrewd tax attorneys and accountants that shield income, shelter earnings, etc., Thus, AGI of this level means these folks live pretty damn well, and their net gains, when you add all the cutsy tax things they get to do, is way way way more than a million.

    square1 has it right. Stop posing these goofy rhetorical questions. State simply:

    Olympia Snowe sides with those xxx Mainers who make more than one million /year after all their deductions. Sen. Snowe - supports the ultra rich; dumps on the working family.

  • rikyrah on October 16, 2011 12:06 PM:

    just let her get beat. I'm with others. Stop pretending that this shuffling, afraid of her own shadow woman is a MODERATE.


  • Schtick on October 16, 2011 12:08 PM:

    Olympia Snowe is an upstanding good member of the tealiban. That she can flip and flop shows that very well, altho, she hasn't got the art of it as well as McCan't and Willard the Rat. Coming from Maine it is still a good "Snowe" job.

    crapcha....functions ctudgt....does it function well?

  • KarenJG on October 16, 2011 12:09 PM:

    Yet more evidence (as if we needed any), that all the "moderate" posturing in the world means nothing. I don't care what any Publican *says* they will do. It doesn't matter if they honestly believe their words or are just blowing smoke. The bottom line is, they won't vote that way.

    When the roll is called, there are no moderates in the the Publican party. And that's all that matters.

  • Elizabelle on October 16, 2011 12:19 PM:

    As went Blanche Lincoln, so will go Olympia Snowe.

    A shame. Was rooting for both of them earlier in their careers.

    I think Snowe could be elected as an independent. Disappointed she's sticking with the GOP on this one.

  • vermontdave on October 16, 2011 12:42 PM:

    The last Republican that I voted for was Jim Jeffords, and he left the party not too long after.

    When I was growing up, if you lived in the rural areas of New England, you would pretty much be a Republican.

    Not so much anymore.

  • Davis X. Machina on October 16, 2011 2:05 PM:

    Snowe's ambition is to ride out the fever that presently possesses the GOP and come out on the other side the leader of a new, non-God-bothering, non-Confederate, non-looney Republican party. She came this close to achieving that status before the madness, and it rankles her no end.

    She could win election up here as an independent standing on her head. Something like 30% of registered Democrats already cross over to vote for her. So it's not the Senate seat.

    It's more than that. It's to have her version of what it means to be a Republican be vindicated. And to do that she has to ride out the present storm.

  • Maineiac on October 16, 2011 3:21 PM:

    I was there. It was mostly retired teachers and nurses. I am going to send a letter to the paper about this 1 percent of the 1 percent of Maine people. Thanks

  • gocart mozart on October 16, 2011 4:36 PM:

    A Republican "moderate" is someone who whispers "no" instead of shouting "NO!"

  • dweb on October 16, 2011 5:55 PM:

    Olympia, Olympia.....poor dear...

    trying so frantically to move as far right as possible and avoid a primary.

    Olympia, Olympia....such a futile effort.

    They are going to primary your fanny sweetie. You might as well face that fact. You can never be pure enough for them.

  • Rich on October 16, 2011 7:04 PM:

    I was hoping that Collins, and especially Snowe, would no longer be considered in the political calculus. Snowe, in particular seems to love the attention. Both seem inexplicably popular in their home state, although they are their kind of representation eventually does catch-up with politicians. The DNC should start highlighting this. It might actually inocculate them against primaries, but weaken them in the general.

  • gmoke on October 16, 2011 8:34 PM:

    Talk to Buddy Roemer. No, seriously, talk to Buddy Roemer. He's a Republican running for President who doesn't fit within the usual boundaries and is basing his campaign around taking big money out of elections, one reason why he doesn't get invited to the interminable Repug debates.

    Talk to Buddy Roemer. He ain't crazy and he has things to say.

  • Hank Roberts on October 16, 2011 8:46 PM:

    > She sides with the richest one-tenth of one percent
    > of Mainers, and against 99.9 percent of her constituents.

    Washington Monthly can fill in the correct numbers, I hope:

    "She sides with the richest ______ of her contributors, of whom _____ are from Maine, against 99.9 percent of her constituents."

    Please -- get the numbers. For everyone.

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  • Eric on October 17, 2011 10:53 AM:

    Snowe gets away with her claim to be a moderate despite a long history of reliably voting with Republican leadership anytime they need her. Her occasional, well publicized deviations from the leadership position all happen when it doesn't matter. In Maine, though, my nominally independent neighbors don't know this because nobody pushes back against her claim to "moderation" except in the last few months of an election every six years. Rather than remaining silent, I suppose in the hope that she will give them one of those bi-partisan votes she is permitted, the national Democrats need to use her consistently partisan history at time like this to change voters perception of her. If they did, she would get better opponents and they would be much more likely to win.