Olympia Snowe: I'm tired of this darned partisan dysfunction

Stick with it at least until 5:20, when Mitchell tries to bait her into dumping on Santorum and the rest of the GOP field for their outrageously outrageous rhetoric. (Snowe declines, aside from some boilerplate about the “big tent.”) The most mystifying bit from the interview:

Snowe said that she is leaving the Senate out of frustration with the gridlock and because she feels she can better be a voice for building consensus outside of the chamber.

“I’m going to be giving my voice to what should change here in the United States Senate, and in Congress, to get things done for the American people,” she said. “People are deeply frustrated. Yes, they’re facing personal financial pains and hardship, but more about the fact that we are not getting things done here in Congress, so that they can look to their political leaders and institutions to solve the problems that they’re facing in their daily lives at this unprecedented moment in American history.”…

“I made the decision not to run for reelection in the United States Senate and to pursue other opportunities outside the Senate, where perhaps I could give voice to the frustrations that exist with the political system here in Washington, where it’s dysfunction and the political paralysis has overtaken the environment to the detriment of this country,” Snowe continued, blaming both parties for the “dysfunction.”

It’s the rare senator who remains a major player in national politics after leaving the chamber. Someone like DeMint could pull it off because he has so many admirers among passionate activists, but I can’t imagine how Snowe thinks she’ll have more influence outside the Senate than within. This is what I was getting at in that old post that I re-linked yesterday wondering whether she might leave the GOP and organize a new caucus of independents with fellow centrists like Collins, Lieberman, Brown, Nelson, Manchin, and so forth. If they all quit their parties at once and pulled a move like that, it’d be big news — not only because it would legitimize political independence in a presidential election year even at the highest levels of government but because, if they made a deal to vote as a bloc, they’d could potentially force Reid and McConnell to bend towards the center. There’s almost nothing she could do as an ex-senator that would top that, although if she has something in the works with the Americans Elect people, that might do it. I saw someone mention that possibility on Twitter yesterday; if you read their mission statement, it does sound an awful lot like her exasperated resignation announcement yesterday. Maybe there’s something in the works to pair Snowe with a centrist Democrat — Evan Bayh, maybe? — on a fusion ticket that would add some senatorial credibility to the third-party option this year. The goal wouldn’t be to win (neither Bayh nor Snowe would attract partisans from their respective sides) but to mainstream the idea of a centrist indie presidential option, possibly by even landing a spot at the debates in October. I’m skeptical it’ll happen, but stay tuned.

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