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Americans must mobilize for moderation

When I concluded that political polarization in Congress would not diminish in the short term, I decided not to seek a fourth term in the US Senate. I am taking my fight for bipartisanship outside the institution. Congress responds to pressure from citizens. We must act.

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Then-Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) of Maine smiles after a Senate Finance Committee vote Oct. 13, 2009. About bipartisanship, she writes: 'America is a can-do country infused with a can-do spirit. Now it is up to us to seize the reins and insist on elected officials who are willing to take risks working with each other.'

Jason Reed/Reuters/file

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The fundamental danger with today’s political environment in Washington is that Americans are mostly hearing from only two voices – the far right and the far left. These armies of divisiveness would have people believe they are the only two choices. Yet, when neither camp can politically achieve all of what it seeks, the only means for forging solutions is principled compromise. 

That’s why it is imperative that the media go beyond either/or propositions that lead only to gridlock. Rather, by listening to those with whom we disagree and understanding that common-ground options exist, we will discover that our problems are not, in fact, insurmountable. We, as citizens, can mobilize for moderation. 

When I decided last year not to seek a fourth term in the US Senate, I had arrived at an unfortunate conclusion: that the excessive political polarization in Congress would not diminish in the short term. As a result, I wanted to take my fight for bipartisanship in a different direction – from outside the institution. I wanted to harness my insider’s knowledge to rally a charge against the hyper-partisanship that is preventing solutions to our monumental challenges. 

Now here we are, in 2013, and incredibly Congress has wasted nine more months in the life of America. 

It has failed to pass legislation to create jobs or spur the sluggish economy. An overdue overhaul of the byzantine and uncompetitive tax code is on indefinite hold. Congress faces another showdown at the legislative “OK corral” as it approaches the latest debt ceiling deadline. And for more than four consecutive years, lawmakers have failed to agree on a federal budget – totally irresponsible given the debt that threatens America’s economic well-being.

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