TUCSON, ARIZ. – Former Sen. Olympia Snowe, a longtime moderate Republican from Maine, touted bipartisanship as the solution to this nation’s woes during a recent speech at the University of Arizona, one in a recent string of campus speeches she has given to showcase her ideas on how to fix America.
“Bipartisan legislative partnerships are absolutely crucial, if not indispensible, to minimizing the political barriers and maximizing the potential of Congress,” Snowe said Thursday night in front of a packed auditorium. “You would not have had Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act rolled into the fabric of our country if they had been voted on purely partisan lines.”
She called bipartisanship the solution to the nation’s “great divide,” and suggested open primaries across the nation, independent redistricting commissions to prevent gerrymandering, and campaign finance reforms as ways to fix what she sees as the country’s broken political system.
“We have arrived at a point where we are now held captive, as Americans, to raw ideology [and] podium thumping belligerence,” Snowe said, adding this has contributed to Congress’ inaction on tax policy, meager job creation, and the ongoing economic recession.
Instead of “worrying about the ramifications and the reverberations on the country itself,” Snowe said she finds most politicians to be mainly concerned with “scoring political points.”
Change is imperative to prevent the current system of politics from becoming the legislative norm, according to the senator.
Snowe established a reputation as an outspoken centrist during her time in Congress. She decided not to seek reelection in 2012, citing the gridlock that had “incapacitated Congress” as the reason for her retirement.
Now Snowe is calling for the restoration of the Senate back to “the system … our Founding Fathers had originally envisioned.”
The process must begin outside the walls of Congress, with constituents exercising their rights as citizens who are part of a representative democracy by demanding change, she argued.
“If we demand bipartisanship and value consensus building, we will get it,” Snowe said. “So we have to provide a political reward for those who are willing to reach across the political aisle.”
The senator called for voters to not only hold their congressmen and senators accountable at the polls on Election Day, but also during the interim between elections. By doing this, the senator says the constituents can wield their influence to enact policy changes.
“There are no magic wands in terms of what can be done but there are a number of issues and initiatives that can be embraced,” Snowe said.
The senator proposed the introduction of independent redistricting commissions in states across the country to prevent against gerrymandering that created “non-competitive districts.”
Snowe also proposed the institution of an open primary system across the country that would allow independents to vote in Republican and Democratic primaries so their votes could “mitigate and dilute the impact of ideological influences in the primaries.”
What’s more, the senator called for campaign finance reform, specifically saying the leadership political action committees should be abolished because they take time away from congressmen who should be focusing on legislating instead of fundraising.
Finally, Snowe called for the enforcement of five-day workweeks for congressmen and senators.
Simply put, “we need Congress to be here to do its job,” she said.
College Fix contributor Julianne Stanford is a student at the University of Arizona.