Melting Snowe: Another ‘Moderate’ Retires from the Senate

In one fell swoop Tuesday afternoon, Olympia Snowe may have not only crushed Mitch McConnell’s dreams of taking over the Senate, she also wrote the epitaph for political moderates in the world’s greatest deliberative body.

Snowe’s stunning retirement announcement — she gave just a few hours’ notice to McConnell and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — was the latest and greatest example of Snowe throwing a monkey wrench into GOP leadership plans.

As the Politico reports, the retirement announcement by Olympia Snowe (R-ME) was a shocker. She’s being hailed as a “moderate,” but she famously — or infamously — would not step forward to publicly support a serious but modest climate bill when doing so might have mattered.

And that’s in spite of co-chairing the 2005 International Climate Change Taskforce that embraced the 2°C (3.6 F) target since, of course, if humans allow substantially higher warming, we are risking “irreversible damage to important terrestrial ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest, the report warns. Above [that level] the risks of abrupt, accelerated, or runaway climate change also increase.”

Snowe said, “I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

What’s particularly sad is that her move to the right on several issues in the past couple of years was widely seen as an effort to forestall a Tea Party challenger this year. Given that she isn’t even running now, she could have been a big champion of climate action and led the way for a truly bipartisan Senate climate bill during the one brief shining moment there were actually enough progressives and moderates in the Senate to make it happen.

After all, 7 years ago she co-chaired a panel that reviewed the science and concluded:

The cost of failing to mobilise in the face of this threat is likely to be extremely high. The economic costs alone will be very large: as extreme weather events such as droughts and floods become more destructive and frequent; communities, cities, and island nations are damaged or inundated as sea level rises; and agricultural output is disrupted. The social and human costs are likely to be even greater, encompassing mass loss of life, the spread or exacerbation of diseases, dislocation of populations, geopolitical instability, and a pronounced decrease in the quality of life.  Impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity are also likely to be devastating. Preventing dangerous climate change, therefore, must be seen as a precondition for prosperity and a public good, like national security and public health.

By contrast, the cost of taking smart, effective action to meet the challenge of climate change should be entirely manageable. Such action need notundermine standards of living. Furthermore, by taking action now and developing a long-term climate policy regime we can ensure that the benefits of climate protection are achieved at least cost…. By reducing greenhouse emissions and deploying new climate-friendly technologies, companies can create jobs and launch a new era of economic prosperity.

We’re already seeing much of this happen. In the last 7 years, the science, of course, has only become stronger and the cost of inaction has only become higher.  Where is our Churchill?

9 Responses to Melting Snowe: Another ‘Moderate’ Retires from the Senate

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    This is great news for the Democrats. The Republicans will probably nominate a Tea Party
    type, who will be easy pickings in the fall.

    Snowe’s recent timidity against her oil dominated party when it came to climate change legislation is a mystery. Hers was one of the safest seats in the Senate, and she wasn’t going to please the Tea Party anyway.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Actually Mike it isn’t too much of a mystery – she was given the message quite clearly that she would get a primary challenge (where moderates don’t do well and radicals do) if she didn’t swerve to the right – which she did over the last year and a half, but she got the challenge anyways and obviously didn’t want to go through with it.

    While a primary challenge isn’t a guaranteed loss, its been used by the Koch funded and guided Tea party groups to pick the moderates out of the GOP.

  3. Sasparilla says:

    The moderates from the GOP are being eliminated. This is not good for folks wanting climate change action and green energy. Even when in majorities Dems can’t get it done themselves as we saw from 2009 through 2010 (they always have folks who won’t vote for climate change or green energy or both).

    This is a continued victory for the Koch funded and guided radical tea party groups who target GOP moderates with primary challengers and while it doesn’t get 100% of them knocked off each time, it gets a good chunk of them knocked off and the tea partiers come back the next election cycle funded well. Consequently the remaining “moderates” in the GOP swerve to the right in their voting in fear of this outcome (Snowe actually did this over the last year and a half or so but she got the primary challenge anyways).

    While the short term take is the Dems will probably get this seat, which is good. The loss of the Senate to the GOP is a horrible possibility.

    The long term take is that the moderates in the GOP are being systematically wiped out and those that remain are being intimidated not to vote moderately out of fear from the Koch wing of the GOP (courtesy of the Koch’s) – the GOP has essentially been hijacked by these Godfather like entities that the Koch’s have funded and organized – this blocks action on climate change and is hard to see a way out of.

    It would seem this would hurt the GOP at some point in the future (they’ll get so radical they’ll loose non primary votes in mass), but so far we haven’t seen it.

    Senator Collins (R-ME) another even more moderate that is on the tea parties target list as well during her next election (2014?).

    Couple of nice articles regarding the Tea Party and Snowe:

    Farewell Olympia I only wish the Dems would have actually done something on climate change immediately (2009) when you (and a few other GOP moderates) could have, politically, helped make it happen.

  4. Barry Saxifrage says:

    Olympia Snowe:
    * woman
    * daughter of immigrant
    * university educated
    * political “moderate”

    These are all groups that the venom and actions of the angry old white men running the GOP are driving out of the party. There is just no room for a person like here in the nasty remnants of the Republican party.

    She, like Obama, had a historic opportunity to push through climate action and failed to rise to the challenge. Perhaps we will hear from her in coming years about how it is important for Congress to take urgent action on climate threat.

    That seems to be the pattern so far: balk on the actual chance and rue the lack action of by others later.

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    Good point, Sasparilla, I hadn’t thought of that.

  6. M Tucker says:

    I lost all respect for her because of her opposition to the climate bill, her opposition to the final health care bill and the ridiculous position she took on the debt ceiling vote. How many debt ceiling votes had she cast over her time in the Senate? And just because the Republicans decided to go off the rails on this issue since the 2008 election she was willing to vote with the idiots who wanted to play chicken with default…What a useless, worthless waste of experience she turned out to be.

  7. Luc Binette says:

    Sad story indeed, once in a lifetime chance to make a contribution to mankind, and …

  8. Dick Smith says:

    No one will match this column in quality and tone (restrained anger, but no cheap shots). She screwed up on climate even when she knew the truth. You called her on it. Let others sing her praises. Thank you for keeping it honest on her climate record. What an incredible lost opportunity she had.

  9. Ziyu says:

    It’s important to remember that parties that purge their moderates never survive in the end. Let’s hope that downfall comes not too late for us to prevent catastrophe.