Could an Independent Maine Senator change the Senate?


The Senate has become quite dysfunctional, with high rates of filibusters.

However, this reflects a series of larger dynamics. And so when it comes to the potential impact of an Independent Maine Senator, keep this in mind:

One individual can’t change realities that are based in structural dynamics.

Should there be actually be an Independent candidate for the Maine Senate seat, I’ll explain these dynamics in greater depth. I’ll also discuss how the Senate is structured along two lines: seniority and political party.

For now, keep in mind that explanations for the state of the Senate have been much-discussed by political scientists and in some excellent pieces in the press.

Every single item mentioned below is based in empirical evidence.

Common explanations point to:

Increasing political polarization among citizens.

The proliferation of press outlets that reflect a particular political point of view, which serve to reinforce the views of citizens that choose media consistent with their values.

Partisan and social media that deliver information about legislation and compromises in the works, sometimes true and sometimes not.

The election of individuals that reflect the most partisan citizens’ choices, who are themselves ideological. Campaign donations, primaries, and outside groups like the Club for Growth help create this outcome.

Long-term trends that have sorted the parties by ideology, replacing an America in which the Democratic party included a southern, conservative wing and a Republican party with moderates.

As the ideological sorting has progressed, the national Republican party is more tight ideologically and more politically disciplined than the Democratic party. They thus are more likely to be successful in preventing party defections from the party’s position. This shows up in derailing compromises, holding together in refusing to raise taxes at all (even when supported by strong majorities of the American people), and the surge in filibusters.

A Republican party base that strongly prefers sticking to its position rather than compromising.

The decline of personal relationships between Senators due to them staying in Washington, D.C. much less, as they fly home to their states most weekends and do their legislative business often on a Tuesday through Thursday schedule.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.