Steve Schmidt, who was the senior campaign strategist for John McCain in 2008, made an insightful comment this morning on MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown about the unexpected retirement of a frustrated Olympia Snowe:
The Republican Party I think is inarguably stronger with its moderates in the party. Is the Republican Party a stronger party with Olympia Snowe a member of the United States Senate? I think the answer is yes.
We’ve heard so much talk over the last couple of years, purging the party of its RINOs, purging the party of its moderate members. And there are just two types of churches. One that tries to go out and bring in converts and one that goes out and hunts heretics. And we have been a party that’s done a lot of heretic hunting over the last couple of years.
Ronald Reagan talked about the fact that someone who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my political opponent, you know, they’re my ally. And it was a stronger party with Olympia Snowe in it, and what the likely result’s gonna be now is that it is gonna be harder for Republicans to get the majority in the U.S. Senate and almost impossible for Republicans to serve the state of Maine in the United States Senate.
All I can say to that is,
Thank you, Olympia Snowe!
I am not one of those who celebrated Senator Snowe’s so-called moderation, since she was a part of nearly all Republican obstructionism in the Senate over the last three years.
I remember her saying she urged President Obama to “take the public option off the table” in his address to Congress in September of 2009, implying that she could support the bill without it. She said back then,
I don’t support a public option and none of my Republican colleagues do.
Well, there was no public option and Senator Snowe still did not vote for the health care reform bill, a piece of legislation largely crafted (and weakened) to get votes from Republicans like her. You may remember that she famously supported the bill in the Senate Finance Committee, using the now-ironic words,
Is this bill all that I would want? Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.
Apparently, when history came calling for a vote on final passage of the Affordable Care Act, Snowe was in her garage painting a Tea Party placard. She knew then that uber-conservatives would excoriate her for a “yes” vote and raise up a candidate to challenge her in this year’s primary.
How sad that Ms. Snowe, who gets a lot of credit—only some of it deserved—for being a reasonable, moderate Republican, chose to say no to history, when history came not just calling, but begging for her support.
And given her behavior related to one of the most significant pieces of legislation in recent memory, and given her support for Republican filibusters during Obama’s first term, how strange for her to say about her pending retirement:
Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term…I see a vital need for the political center in order for our democracy to flourish and to find solutions that unite rather than divide us. It is time for change in the way we govern…we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.
To repeat what Steve Schmidt said,
…there are just two types of churches. One that tries to go out and bring in converts and one that goes out and hunts heretics. And we have been a party that’s done a lot of heretic hunting over the last couple of years.
And there are those, like Olympia Snowe, who herself never hunted heretics in her party, but who sat in the pews keeping the seats warm for those who did.
Here is Olympia Snowe’s “take the public option off the table” moment: