Maine Republican Olympia Snowe's announcement last week that she is leaving the U.S. Senate because it has become too dysfunctional should be a wake-up call to every voter who has ever complained about Washington gridlock, yet who continues to elect people based on their strict ideological stands.
Snowe isn't the first politician to leave Washington in disgust, but she is among the most high profile and she echoes comments made by Democrats and Republicans alike who see a widening political divide and a vilification of any elected leader who tries to build bridges to get the nation's business completed.
In an Associated Press story on Snowe's departure, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, also from Maine, told the AP, "People in the center are increasingly vilified by the far left and the far right. We used to be applauded for bringing people together to solve problems. Now we tend to be criticized by both sides."
As citizens, we continue to be frustrated by our elected leaders' inability to find common ground on contentious issues and reach agreements that move us forward. At the same time, as voters, we put people in office based on their promises to not compromise on their stand on issues, and, as Collins noted, when elected officials do come together and hammer out a compromise, we condemn them for "giving in."
As our own primary draws near, and as we have seen in other states where primaries and caucuses have already been held, candidates are feverishly cheered when they make statements about never compromising. But in America, and under our structure of government, never compromising means never getting anything done. Yet we continue to elect these people, Democrats and Republicans, every election.
Dysfunction in Congress isn't going to go away on its own. It is, in fact, a product of what we as voters have created. And we have to take responsibility for fixing it. That starts at the ballot box, where we need to put in office Republicans and Democrats who are interested in working together, compromising and helping to keep our nation moving forward.