Not long ago, there was room in the U.S. Congress for so-called moderate lawmakers. Throughout the years, moderates have been main players because of their pragmatism. In many cases, they made a bipartisan difference between the success and failure of a bill.
However, the legislature’s current polarized environment has frustrated these moderates. Given the paralysis Congress is experiencing as a result of ideological intransigence, they have started to resign from their positions.
A case in point is Senator Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) recent announcement that she is leaving the Senate after 18 years. Other lawmakers, such as Senators Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Congressmen Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), are also following suit.
The trend started in the House of Representatives a while ago. For the past three elections, the Democratic caucus has become more liberal and the Republicans more conservative. Therefore, moderate Southern Democrats are being replaced by Republicans, and moderate Northeastern Republicans are replaced by Democrats. The Main Street Republicans and the Blue Dog Democrats, which draw together each party’s moderates, have fewer and fewer members.
While it’s true that this year’s redistricting has also significantly impacted some lawmakers’ decisions to retire, that isn’t the case for the ones mentioned. The difficulties of being able to work with positive results in Congress have worn out those who no longer find ideological room in the legislative body.
This is all bad news for the majority of Americans, who are independent and expect their representatives to work together. The disappearance of moderates further complicates the outlook in the U.S. Congress.