Sen. Olympia Snowe’s willingness to take – and maintain – a principled stance, that is sometimes at odds with her party, coupled with her ability to develop bipartisan compromises on important issues have served her and Maine well in the Senate. Her consistent popularity indicates Mainers are pleased with her work in Washington and that she deserves to be re-elected.
The fact that no well-known Democrats were willing to enter the race is an indication of Sen. Snowe’s strength. Her challengers, Democrat Jean Hay Bright and Independent William Slavick, haven’t held elective office nor do they have much financial or party support. Both have built their campaigns around their opposition to the war in Iraq and the need to withdraw U.S. troops.
Sen. Snowe has sharpened her criticism of the administration’s handling of the war, calling for a re-evaluation of U.S. policy in Iraq after Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. operation in Iraq is “drifting sideways.” She also, however, was willing to suspend habeus corpus rights for some detainees in the war on terrorism and to allow the president to define acceptable treatment, troubling concessions that are likely to be challenged in court.
A major criticism leveled by Ms. Hay Bright and Mr. Slavick is that Sen. Snowe votes with the Republican Party 82 percent of the time and only bucks the GOP on votes that don’t matter. That isn’t accurate. Standing up to party leadership and President Bush and forcing a tax-cut package, a signature of the 2000 presidential campaign, to be cut in half because it was unaffordable is a major issue. Sen. Snowe was a member of the so-called Gang of 14 that negotiated a compromise to end a Senate deadlock over judicial nominations. She has also successfully challenged the administration’s push for Medicare cuts and a change in the Navy’s shipbuilding policy that could have devastated Bath Iron Works.
Mr. Slavick, a retired University of Southern Maine professor, has long be a champion of social justice and served 19 years as coordinator of Pax Christi Maine, the Catholic and ecumenical peace movement. He joined the race to bring attention to issues – namely the violent, greedy, selfish nature of the U.S. government.
Ms. Hay Bright is well known among Democrats and is a strong defender of her party’s ideals. The organic farmer from Dixmont supports the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a national single-payer health care system and the repeal of the North American Free Trade Agreement. She is right that on issues such as health care, constitutional rights and immigration, Republicans and Democrats generally have different goals. Compromise is not possible in such a situation, she says.
In a Congress that will remain closely divided, working across the aisle will be critical to passing legislation on health care, energy, Iraq and other critical issues. Ms. Hay Bright and Mr. Slavick, being at the far-left end of the political spectrum, would have difficulty doing this. Sen. Snowe has demonstrated her willingness and ability to forge bipartisan compromises. She has long worked with Democrats on legislation to raise fuel economy standards, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases linked to climate change and to lower prescription drug prices, hardly centerpieces of the Republican agenda.
A vote for Olympia Snowe on Nov. 7 is a vote for Maine’s tradition of moderation and a common-sense approach to complex issues.