To the Editor:
The near unanimous praise for GOP Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine upon her surprise announcement of her retirement may signal the high water mark of the Tea Party’s influence in the Nation. Having served with her in the U. S. Congress, I can verify the truth of the laudatory comments we hear from all quarters. She is thoughtful, sensitive, sensible and willing to collaborate across party lines. Therefore, it is not surprising that she is uncomfortable in the present atmosphere in Washington and even more so within the ranks of the current operating philosophy of the GOP.
The Tea Party’s basic approach to government is the opposite of everything Senator Snowe has represented. It seeks simple answers to complex problems. It resists change when that is what is called for to further its own interest. It works aggressively to preserve a status quo under which it suffers. It regards the government as the source of all problems. I regard the vast majority of Tea Party supporters as sincere citizens who are frustrated and perplexed over why their lives have been so difficult in the hard times from which we are hopefully emerging. I have heard many say “nothing seems to work anymore.” Senator Snowe understands that simplified answers and slogans won’t fix anything. Hence, her support for the stimulus legislation as a response to an under-performing economy in contrast to her party colleagues.
The power of the Tea Party, as manipulated in the hands of opportunists like Dick Armey and Karl Rove, has set the agenda for the Republican Party and most visibly for its presidential candidates. The polls indicate, however, that its power is starting to wane. Accordingly, genuine Tea Party folks should prepare themselves to be cynically off-loaded, if not unceremoniously dumped. Should Governor Romney be the presidential nominee, it is not too hard to imagine his next transformation going back to his Rockefeller Republican roots with its rejection of most of the Tea Party Credo.
Senator Snowe’s retirement stands for the proposition that thoughtful people know that if you have contempt for government you will probably get contemptible government. Hopefully, we will once again all realize that the institution of government is neither inherently good nor bad, but is rather a tool that in the hands of people like Olympia Snowe can be used to further the public interest.
James J. Florio
Former N.J. Governor