Could Snowe become Democrat #61 in the Senate?
Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

If I were to speculate on recent events, given the Arlen Specter switch to the Democratic party, along with the insane "You're either with us, or you're against us!" rhetoric that has infected the Republican discourse for some time now, I might look at Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) latest op-ed in the N.Y. Times and think that she's practically DARING them to give her a reason to switch as well.
It is true that being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like being a cast member of “Survivor” — you are presented with multiple challenges, and you often get the distinct feeling that you’re no longer welcome in the tribe. But it is truly a dangerous signal that a Republican senator of nearly three decades no longer felt able to remain in the party.
It's an interesting analogy she makes, and really speaks to the discomfort she must feel right now. In many ways, it IS like Survivor - one of the most common mistakes players make on that show is believing that being the hardest worker, or the best at challenges, is somehow going to endear you to the rest of the tribe. The game isn't about physical survival, it's about social survival. Similarly, Snowe and Collins seem like they think the game of the day is about rational governance, while the rest of the party is playing my favorite party game, known as "Principled Self-Immolation."

While I'd love to see a true Moderate movement spring up, spear-headed by reasonable, true centrist leaders like Snowe, I must acknowledge that for now the Two Party system is the only system on the horizon for the near future (despite polls that suggest that 38% percent or so wouldn't mind officially declaring for a well implemented Independent Party). Glancing at her Wikipedia entry, she seems like the kind of lady I could really like in politics, despite our occasional disagreements.

So, my question is, what is Snowe up to here? Is she secretly hoping that being outspoken will draw enough criticism from the GOP that she'll be able to easily switch parties by making them seem like the ones who are being unreasonable here? Is she signaling to the Democratic party that she's open to being approached again? Or is she simply drawing a line in the sand and standing up for the last shred of reason that might remain in her party?

Why she would switch:
  • If the Republicans attempt to punish her for her op-ed and recent public comments, I think the old "Spartan spirit" in her might just tell them to go fuck themselves. I find it unlikely that the Republicans would go after her, offficially (since they'll leave that job to the trolls at FOX News and other outlets), but you never know...
  • Perhaps the Democrats dangle the right committee to her, or under take some other aggressive recruiting measures. Based on her comments, she seems primed to hear the argument that the Democrats are now the party that is best able to deliver on the principles she finds most important: strong national defense, individual opporunity, and so on (they'll probably never sway her on the fiscal aspects of their platform).
  • Following Anonymous Liberal's advice, Snowe could also just declare herself an Independent, much as Jim Jeffords did.
Why she wouldn't switch:
  • Again, looking at her recent public statements, she's pretty firm right now about feeling like a Republican (albeit an endangered variety of one). So maybe she's just resigned to the apparent fate of the party.
  • She's massively popular in her state, and doesn't really need the GOP's support to win her seat year after year. So why rock the boat, when she already enjoys a powerful position as a swing vote, and the respect of the Democrats for being one of the only rational Republicans left?
  • That same massive popularity affords her the room to attempt to steer the party back onto the course that she wants. Best case scenario: the GOP listens to her and begins to rebuild. Worse case scenario: they don't want to hear what she has to say and are a bunch of dicks to her, but she doesn't care because, again - she doesn't need their support and approval to keep trucking along as she has been.
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