What a very candid Olympia Snowe had to say about her party, women and what Margaret Chase Smith would think

Olympia Snowe. Photo credit: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

Olympia Snowe. Photo credit: Troy R. Bennett l BDN

Olympia Snowe was the most popular political figure in Maine the day she announced she would not be running for re-election.

Now she has some very interesting comments about her own party.

Republicans have done poorly in appealing to women and recently hired a consultant to teach some how to talk to women.

Snowe talked about this and other matters with columnist Gail Collins. Here are selections from the column:

“Remedial classes on how not to say things is not progress,” said former Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine in a phone interview.

“They talk about recruiting more women to run, but those efforts tend to disintegrate,” said Snowe. “I’ve seen it so often. They all sort of fizzle out. I don’t think there’s a genuine will.”

Snowe recalled that when she was recruited in 1978, party leaders were so eager to get her on the team that they promised that if she’d run, they’d back her in a primary if one occurred. “And they didn’t ask me my position on abortion.”

Snowe also talked about Margaret Chase Smith and what Senator Smith experienced.

Maine has a long tradition of electing progressive Republican women to the Senate. Before Snowe, there was Margaret Chase Smith, who spent much of the 1950s and 1960s as the only woman in her chamber. She was the first senator from either party who dared to stand up to Joseph McCarthy’s virulent anti-Communist crusade. But she had to stand in line with the tourists when she wanted to use a restroom in the Capitol. Smith started out in the House, where she served on the Naval Affairs Committee. After long evenings of subcommittee work she’d occasionally be taken out for a walk by a staff member — her male colleagues, she said, were exhausted from having “a woman around all the time.”

And what would Margaret Chase Smith think of today’s Republican Party?

“Oh my, gosh! She’d be appalled,” Snowe said of Smith. “She’d be appalled. I don’t think she could conceive of how it’s all evolved today. Even in my own experience, it’s hard to comprehend.”


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.