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How Moderate Is Olympia Snowe?

Over the past week, political pundits have been writing paeans to Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine, who has just announced that she will not run for re-election. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, in a typical editorial, pronounced Senator Snowe a “moderate” and “one of the last reasonable lawmakers.”

How “moderate” is Olympia Snowe’s record?

Despite the fact that cluster bombs routinely kill innocent civilians and are especially deadly to children, Olympia Snowe has refused to join the effort to stop the use of cluster bombs.

Is that moderate?

In February of 2011, Senator Olympia Snowe helped push through a bill allowing agents of the U.S. government to spy on, search and seize the property, papers and communications of individuals without a constitutionally-guaranteed finding of probable cause for that action. Only a few minutes of debate were allowed. Half a decade before that, Snowe worked to end debate, not extend it, to shove through reauthorization of Patriot Act powers with many questions left unasked.

Is that moderate?

Olympia Snowe is a cosponsor of S.J. Res. 19, a bill to throw people in jail for engaging in controversial speech.

Is that moderate?

In November of 2011, Olympia Snowe voted to kill net neutrality.

Is that moderate?

In December of 2011, Olympia Snowe voted to give government agents the power to imprison people forever without charge, even if arrested on U.S. soil, regardless of their citizenship status.

Is that moderate?

In 2010, in the middle of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, Olympia Snowe voted to give America’s millionaires and billionaires a tax cut.

Is that moderate?

Senator Snowe voted to spend billions of extra dollars to keep building F-22s, fighter planes that are hugely expensive, that are dangerous in the rain, that break down repeatedly, and that designed for a mission that no longer exists.

Is that moderate?

Olympia Snowe voted to force the Defense Department to buy C-17 planes it says it doesn’t need, at a cost of $2.5 Billion.

Is that moderate?

Olympia Snowe voted against providing basic health care coverage to kids in poverty.

Is that moderate?

Olympia Snowe was a supporter of, and voted for, the FISA Amendments Act, which lets the U.S. Government:

– Spy on you electronically
– Reading your email
– Listening to your telephone calls
– Watching what web pages you visit
– Following your financial transactions
– Without any explanation of why they’re doing it
– Without anyone outside of the Executive Branch knowing that it’s being done
– Without oversight by Congress
– Letting the government use information it obtains illegally
– Giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for helping the government do it when it was illegal.

Is that moderate?

In the 109th Congress, Senator Olympia Snowe voted to make English the official language of the United States, with language declaring that “no person has a right, entitlement, or claim to have the Government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services, or provide materials in any language other than English.”

Is that moderate?

Also in the 109th Congress, Senator Snowe voted to revoke the right of habeas corpus. Four Republican senators refused to condone this dimunition of human rights. Olympia Snowe was not among those four Republican senators.

Is that moderate?

Olympia Snowe voted to pass S.256 into law, a law that made it harder for average people who run into hard times to keep even the most basic of assets when they fall into bankruptcy.

Is that moderate?

I’ll grant that Olympia Snowe is more moderate than many of her fellow Senate Republicans. But that’s only a sign of how extreme her Republican colleagues have become.

22 thoughts on “How Moderate Is Olympia Snowe?”

  1. Charles Manning (manning120) says:

    Thanks for the information, which would never be reported in the MSM.

  2. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    How moderate a person is really has to do with the big picture of their policies overall, rather than the details.

    Your Senate scores labeled her as Mushy Middle, though she was near the border with Milqutoast Conservative.

    While avoidning mathematical figures, it’s hard to say where on the political spectrum people are. When you do the math from all of her policies, she is a moderate.

    A moderate isn’t necceassarily a person who take moderate postion on all issues. On a one dimensional left -right spectrum, a moderate is a person who balances out their liberalism and the conservatism to be in the middle via their composite score.

  3. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    TPE Summary of her:

    Maine Senator Olympia Snowe is the most liberal Republican in the U.S. Senate. While the Tea Party Express respects legislators who vote to represent their state or district, we are continually annoyed by how she often undermines Republican positions rather than just voting as she believes her constituents desire. While Senator Snowe likes to proclaim that she is a fiscal conservative, she is too often on the wrong side of spending votes. From TARP to the $814 billion stimulus bill, this career politician is constantly having an identity crisis, confused between her progressive big-government voting pattern and the fiscal responsibility values promised to her constituents. The Tea Party Express will no longer allow Senator Snowe to only pay lip service to her constituents. While she has tempered her more liberal ways in the last year, we are committed to supporting a fiscally conservative candidate that will be more reliable in voting against big and higher spending.

    1. Jim says:

      As I said in the main body of text, I’ll grant that she’s less extreme than most of her fellow Republicans, S. But that doesn’t make her not an extremist. It just makes the Tea Party Express wing really, really extremist.

      Olympia Snowe is in the middle of a congressional distribution that is skewed to the right extreme. There are only perhaps a handful of real left-

  4. Jim says:

    ..scuse me…

    -wingers in the whole Congress.

    1. Stephen Kent Gray says:


      Do you have any objective mathematical scale for idelogical identification of people that labels Senator Snowe to be anything other than a moderate?

      There are tons of political spectrum quizes on the Internet and they all label Senator Snowe to be a moderate, I only have this link at the time.

      1. Jim Cook says:

        On The Issues is the last source you should be citing for accuracy.

        Those political spectrum quizzes all reflect the rightward drift of the country by defining a conservative stance that isn’t paleolithic as “moderate.”

        If by “moderate” you mean “in the middle,” well, yes she is. The text of the article already agrees to that point. Olympia Snowe is in the middle of a very conservative-heavy distribution of members of Congress.

        1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

          No, political spectrum quizes are based on an abstract center based on all potential possible political views possible.

          There has been no time and no place where the abstract middle has been the center of the time and place’s spectrum.

          Your assessment obviously has a social democratic / progressive bias. Take for instance the center we had during the Progressive Era skewed heavily left, I assume that center is the center your using to judge the abstract center.

          Political Compass describes best:

          The Political Compass chart represents the whole spectrum of political opinion, not simply the range within a particular nation or region. The timeless universal centre should not be confused with merely the present national average. The former is far more meaningful and informative. Where, for example, would the centre be within the political confines of Hitler’s Germany, apartheid South Africa or the Soviet Union ? By showing the whole spectrum of political thought, we can indicate the width or narrowness of prevailing mainstream politics within any particular country. It also enables us to chart the drifts one way or another of various parties, governments and individuals.
          Twenty-five years ago, social democracy was riding high in western Europe. A chart at that time would have shown a number of EU governments to the left of the centre. In our globalised age, however, the shift has been rightward, which accounts for the altogether different cluster that the contemporary chart depicts. In other words most democracies, either reluctantly or enthusiastically, have embraced neoliberalism (ie a right leaning economy) to a greater or lesser extent.
          Curbs on civil liberties, rationalised by issues such as illegal immigration and terrorist threats, accounts for the concurrent drift upwards on the social scale.

        2. Jim Cook says:

          You’re right — Political Compass is a reasonable exception.

          And in the Political Compass scale, Olympia Snowe is classified as — guess what? — a right winger.

  5. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    This is Olympia Snowe’s on the issues profile.

    Social: 40
    Economic: 50
    Status: Moderate

    The numbers just aren’t there for labeling her a conservative or anything other than a moderate.

  6. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    Wikipedia on her:

    Snowe shares a centrist ideology with Maine’s junior Senator, Susan Collins, who is considered a “half-turn more conservative” than Snowe.[13] Snowe supports legalized abortion and some gay rights, and though she previously voted to block the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, she was one of eight Republican senators to vote for the repeal on December 18, 2010. In her 2006 re-election campaign, she was one of two Republican Senate candidates endorsed by the prominent gay rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign (the other was Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island).[14] She also supports the death penalty and strongly supports the war on drugs and the United States embargo against Cuba.

    Snowe supported both President Clinton’s involvement in Kosovo and President George W. Bush’s invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. On fiscal issues, she has voiced support for cutting taxes as economic stimulus, although she joined fellow Republican senators Lincoln Chafee and John McCain in voting against the Bush tax cuts in 2003. However, she voted for the extension in 2011. She opposes most free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). She was the only Republican to vote for the Tax Fairness and Economic Growth Act of 1992. She is a strong supporter of environmental protections. Both Snowe and fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins have embraced strong gun control measures following the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
    Olympia Snowe and Chairwoman Mary Landrieu address the Small Business Committee

    In the 110th Congress, Snowe worked to ensure passage of a genetic non-discrimination act, which she had previously worked to pass for nearly eight years; opposed cutting loans through the Small Business Administration; offered legislation aimed at reducing the price of prescription drugs and insurance costs for small businesses; and became a leading voice among Congressional Republicans expressing concerns over President Bush’s plans for the privatization of Social Security.
    With fellow Maine Senator Susan Collins

    Snowe is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership and supports stem cell research. She is also a member of Republicans for Environmental Protection, the Republican Majority for Choice, Republicans for Choice and The Wish List (Women In the Senate and House), a group of pro-choice Republican women.

    In 2008, Snowe endorsed Republican candidate John McCain for President of the United States.[15]

    In the 111th Congress, Snowe backed the release of additional Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. While she opposed President Obama’s budget resolution, she pledged to work in a bipartisan manner on the issues of health care reform and energy.[16]

    On October 13, 2009, Snowe voted for the Finance Committee’s health care reform bill. However, she stated that she might not support the final bill because of reservations.[17] In December 2009, Snowe voted against cloture for two procedural motions and ultimately against the Senate Health Care Reform Bill.[18] Snowe again voted against health care reform when she voted “no” on the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.[19]

  7. George Takei says:

    Jim, everyone is a moderate compared to you.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Sorry to rain on your consensus.

      If you believe cluster bombs, multi-billion-dollar military boondoggles, spying on innocent people, making bankruptcy harder for poor people, dumping free speech, trying to cancel net neutrality, jumping on the English-only bandwagon and indefinite imprisonment without charges or trial is “moderate,” then you just go right ahead and keep saying that.

      Just because Olympia Snowe is moderate on your favorite issue, George, doesn’t mean she’s moderate on others.

      1. Stephen Kent Gray says:


        While those positions put under the microscope aren’t moderate, she has other positions on other topics that make her a moderate.

        Also, all political spectrum quizes use a hypothetical universal middle in the abstract. People on both the left and the right have challenged such unbiased callibrations on what they consider to be the true center.

        For example, Jim you have an imagined center that’s skewed way to the left. I probably think the problem is your social democratic leanings skewing your objective measurements.

        So, what’s your favorite political quiz? Brian Patrick Mitchell’s Eight Ways? Nolan Chart? Politopia? Political Compass? Pournell Chart? Vossem Chart?

        It’s one things to claim that a person’s middle skews right, but it really reveals your middle skews left.

        Also, I’d classify Olympia Snowe as being authoritarian in these few listed positions, but in 2-d speak authoritarian is a form of moderate.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          My favorite political quiz is, you’re right, in my own mind. I actually like it like that.

          I refuse to agree that freedom of speech is a leftist idea. I refuse to agree that avoiding killing kids in war is a leftist idea. I refuse to agree that keeping temporary tax cuts for the rich temporary is a leftist idea. I refuse to agree that freedom from surveillance without a warrant is a leftist idea. I refuse to agree that freedom from being hauled off to indefinite detention without charge and without trial is a leftist idea. I refuse to agree that habeas corpus is a leftist idea. These were all mainstream ideas through the 18th-20th Century, and for Olympia Snowe to reject them is for Olympia Snowe to place herself out of the 18th-20th Century mainstream (if sadly in the temporary 21st Century majority).

          If “in 2-d speak authoritarianism is a form of moderate,” then that suggests 2-d speak is for crap.

          For you to call my ideas left-extreme is to really ignore where the left goes in historical and cross-national context. In the USA at various times, and in Canada and Europe now, the left has been far, far to the left of where I am. In those times and places, I’d be a moderate — and I’m not just talking about the 1930s. I’m talking about the 1970s.

          In my analysis of Snowe, I’m not calling for nationalization of industries or banks. I’m not referring to a maximum wage or a universal housing and food rights. There are 40,000 things that real leftists have in mind that I’m not even touching in this piece.

          I throw back your idea of bias right at you. The very idea of Olympia Snowe as a moderate takes for GRANTED the significant rightward and authoritarian swing of this country over the past 30 years. I refuse to just take that for granted and let it be assumed, because then when everybody calls for a move to the “middle” (which sounds reasonable to people who believe in split-the-differenceism rather than politics based on ideas) what they’ll really be calling for is for everybody to move to the historically recent conservative consensus.

          P.S. The Political Compass Website you mention ranks Barack Obama as a right-winger and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as right-wingers as well, in full historical context.

  8. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    Political spectrum quizes are accurate, but not that precise. They give a person’s average score from all their positions.

    While a person can take an extreme positions on a handful of issues. If they have other issues that negate, dilute, or overpower those positions in the calculation of the mathematical average, then that’s because each and every issue is considered mathematically the same weight.

    I also like this redefinition of the Political Compass.

    Also, the Political Compass use only economic issues for the left-right spectrum and social issues for the authoritarian-libertarian scale.

    That’s my score on the Political Compass test. What about you?

    I prefer the Nolan Chart and its variations.

  9. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    I like how Wikipedia has articles on each of these political spectrum quizes and links to various websites. Also, on the Brian Patrick Mitchell quiz you are either pro, neutral, or anti with regards to archy and kratos. I’m in the upper left Individualist section because I’m anti both.

  10. tiradefaction says:

    All this commentary we see in the media of what makes a “conservative” a “liberal” (a misused word in the United States I should add, when they use that term they often mean what Europeans call a “social democrat”), or a “moderate”, we see a key component always left out. How far right our political established “consensus” has drifted in this nation. If you ran with the tax platform of EISENHOWER, you’d be called a “socialist” and jeered out of the steps of congress. I too back in the 1970s, at least economically speaking, would have considered myself a moderate (Same goes with myself if I were in present day Europe, though the pillaging by banks of entire countries like Greece would probably realign my views a bit more leftwards admittedly) Even the most modest reforms that favor the “99%” are demonized as “far left” by the mainstream media. Remember when the PPACA (health “reform”) drama was being played out? It wasn’t just the Repubs calling it “socialism”, the MSM essentially trumpeted that card as well, over and over again. A reform package, started by a Republican governor, for years promoted by the Heritage foundation, and in it’s last (and passed) incarnation, was little more than some moderate tweaking of the current system. It’s still a majority private system, the insurance companies still have very lax regulations, and they can still charge us (essentially) what the fuck they want for their services. Oh, and apparently this very conservative tweaking of the system was “too much” for her. (She voted against it).

    So yeah, she’s “moderate”, but our current political calculations. She has essentially the same economic policies as the Republicans (and for that matter, most Democrats), but hey, she’s for gay marriage and abortion! Woot! Moderate!!!! It’s like the folks that call the corporatist “business” faction of the Republicans “moderate”, because in the end they don’t give a shit about shoving Jeezus down our throats.

  11. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    Jim, here’s how political quizes work. You ask people about their positions on a few to several hundred issues and if any axes, two or more political axes. You rank each response to an issue with a mathematical value ie 10-5-0, 10-8-5-2-0, etc. Finally, you sum up all the scores and divide by the number of issues to get your overall score. A person’s overall score is actually a mean of all the scores, which is more meaningful and precise the more radical a person is, but less so the closer to the center a person’s mean is.

    A moderate / centrist is a person who is outside of all the other categories. One can do so by take moderate / centrist positions on everything, but if one takes a far left position to negate each far right position they have or vice versa, you wind up being moderate overall the same way that (10 + 0)/2=5 just as (5 + 5)/2=5. This means that paradoxically for someone to be a moderate, they need not actually take any moderate positions at all.

    Also, sampling bias can lead people to believe bias in the political compass. Sampling bias is when people take a subset of a person’s political positions to be indicative of all their political positions. You for example concentrated the effect of some of her more conservative positions while TPE did the same with some of her liberal positions, but on average all of the above positions negate each other to produce a moderate.

    Mmoja Ajabu (Independent) for example is doing a sampling bias campaign against Andre Carson (Democrat / Progressive Caucus) for IN-7.

    While he has a very progressive average, there are some conservative positions which Mmoja Ajabu is putting spotlights on. While they don’t detract that much from his progressive average, they do represent the difference between him and an ideal progressive.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      No. Olympia Snowe does not take leftist positions which would balance out her right-wing positions. She has some centrist positions and some rather right-wing positions. This makes her a conservative who is somewhat less conservative than her colleagues in the Senate.

      1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

        Olympia Snowe:
        Strongly supports abortion rights
        Strongly supports affirmative action
        Strongly supports same-sex domestic partnership
        Strongly supports more federal funding of healthcare coverage
        Strongly supports replacing coal & oil with alternatives
        Strongly supports illegal immigrants earning citizenship
        Strongly supports stricter limits on campaign finance

        While Senator Snowe likes to proclaim that she is a fiscal conservative, she is too often on the wrong side of spending votes. From TARP to the $814 billion stimulus bill, this career politician is constantly having an identity crisis, confused between her progressive big-government voting pattern and the fiscal responsibility values promised to her constituents.

        I wouldn’t call these centrist positions!

        Jim, do you have a mathematical average score to prove she’s overall conservative without overemphasizing some issues over others.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          Actually, Olympia Snowe strongly supports moderately conservative positions on those issues.

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