Olympia Snowe

Senior Fellow; Former U.S. Senator from Maine
Snowe, Olympia Photo.jpg

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Olympia Snowe is a BPC senior fellow and co-chairs its Commission on Political Reform. With her election to the U.S. Senate in 1994, Snowe began an 18-year career in the Senate, serving until January 2, 2013.

Before her election to the Senate, Snowe represented Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years. She was the first woman in U.S. history to serve in both houses of a state legislature and both houses of Congress. When first elected to Congress in 1978, at the age of 31, Snowe was the youngest Republican woman, and the first Greek-American woman, ever elected to Congress. She has won more federal elections in Maine than any other person since World War II, and is the third-longest serving woman in the history of the Congress. While in the House, she co-chaired the Congressional Caucus on Women’s issues for ten years.

Snowe is a former chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, became the first Republican woman ever to secure a full-term seat on the Senate Finance Committee, and was also the first woman senator to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower, which oversees the Navy and Marine Corps.

In 2005, Snowe was named the 54th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. In 2006, Time magazine named her one of the top ten U.S. senators.

In May 2013, Weinstein Books published Senator Snowe’s book, Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress, that explains how Congress has become so polarized, and what Americans can do to encourage our Senators and Representatives to govern effectively once again.

I’m pleased and proud to help spearhead BPC’s Commission on Political Reform, because it’s an effort whose time has come. From my perspective of nearly 40 years in elective office, and most recently as a three-term senator who departed the institution at the beginning of 2013, I’ve witnessed government’s greatest potential. I have also experienced its calamitous capacity for dysfunction.

I find it profoundly regrettable that excessive political polarization in Washington today is preventing us from achieving solutions precisely at a time of monumental challenges for our nation. However, I didn’t leave the Senate because I ceased believing in its potential, or because I no longer love the institution—but precisely because I do.

I’m just taking my fight in a different direction, from the outside, to help return the Senate to its roots as a place of refuge from the passions of politics—to the Founding Fathers’ vision of a forum where the political fires are tempered, not stoked. That’s where the instrumental work of the Commission on Political Reform comes in. What’s particularly valuable is the commission’s efforts to engage the public, because that is the only way we can ultimately effect the changes that are necessary in Congress and our political system. That’s why I joined BPC: to amplify that crucial objective. We need not accept that polarized at-all-costs partisanship must be the new norm. We can reverse the tide—because even as the atmosphere in Washington today is all too often lamentable, I am convinced it is not irreparable.

Americans agree there is extreme partisanship in DC, but is it present in the country as a whole?

Kurt L. Schmoke, former Mayor of Baltimore (D) and Vice President and General Counsel of Howard University; Antonia Hernández, President and CEO, California Community Foundation; Heather Gerken, J. Skelly Wright Professor of Law, Yale Law School; Olympia Snowe, former U.S. Senator (R-ME); and Reihan Salam, lead writer, National Review, discuss. Watch the video