There’s a powerful demand out there for the juicy personal-life stories of powerful women — the finding-my-voice stuff, the crying-in-the-bathroom memories, the overcoming-sexism journeys. So you have to admire Olympia Snowe for resisting that lucrative trend.
The former Republican senator from Maine’s new book, “Fighting for Common Ground: How We Can Fix the Stalemate in Congress,” probably won’t get her booked on Oprah. Snowe has led a novelistic life — orphaned as a child, widowed at 26 — but devotes fewer than 30 pages to her life before she was elected to Congress at age 31.
And she devotes a mere paragraph to her decade-long courtship with Jock McKernan, during which time they served in Congress together, and their marriage — which, since he was by then governor of Maine, made her both first lady and congresswoman. (Okay, we’ll confess: We would have liked to hear a little more about that.)
Instead, she wrote the story she believed she needed to share — a legislative history of a time before all-out partisan rancor, plus her prescriptions for change. (Suggestions: filibuster reform; biennnial budgets; senatorial salaries withheld if a budget isn’t passed; campaign finance reform; open primaries.)
“I want people to know it used to be different,” Snowe told friends and former colleagues at a book party at the Monocle restaurant Wednesday night, “and that it doesn’t have to be this way. . . governing by brinksmanship and deferral and deadline.”
The gathering — hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, where Snowe is now a senior fellow — was populated by guests including other former moderates no longer in Congress: Mike Castle, Blanche Lincoln, Connie Morella. Snowe said it was a surprise not only to voters when she announced last year she wouldn’t run again, “it was a surprise to me as well.” But “I came to the cold hard decision that partisanship would not be resolved” any time soon, she said.
She told us that the book — written on an ambitious timeframe, after signing with a publisher just last summer — was never intended to be her personal memoir. “Maybe for another time,” she said. But she did make a point of sprinkling some old stories into her book, “only to the extent it gave readers a sense of what influenced me” and carried over into her political life.
“I’m a fighter and a survivor,” she said, “and I used those traits to champion what I believed in.”
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