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Currently viewing the tag: "Lincoln Chafee"

Why is this guy running? I mean, he opposed the Iraq War, but so did candidates Sanders and Webb. Unlike Sanders, he doesn’t have a strong progressive record. Unlike Webb, his party switch was entirely opportunistic, and he has never actually been nominated by Democrats to any office. It’s true that if you’re looking for a candidate like Jim Webb who lacks the history of misogyny and general angry asshole machismo until at least some point in the early aughts, Chafee might be the candidate for you. But come on, nobody’s looking for that. Even on executive experience he’s not unique, as Martin O’Malley has even more than he does.

TNR has an article trying to figure out the reasoning here:

Chafee’s reasons for running are confounding, even to those closest to him. In his announcement, he presented a handful of issues motivating his run, including the fact that he voted against the Iraq war, that he is against torture and capital punishment, and that he is in favor of … the metric system.

All of which are perfectly fine stances to take, but even Ted Kennedy had a better answer for why he’s running for president. It makes it seem as though the real reason is because he’s a career politician and this is what’s left, after being forced from the Senate and effectively forced from the governorship.

One of my rules of thumb is that moderate Republicans–a species Chafee long belonged to, and only reluctantly left–are utter narcissists. John McCain isn’t much of a moderate anymore, but he’s long been one of the most famous senators despite a shockingly small ratio of service to accomplishment. But you can see him any Sunday morning. Susan Collins constantly gets media attention, although the only thing I know her from is advocating to work truck drivers to death and op-eds about the glories of bipartisanship that I’ve written about too many times. And so on. Generally speaking, the other moderate Republicans of recent years have been uninspiring in terms of getting things done–former Sens. Olympia Snowe and Scott Brown did little other than mark time and empower reactionaries by keeping those seats, while Collins and Mark Kirk are outright phony moderates on but a few issues. But these folks are constantly covered and lauded by the media, celebrated for their independence. (As are moderate and conservative Democrats, of course, but there are more of them so there is less attention to go around.) Chafee was long one of them, of course. Given his state and issue profile he probably should have been a Democrat, but the attention was unbeatable for a guy who would have been utterly anonymous as a Democrat. Ultimately, his remaining relevant required him to leave the GOP and eventually join the Democrats. Nobody cared. So what else can a politician do to get some attention? I think the answer is obvious.

Okay, so I got in a bit of trouble the last time I blogged about voter ID as a concept, for which I take complete blame as I did not really articulate where I was coming from very well. My first choice on this issue would be to do nothing, since there’s no real evidence that there is a problem that needs to be solved. However, the Republican Party has adopted voter ID laws as a tactic to disenfranchise voters they don’t agree with politically, heedless of the consequences to our democracy and to their long-term health as a political party. So, as a second choice, if we’re going to have to have something like this, I would prefer something…well, sort of like the law signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island:

The photo ID requirement will not kick in until 2014, and all college, Rhode Island and federally issued IDs will be accepted under the law. The state will provide free IDs to those who don’t have one and will allow those without IDs to cast provisional ballots.

Reading the whole report (and I’d recommend it), it really does appear that the goal here was to design a voter ID law based on inclusivity instead of exclusivity. It’s hard to see how someone who actually wants to vote in Rhode Island won’t be able to under the new law. Not enough cash for an ID card? The state will provide one, gratis. Can’t get out to the DMV to pick an ID up? You can cast a provisional ballot, no problem. Now, of course, you could criticize Rhode Island’s Democratic government for affirming the validity of voter ID laws, and to the extent that it encourages Republicans in, say, Ohio to claim, “Well, even the liberal Rhode Island is requiring voter ID! It’s okay for us to do it too!” then it’s clearly not such a good thing. That’s fair, though it’s really a complaint about the media and how the political debate in this country is conducted. I don’t think the concept of having some form of ID is necessarily the problematic concept. The problem is really that Republicans routinely set up voter ID laws to keep vulnerable parts of the population from voting, i.e. the problem is disenfranchisement. I don’t see how Rhode Island is doing that. And, while it’s not as though Rhode Island’s law is going to increase participation in the political process, I don’t really see how it’s going to hurt it significantly. It’ll probably end up being a wash is my guess. Which brings up the question of why to do it at all, if when implemented in a relatively fair fashion it winds up having no impact on outcomes. Let me reiterate that I agree, there’s really no point to doing it at all, and if it winds up having no effect in Rhode Island it will be a powerful rhetorical point against GOP arguments on the subject, that significant voter fraud does not exist outside of Fox/Rush/Drudgeland.

Of course, this is all a rather nuanced conversation when the Republicans mostly just want to yell, “VOTER FRAUD!!!1!!” and volume unfortunately is often enough to win debates at this point. But what needs to be considered is that down this road lies the long-term damage they are doing to themselves with young voters (who will later be middle-aged voters that will never forget being disenfranchised by the GOP while young), as well as minorities, et al. As with much of the Republicans’ current tactics, this one might help them in the short term, but the long term consequences don’t look so good. Also, this seems as good a time as any to push for national legislation setting requirements on how states can institute these ID laws, and perhaps some federal guidelines on when criminals can vote would be good too. It is insane to me that the states get to make policy on this matter, and to the extent they do, they ought to get very little leeway to make mischief.

Not full-on marriage, sadly, but a step forward is a step forward.

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