When Olympia J. Snowe told Mitch McConnell in February 2012 that she was going to retire from the Senate, the first words out of the Republican Minority Leader’s mouth were, “Goodness gracious.”
McConnell no doubt instantly calculated that if the moderate Republican Snowe bowed out, her Maine Senate seat likely would fall into Democratic hands – which it did.
McConnell told Snowe that if she ran for another term, she would be at the “peak of her power” and could help build bipartisan support for legislation. That was an interesting argument from one of the most partisan lawmakers who had dedicated his efforts to denying President Obama a second term. But Snowe, a prominent and beloved moderate Republican on Capitol Hill, had made up her mind to leave…
Since leaving the Senate in January, rather than taking it easy, she finished her new autobiography, delivered a series of speeches sounding the alarm about hyper-partisanship in Washington, and working as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank focused on achieving principled solutions through rigorous analysis. Snowe is also co-chair of Commission for Political Reform, which is conducting seminars around the country.
Last week, she helped launch the Common Ground Project, a grass roots organization to get ordinary citizens involved in political reform in Washington and across the country. “We want to give people a channel to be a catalyst for change in real time,” she explained in an interview last week. The goal is to use social media and on-line technology inform Americans about what is or isn’t happening in Congress, what can be done to break the political stalemate “and to be a counterweight to the extremes that continue to perpetuate the status quo of polarization and partisanship.”