Another moderate centrist in Congress finds what we used to call “the world’s greatest deliberative body” so dysfunctional that continuing to serve in it would be a waste of her time. Three-term Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine is one of the few in that body who could work across the aisle on important national issues. Yesterday, in her departure announcement, she says, “I find it frustrating that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.
Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.” It’s the same sentiment that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana expressed two years ago when he made the same decision (see his quote on the Home page of this site) and many others who had been previously able to help shape sensible political compromises.
Experts tell us that our Congress has never in living memory been so polarized. The results of their work over the past several decades bear that out. The diagnosis is straightforward – lack of sufficient incentive to legislate common sense solutions to the growing backlog of problems. And the answer, as Ronald Reagan would have said, is “simple but not easy.” “Simple” in that a single Constitutional amendment, the Public Check on Congress, would change the entire magnetic field surrounding the decision-making incentive system in Congress to make a quantum difference in their ability to serve the public. “Not easy” in the sense that it will take some heavy lifting to pass that amendment. And yet, with 310 million lifters in America who will benefit enormously from a well-functioning government, the task would, once again, become simple.