Chafee and His Supporters Get National Play
The national press loves the independent candidate and USA Today (h/t Ian Donnis) is the latest to report about them in this year of the disgruntled voter. RI’s own Lincoln Chafee plays prominently in the story and all of the classic Chafee themes are there. First, there’s the typical RI attitude towards “name candidates” like Chafee:
As Chafee carries bags of the eatery’s signature doughboys — a cardiologist’s nightmare of deep fat-fried dough and crab — Antonio Ferreira, 67, comes over to get his photo snapped and a trio at the next table give him a friendly wave.
“I remember when he went to Cedar Hill Elementary School,” says Hilda Poppe, 83, a retired librarian from Warwick whose younger daughter was in Chafee’s class. She and her husband, Norman, 84, are having lunch on the outdoor deck with their older daughter, Nonnie O’Brien, 59.
“I always vote Democratic except for him,” O’Brien says.
“He has a Republican name but he’s always been independent,” her father says approvingly.
What about his idea of raising the sales tax?
Norman Poppe hadn’t heard about the proposal. “I don’t like that,” he says, frowning.
“But if it pays the debt,” his wife chimes in. With the state’s finances in trouble — there’s a projected budget shortfall for next year of $405 million — she says any remedy will be painful.
“The others are saying they won’t do it,” her husband concedes, “but they might when they get in anyway.”
Can talk ourselves into and out of anything, can’t we? Then there was the Chafee-as-victim of ungrateful Republicans theme:
Chafee, 57, is a happier, more confident candidate than he was during his last race four years ago.
Then, he was challenged from the right in the Republican primary by Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. He lost in November to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.
Chafee felt rejected by the GOP, which no longer seemed willing to include moderate Republicans like himself.
Lest we all forget, Chafee won the GOP primary, largely thanks to the support of national Republicans, who campaigned for him & gave him money all while Chafee actively ran as and independent-minded Republican who proudly stood against a President of his own party. As to the Moderate part? Well…that leads to the final theme: an example of the Chafee disconnect:
After losing the race, he taught at Brown, his alma mater, and wrote a book titled Against the Tide. In 2008, Chafee voted for Barack Obama, his first vote for a Democrat. He weighed joining the Green or Libertarian parties but found neither a good fit. Chafee considered Rhode Island’s fledging Moderate Party but thought the name sounded “wishy-washy.”
In other words, “I’m a moderate but I didn’t run as a Moderate Party candidate because that name, ‘moderate’, sounds so wishy-washy.” So now he’s a liberal Independent instead of a “big M” moderate (there is a difference, right?) because I guess that doesn’t sound as wishy-washy. Okey doke.