Wednesday, April 23, 2014
All Politics Is Local
People who care about what is happening to our nation must read “Fighting for Common Ground” by former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe.
In this book, Snowe states the case for how we can fix the stalemate in Congress and bring civility back to the American political scene.
Old memories came floating back as I read about her childhood in Auburn, where I also grew up. Born in Augusta, Snowe graduated from Edward Little High School.
The book brought back memories about when her first husband, Peter Snowe, was killed on the Maine Turnpike on his way to the Legislature. A Republican, she was as interested in politics as he had been, so it seemed natural when she ran successfully for his seat.
Some years later, early in Snowe’s career, after I had moved to Augusta, she sought some advice about that city as part of her campaign. I told her that the Franco-American vote was the key. (It still is.)
Her book describes how later in life, she married Gov. John “Jock” McKernan Jr.
McKernan had been a star basketball player at Bangor High School, along with Bill Cohen, and I had the pleasure of broadcasting their tournament basketball games. McKernan’s father, John Sr., was a fellow sportscaster with a wonderful voice.
While we were both at the Boston Garden broadcasting the New England High School basketball tournament, John McKernan Sr. died in his hotel room.
Years later, McKernan’s son, while at college, had suffered a similar fate as his grandfather and died of a heart attack at age 20.
McKernan and Snowe both have seen the glory of the mountaintops and the despair of the deepest chasms. The book includes many details of their lives of wonderful accomplishments coupled with terrible tragedies.
I urge all Mainers to obtain a copy of Snowe’s powerful new book and embrace its message — before it is too late.
In her book, Snowe also explains why she left after 18 years in the U.S. Senate, convinced that now she can make a difference only from the outside.
Snowe issues a call to action.
She says the two parties are so polarized that they will not seek solutions between extremes, even when it is clear neither extreme can prevail.
The nation has had no budget for three years, the U.S. debt rating was lowered for the first time in history, and we stand at the edge of a financial abyss, all because lawmakers refuse to work together.
Snowe states an irrefutable fact: Those at the Capitol must re-learn the first rule of representative government — “Compromise is not a dirty word.”
A passionate believer in principled consensus, Snowe says in the book, “We must again work together to solve serious national problems in order to improve the lives of all Americans, and show how we can put the country ahead of politics.
“We must restore accountability in our elected officials and demand institutional changes in day-to-day governance, and embark on real campaign finance reform, while building grassroots movements that reward elected officials for consensus-building, and we must give young people a stake in the system.”
Where do I sign up?
I want to oppose extremism at every level of American government — local, state and national — and Snowe, one of America’s great leaders from Maine, offers great suggestions for us in her book.
Snowe remains a “moderate on a mission,” and we must wake up and support her efforts.
I predict more Snowe on the way for Maine and the nation.
Don Roberts is a former city councilor and vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta. He is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District, and a representative to the Legislative Policy Committee of Maine Municipal Association.