Not only are lawmakers like Maine Senator Olympia Snowe voluntarily retiring due to the hyperpartisan, uncooperative, 9% approval rating, do-nothing congress, but many centrists are losing 2012 primary challenges from both the left and the right. Closed state primaries make it harder for centrists to get re-elected. As Republican former House member Tom Davis notes:
“Less than a quarter of the House is competitive, and it drives Congress toward the extremes. In primary elections compromise is punished, it’s not rewarded.”
What’s more, there are a number of factors conspiring against centrists:
“Many centrists face constant challenges because they tend to represent swing areas where the other party is favored. Because of this they are susceptible to wave elections, as happened to many such Republicans in 2006 and 2008 and to centrist Democrats in 2010. They also are more likely to face primary challenges.
Davis said a combination of factors had contributed to this: gerrymandering that packs partisans into one district or another for a party’s political benefit, campaign finance laws limiting how much parties could influence races while allowing hard-line outside groups to spend unlimited amounts, and a 24-hour news cycle dominated by voices on the left and right.”