Olympia Snowe in the New York Times:
Regrettably, we failed to learn the lessons of Jim Jeffords’s defection in 2001. To the contrary, we overreached in interpreting the results of the presidential election of 2004 as a mandate for the party. This resulted in the disastrous elections of 2006 and 2008, which combined for a total loss of 51 Republicans in the House and 13 in the Senate — with a corresponding shift of the Congressional majority and the White House to the Democrats.
It was as though beginning with Senator Jeffords’s decision, Republicans turned a blind eye to the iceberg under the surface, failing to undertake the re-evaluation of our inclusiveness as a party that could have forestalled many of the losses we have suffered.
Shorter Olympia Snowe: the Republican Party has now boiled down to a hard crust of extremist freaks, and now that they’ve run Lincoln Chaffee and Arlen Specter out of the party, they’ll be coming after me.
Villagers always blamed liberals for "purging" moderate Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party, but there’s a difference between going after someone with real power who was playing a critical role in the pursuit of a widely unpopular war and targeting people like Chaffee and Snowe. Lieberman was (and still is) wildly out of step with Democrats in Connecticut — Snowe is very much representative of her home state of Maine, and will easily win re-election. What wingnuts like Malkin are saying is that there’s no place for Maine in the GOP.
When liberals are upset at "moderates" in the Democratic Party, it’s usually because they’re using "moderate"’ as cover for being a crook and soaking up lobbyist money to back legislation that has no popular support. When wingnuts go after "moderates," it’s because they aren’t sufficiently like Michele Bachmann. Rep. Bachmann probably doesn’t play too well in Maine, but when the crazy takes over, any kind of expansive vision of political power goes out the door.
But here’s a thought. Olympia Snowe wakes up to Malkin’s sickos on her doorstep one too many times and decides she’s had enough (her piece in the Times certainly qualifies as a "mom’s on the roof" warning shot). After Franken is seated, that’s 61 votes in the Senate.
Liberals can add.
That changes the political landscape significantly, and as Bill Greider notes, it has interesting implications for Blanche Lincoln in the upcoming election.