Chafee’s Enabling of GOP vs Elusive Democratic Hope

This editorial by Harold Meyerson in today’s Washington Post explains how Republican moderates are performing a necessary job for the GOP as “foot soldiers” in their plan to take the country further in the “wrong and strong” direction.

The ‘Moderate Republican’ Scam

By Harold Meyerson

Sen. Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, is seeking reelection in his heavily Democratic state by insisting he’s not really a Republican, or at least not part of the gang responsible for the decade’s debacles. He didn’t even vote for George W. Bush in 2004, he protests. He cast his vote for George H.W. Bush — a kinder, gentler, more prudent, less strident Republican.

Big deal.

It matters not a damn whom Lincoln Chafee chose to support for president. His vote was one of roughly 435,000 cast in Rhode Island in the 2004 presidential election, and roughly 122 million cast nationwide. The election in which his vote did matter was that for majority leader of the Senate. There, he was one of just 100 electors, in a Senate nearly evenly divided. After this November’s elections, control of the Senate may well hang by a single vote. [full text]

Chafee may voice opposition to the Bush agenda, but that opposition is almost always without teeth. Voting against the Iraq war was courageous, but real change would have entailed voting for a Senate leader who would not have supported the ongoing effort. Voting against the Alito nomination was good, but it was his vote for cloture, and his lack of support for the filibuster, that made the Alito appointment a reality.

The problem here in Rhode Island is that I don’t think most people are looking at the larger picture of the composition of the US Senate when they consider whom they will vote for in November. I think most people are remembering Lincoln Chafee as the Senator who got us significant funding for various projects. I think most people also see him as a fairly strong advocate for improving health care, education, and environmental issues. But as Meyerson points out, these issues all suffer greatly when the Republicans maintain control of the Senate.

But this begs the question: can Rhode Islanders feel hopeful about the prospect of a Democratic majority Senate taking the country in the right direction? I think Rhode Islanders have suffered a significant sense of disillusion with the ability of the Democratic party to hold strong to a clear set of values. This may be partially the result of our 80% Democratic legislature in the state, which often seems out of touch with the values of ordinary citizens, as evidenced by the tax cut recently passed in Rhode Island for people earning $250,000 or more. Further, the significant history of corruption in the state — situations in which deals are arranged with little public knowledge or participation — further alienates ordinary citizens from the “party of the people.”

This election is about whether people have hope for the Democratic party to take the country in the right direction. I’m still hopeful. My fear is that many Rhode Islanders are not.

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3 thoughts on “Chafee’s Enabling of GOP vs Elusive Democratic Hope

  1. I ran because I’m well aware of what the state machine requires of its candidates – ends justifies the means has little to do with the greatest good for the greatest number of people. “Issues” candidates who did not lambaste their opponents bored the media and the electorate.

    You want independence and clean hands, then we have to look both within as well as outside. There are many fine Democrat leaders in RI who ought to have been running that would not have made this choice so difficult for the disenfranchised Democrats and Independents.

    It’s a matter of time before November 7, we will reap what we sow. Don’t kill the messenger because of the message.

  2. Thanks, Carl. As a side note, perhaps my fears are unwarranted as I was just alerted to the fact that Whitehouse received more votes in the primary than Laffey and Chafee combined. With that kind of showing, you have to wonder how he could lose.

  3. Meyerson does a good job of summing up our political predicament. Chafee is a thoughtful, decent guy. But in the final analysis, he’s cog in the Republican machine. And in my view, any vote that, in effect, furthers the ends of the Bush administration is simply unconscionable.

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