Lessons Learned

I was tempted to frame this post around a list of the “lessons learned” from yesterday’s primary elections, but the fact of the matter is, that in most cases, we didn’t learn anything new: instead, we witnessed a thoroughly typical Rhode Island election.
Why do I say that? Show me an incumbent or longtime political insider who didn’t win yesterday? Chafee? He had both the name and incumbency. Centracchio? He ran a fairly muted campaign, but name recognition gave him a landslide. Mollis? Political insider if ever there was one. Langevin? Incumbent with a tough fight, but the result was never really in doubt. And so it went.
I guess that perhaps I did learn one lesson: while not ideologically conservative, Rhode Islanders are functionally conservative. They go to the polls and reafirm their support for the Kennedy’s and the Chafee’s every 2, 4, 6 years. They like their patricians. Yes, there are those–many of whom I suspect are not native to the state–who, election after election, make up the 30-40% who quixotically attempt to change the status quo. Those numbers haven’t changed in the decade plus that I’ve lived here, and it doesn’t appear as if they will any time soon.
So what to do? Now is not the time to strategize about reforming the Rhode Island GOP. In this election cycle, that is not going to happen. Instead, conservatives and our fellow-traveller populist/reformers have to look to a few short term goals.
The primary goal is to ensure the reelection of Governor Carcieri. There is little doubt in my mind that he is the closest thing to the ideal conservative there is here in Rhode Island. I’d also say to vote for the GOP in the various state office races. The state GOP has already written off many legislative races, but there is still some cause for optimism in the race for Lt. Governor and perhaps even Secretary of State. At the very least, even winning one or two of these offices would be progress and serve as some sort of check on Democrat power–and business as usual–in state government.
The Congressional races offer little hope for coservatives. Our choices in District 1 are between newcomer Jon Scott (R) and Patrick Kennedy (D) and in District 2 between Jim Langevin (D) and Rod Driver (I). The results of these two races are entirely predictable, but quixotic or not, Scott should be supported. Pick your poison in District 2.
Now, what to do about the U.S. Senate race between Lincoln Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse? First, I must compliment Mayor Laffey for his very conciliatory gesture of telling Senator Chafee that he would vote for him over Whitehouse in the general election. This is apparently in contrast to what the Chafee campaign had said they would do during the run-up to the election if the shoe had ended up on the other foot. (Who would have been unsenatorial, even petty, then?). Such grace will put Mayor Laffey in good stead when he runs for governor in four years (any doubts?). In the end, though he may have run as an outsider against both the national and state GOP, the bottom line is that in a race between a Republican and a Democrat, Mayor Laffey will stick with his party. Can the same be said about those who voted against Senator Chafee in this primary?
Justin has already indicated his dilemma and not a few Laffey supporters are now contemplating writing in “John Chafee.” I don’t have an answer for them. I can tell them that, for myself, sitting out an election or making a protest vote is not an option.
I’m as idealistic as the next conservative, but also recognize that there is a time for idealism and a time for pragmatism. For two years, I’ve attempted to rebut the pragmatic reasons for supporting Senator Chafee in the primary–he’s more electable and he can vouchsafe a GOP controlled (and thus more conservative) U.S. Senate–by offering arguments rooted in conservative beliefs.
For me, the primary is the best time to argue over the ideas that should undergird a political party and in this primary I tried to convince Rhode Island Republicans the value of maintaining conservative ideals against practical politics. In the end, I was unsuccessful. It was a spirited debate, but ideas lost and pragmatism won. It’s disappointing, but now pragmatism will simply have to be enough.

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Rino Cooke
Rino Cooke
14 years ago

I just went to:
http://www.electlaffey.com
I signed up to host a coffee with the Mayor hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Grady Shipley
14 years ago

Marc,
Well said. In my comments to Justin’s post I essentially said made the same sentiments as you with respect to, “he’s more electable and he can vouchsafe a GOP controlled (and thus more conservative) U.S. Senate.” That is the bottomline now. We need to support Chafee to keep the Senate and its conservative leadership. I hope all the Laffey people can understand that.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

What about Linc’s repeated admissions that he’s contemplated bolting the party? How can we give him a vote that will end up helping the Dems? Really our choices in November are a Democrat today, or a Republican today-Democrat tomorrow.
If Linc is willing to sign a written pledge to not bolt the party, I’ll give him my vote. Otherwise, I’m writing in John Chafee or staying home and letting this dump of a state collapse under the weight of it’s electorate’s stupidity.

Grady Shipley
14 years ago

Senator Chafee has said repeatedly during this campaign that he is a Republican and not leaving the party. All the Laffey folks kept saying he was going to run as an I and he didn’t and your rhetoric is more of the same.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Grady, he’s said openly to reporters over the last 4 years that he’s considered it and would reconsider it if his moving would make a difference. Can you cite quotes from him to the contrary where he’s sworn he won’t ever bolt?

Bob Tingle
Bob Tingle
14 years ago

I won’t vote for Lincoln Chafee under any circumstances. If only Republicans were allowed to vote in the primary, Mayor Laffey wins big. Linc Chafee is a Republican In Name Only and undeserving of the Republican nomination.

David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

I’ll be abstaining from the November election with the exception of voting down the Casino question.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

I just wonder if cockiness indeed did Laffey in. Over the past couple of weeks, it seemed like the momentum was breaking his way. The bitterness I’ve seen on the Net and talk radio this morning has been amplified by the hubris many Laffey supporters have been strutting around with in the latter stages of the campaign.
The question now is, which local talk radio jock loses his/her show in January when Laffey leaves office and is looking for work?

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“The question now is, which local talk radio jock loses his/her show in January when Laffey leaves office and is looking for work?”
Please be Dave Barber.
Please be Dave Barber.
Please be Dave Barber.
Please be Dave Barber.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

I think Barber became a Laffey fan because he knows Steve might be getting his show come January.
And how many pairs of kneepads did Barber wear out in his five-minute chat with Mollis?

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

You know, I really can’t believe what I am hearing.
Laffey lost. Chafee won. The election was held fairly. The people have spoken. It wasn’t “stolen”, there was no fraud. Everyone knew the rules going in. The “groundswell” of Laffey support that was promised never materialized. Get over it and stop whining.
If Laffey couldn’t attract the types of unaffilateds that were willing to vote in a Republican primary, you are delusional if you think he could attract the left-leaning unaffiliateds and Democrats that vote in RI general elections. Laffey had a tough time winning Cranston. He was never going to win a general election.
If you can’t vote for Chafee over Sheldon Whitehouse, you are not a Republican. You are not a conservative. You are just a disgruntled, pathetic sore loser.
Laffey knew what he was getting into when he ran. He was politely asked not to run by the White House, the NRSC, the RNC, the list goes on. They warned him that they would do everything possible to retain the Senate seat. He was forewarned. Laffey was too arrogant and prideful to heed the warnings. That in itself can be a character flaw, but in Laffey’s case it is pervasive.
As for Bob Tingle saying he can’t support Linc Chafee over Sheldon Whitehouse, wow big surprise. Chafee supported Tingle when he ran, but I suppose that’s what you get for supporting people with absolutely no loyalty. Fine, Bob. Don’t vote for Chafee. You’re a lord-knows-how-many times loser and Chafee probably got more votes in Laffey’s hometown than you ever got statewide.
It’s now time for Real Republicans to step up to the plate and support the party’s candidate. If you can’t do that , then please just go away. For everyone else, LET’S BEAT SHELDON!

Tim
Tim
14 years ago

I was very impressed by Steve Laffey’s humble and classy speech last night. His humility was a refreshing change and hopefully those were his heartfelt sentiments. Laffeyites on this board should take note. Your whining is tedious and not helping your cause and by the way your cause is not lost. If Laffey finally decides he needs to learn to share the sandbox with others and if he’s finally and genuinely been humbled by this experience and learns from it then he could very well be your Rhode Island Governor in 2010.

Andrew
Editor
14 years ago

Anthony,
If Senator Chafee can’t get somewhere to the right of Sheldon Whitehouse in places like foreign-policy, life issues, or anywhere else, then conservatives can sit the race out in good conscience. It may not be the pragmatic or partisan choice, but it’s an honest choice.
As for the partisan dimension, arguing that leaders are allowed to go in any direction they want, but their followers must obey without question is just unseemly.

tim2
tim2
14 years ago

Anthony –
Your pontification was expected and probably written months ago. So according to your logic, whatever the NRSC, NRC or White House says goes? Laffey should have heeded their advice – maybe bow down, kiss their pinky rings and be a good boy and become a meaningless Lt. Governor? Talk about a pathetic principle.
The disgrace throughout this process is that the Democrats and Independents won this Republican Primary, not the Republican party! To claim anything otherwise is delusional. RI is so corrupt that its minority party does not even call is own shots. Change is difficult for many and the malaise of the indifferent electorate will not bring reform and progress, but just extend their pain.
Anyone in the true Republican party has a tough decision to make in November as there is no Republican running. Just two vanilla, wishy washy, sway in the wind, elites who never held a real job in their lives. What a choice!
To claim victory for the Republican party from this outcome is disingenuous.
Tim2

Hollister
14 years ago

Marc makes some great points.
What the RI GOP must do is come together to support our candidates. The fractional issues of the Chaffee Laffy race are worth consideration, but a cohesive and coordinated effort is the only way we can ensure continued victory in November.
Platitudes aside, the 2 very separate Republican entities in Rhode Island should at the very least open a dialog.
The fact that only Senator Chaffee received assistance is understandable, but aren’t we all charting the same course?
How difficult would it have been to include the Nominated candidates in the campaign? Better yet, a coordinated effort to re-energize the party and remind all of us what is really means to be a Republican.
I call apon all who read this to urge candidates, campaign managers, Republican operatives and supporters to WORK TOGETHER.
As far as the Jon Scott campaign is concerned, if there ever was a time where a confluence of events can unseat Patrick, “…now is the time…”
Republicans and informed Democrats have had enough of Patrick’s lackluster performance (other than Democratic fund raising and other more public issues), and if properly motivated, will voice their disappointment of squandered potential in the polls.
I wholeheartedly support Governor Carcieri and General Centraccio and know that they – as a team – will bring continiued experience, leadership and integrity to thier respective offices.

don roach
14 years ago

I hate to break the news to many of you guys but, partisan hack and Don Roach will not be mentioned in the same sentence during my lifetime. I respect that a majority of Republican and unafilliated voters decided to select Linc Chafee as the Republican nominee. That doesn’t mean I need to walk lockstep with the party just because. I believe that if many of the changes and issues members of this blog are fighting for are not on Chafee’s radar, then he doesn’t deserve our vote and we are being intellectually dishonest if we give it to him. I wouldn’t be mad if someone decided that Chafee was the ‘lesser of two evils’ – I made that same deal in 2004 when I voted to re-elect Bush. That lesson taught me that if neither candidate suits your fancy, don’t vote for either of them and work towards putting up better candidates. The RI GOP needs more folks like the people on this blog, IMO, because we’re willing to sacrifice a political win for an ideological gain – obviously, believing the latter will lead to the former. I thought I’d be more disappointed, but I’m not really. I think if we are able to look at, among registered Republicans, who won we may find that Laffey won the day. However, if RI maintains the current system, which I don’t have too much of a problem with, conservatives need to develop a message that resonates with both Republicans and the moderate unafilliates that will be voting in our primaries. I think Laffey did that on many levels, I just believe that his campaign suffered from going too negative and he should have taken the high road as the most recent Langevin add did when address a gross mischaracterization of his… Read more »

Curious
14 years ago

Quick question: Is there no Libertarian candidate? Instead of a pointless write-in, wouldn’t that be the best message to the RSC? Wouldn’t there be a small chance of the leftists splitting between the Dem and the RINO and an independent taking the 35-40% needed to win? And if the Dem won by 5 points while the Libertarian took 25%, wouldn’t the GOP learn an important lesson? I agree with most that keeping the majority could be worth a bad senator, but I think there is little doubt that he would either pull a Jeffords or, perhaps worse, use his “swing” status to extract liberal concessions on key issues.

Jim
Jim
14 years ago

I will not be supporting Lincoln Chafee, I will be voting for Sheldon Whitehouse. And my reasoning is this: As long as Lincoln Chafee is the “Republican” senator, real Republicans will be discouraged from running for this seat. This was proven by the actions of the RNC, NRSC and RIGOP against Laffey, a true Republican. Therefore, I am left trying to decide how do we get a true Republican to at least try for this seat in the future. It seems that the only way is to lose the seat to a Democrat; then, there will be no attempt to dissuade a real Republican; no attempt to fool us into not running against a phony Republican. I’m not one to compromise my principals for a pyhrric victory. A step backwards is, unfortunately, necessary. Bitter medicine indeed; yet, just what the doctor would order.

danr22
danr22
14 years ago

wow… what a sad post. should john scott just call kennedy now and call the race? whether its thought of as unrealistic or not to beat patrick… I see nothing positive out of crying and telling readers of this blog its basically over.
so much for rallying the troops behind the gut who got nearly 70 percent of the primary vote last night. if this is the attitude of the ‘real’ republicans in this state, voters made the right choice in chafee last night.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>so much for rallying the troops behind the gut who got nearly 70 percent of the primary vote last night. if this is the attitude of the ‘real’ republicans in this state, voters made the right choice in chafee last night.
Being “disloyal” to someone who is “disloyal” to party principles is not being “disloyal” to the party. Quite the opposite …
That many of us won’t vote for Chafee does not mean that we won’t vote for Republicans – including the ones on the ballot this cycle, such as Don Carcieri, or Mr. Scott.

john
john
14 years ago

Hollister makes a very good point. Rhode Island has not two major parties, but four, uncomfortably put together in only two tents. We just saw the results in Laffey/Chafee and Mollis/DeRamel.
And while a Whitehouse victory over Chafee may contribute to a fundamental realignment of RI politics, what will ultimately drive it is fiscal collapse, which now seems unavoidable.

RI_76
RI_76
14 years ago

I can understand why Laffey supporters are disappointed. You fought hard and came up a little short. But opposing Chafee now that he’s the nominee would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Chafee may not be a reliable conservative, but his centrist record he is NOT the same as Whitehouse’s left-wing views. Even if Chafee only votes with the GOP half the time, that’s a lot more than the 5% you get out of ultraliberal Jack Reed. Chafee was pro-business enough to get the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for, among other things, cosponsoring tort reform legislation that Whitehouse would never support in 1,000 years. If Whitehouse wins, we’ll be stuck with him for up to 18 or 24 years — the worst of all possible outcomes.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

“Even if Chafee only votes with the GOP half the time…”
Yeah, we wish. It’s closer to 15-20% of the time. We’re just about as likely to have Hillary Clinton vote with the Republicans as we are to get Linc to.

RI_76
RI_76
14 years ago

“Yeah, we wish. It’s closer to 15-20% of the time. We’re just about as likely to have Hillary Clinton vote with the Republicans as we are to get Linc to.”
That’s not true. There are measurable statistics on this. So far this year, Chafee and Majority Leader Frist have voted together 63% of the time. Hillary and Frist? Just 38%. That’s a big difference.

Will
Will
14 years ago

“The question now is, which local talk radio jock loses his/her show in January when Laffey leaves office and is looking for work?”
Hmmm. I can think of a few. 🙂
“If Whitehouse wins, we’ll be stuck with him for up to 18 or 24 years — the worst of all possible outcomes.”
So, you would rather have Linc there for another 18 to 24 years? I want the Rhode Island Republican Party to mean something, not just the cheering section for the Chafees, to the detriment of the rest of the party.

RI_76
RI_76
14 years ago

“So, you would rather have Linc there for another 18 to 24 years? I want the Rhode Island Republican Party to mean something, not just the cheering section for the Chafees, to the detriment of the rest of the party.”
No, I’m just asking Laffey supporters to back Chafee in November. Whether they back him again 6 years from now is a separate question. But once a Democrat like Whitehouse gets elected in a state like RI, that’s it — he’s in. No incumbent Democratic senator has been defeated for reelection in the last 50 years (maybe longer).

RI_76
RI_76
14 years ago

“No incumbent Democratic senator has been defeated for reelection in the last 50 years (maybe longer).”
Sorry, meant that no incumbent Democratic senator IN RHODE ISLAND has been defeated for reelection in the last 50+ years…

Justin Katz
14 years ago

But once a Democrat like Whitehouse gets elected in a state like RI, that’s it — he’s in.

But isn’t it possible that this is going to change? As John wrote above, (seemingly inevitable) fiscal collapse will drive a movement for change. There are any number of such lines to be crossed on a variety of issues — from economic to national security to social issues. One or the other of them will come to pass in the relatively near future.
Assuming that I am correct that the national and/or state will need a rightward shift on one issue or other, the question that now faces conservatives (and frankly, I don’t give an elephant’s ass whether I’m considered a “real Republican” or not) is whether it’s better to have a Democrat to overthrow or to have a liberal Republican who might just ride out the turmoil and continue to do his immeasurable damage to the state, country, and world?

Will
Will
14 years ago

I can’t wait for Chafee to screw us on the Bolton nomination…

klaus
klaus
14 years ago

Gotta tell you guys that it warms my heart to hear this bickering amongst the Reps. First, Laffey had two choices: lose now, or lose in Nov. The crossover turnout confrims that Laffey had no chance to win in Nov. However, did it ever occur to you Reps that a number of Dems may have voted FOR Laffey, thereby pretty much assuring that the seat goes Dem? Second, Laffey made his career out of being negative. “Pigs” and “dupes” and glad they’ll die soon. So his “clean” campaign is in no way indicative of his moral stature. It was a tactical ploy, and nothing more. Just like his very first campaign ad, when he said he was going to go to Wash and take on Big Pharma. That’s to the left of Hillary. So, was that a sincere belief? If so, there goes his conservative bona fides; or was it a cynical strategy, in which case he’s not much on the truth. Third, do you guys read any history? I keep asking that and no one seems to answer, so I guess ‘no.’ Basically, at some point you have to decide if you’re going to be a party of purists, or a party that wins elections. Purists generally make up about 20% of the pop, on either end. So, if you stick to the purist approach, someday people will be talking about Reps in the same breath as the Whigs. I believe in democracy, which means we need two viable parties. The problems with RI are not about which party is in office; it’s about having a one-party system. That is inherently a bad thing that leads to arrogance and corruption. Hey, look what’s happened in Wash in just 6 years. So, as a believer in democracy, I have a… Read more »

john
john
14 years ago

“Basically, at some point you have to decide if you’re going to be a party of purists, or a party that wins elections. Purists generally make up about 20% of the pop, on either end.”
Well, Klaus, I guess that also explains Ned Lamont. I take it you’re a Lieberman supporter?

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