Lincoln Chafee on Principles & Values
Independent RI Governor; previously Republican Senator (1999-2007)
By 1999, when I became the Republican senator from Rhode Island, the party had drifted so far right that only 5 Republicans were willing to be seen at the moderates' table on Wednesdays. We had no one there from, say, Wyoming or Kansas anymore. Our most senior member was Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Like me, the rest were New Englanders: Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and James Jeffords of Vermont, who would later quit the party to become an Independent.
The real action was at the Conservative Steering Committee, which had probably started out at a table for 5 and then grew to include almost the entire Republican caucus.
The contentious and destructive agenda that Cheney dropped on us was troubling enough, but what really unnerved me was his attitude. He welcomed conflict. We Republicans had promised America exactly the opposite.
Cheney tore our best campaign promises to shreds and the moderates acquiesced instead of pelting him with outrage. It was clear to me then that there would be no key bloc of moderate votes helping to shape legislation and reunite America over the next 4 years. In any event, Cheney was not asking for support--he was ordering us to provide it. The president-elect had his agenda; we were just along for the ride.
My heart sank as my colleagues peeled away, one by one. It was the most demoralizing moment of my 7-year tenure in the Senate.
We had a meeting about it, and the room was packed. Residents were understandably frightened and angry, and I wanted us to listen and not say anything that would raise the pitch. My supporters said, "Don't go to these things. Send low-level bureaucrats who don't have to stand for reelection."
That struck me as not only poor leadership but poor politics. I would rather take a beating than be labeled a no-show. I wanted to explain my point of view and take my chances on winning people over as best I could. That is a huge part of the art of politics, and, more important, governing. I think Warwick people liked that I did business that way. By 1994, I was tested, scarred, and comfortable as mayor.
I will always feel sadness that Dad died before I won the race to succeed him. He died in office before he got to enjoy even a single day of retirement he had announced. He had undergone back surgery in the summer of 1999, and though he returned to work in Washington I could see that he had never fully recovered. He died suddenly that October.
Assuming his duties by appointment made for a jarring transition. One day I was raising money and building support for my Senate run, the next day I was the incumbent senator.
I knew I could not vote for John Kerry in 2004. His campaign had cast real doubt on his judgment as far as I was concerned. I planned to write in a Republican candidate of my choosing.
"How can you vote for George Bush when you oppose everything he wants to do or isn't doing about the environment?", reporters asked.
I said, "Who said I'm voting for George Bush?" The feeding frenzy was on.
Voting for the president's father would make the point that there was nothing personal in my criticism of the president. I just could not abide his habit of saying one thing and doing another. On election day, I wrote the name George H.W. Bush on my ballot. Than I underlined the "H".
Everyone knew the flag desecration vote would be close. Veterans groups were energized on the issue and were after me to vote in favor. In meetings with veterans I argued that almost no one desecrates the flag. I had not seen an American protester burn an American flag in 30 years. It was just plain wrong and irresponsible to use our own partisan political agenda to poison 50 statehouses with the emotional nonissues.
The House passed the amendment by the required 2/3 majority. After a dramatic call of the roll on a proposal to amend our Constitution, it failed by one vote. I had never been prouder to cast a vote, a vote to uphold the 1st Amendment. I found many of the yea votes baffling. Using the flag for political gain was the real desecration.
I believe this is the way forward in American politics: centrist Americans, disenchanted with Republicans and Democrats alike, coalescing around 3rd party candidates who are focused on the future; on solving, not exploiting, the problems we face, whether those problems were thrust upon us by others, or we foolishly brought them on ourselves.
The next mass movement of American voters may come out of an existing party apparatus, such as the Greens or the Libertarians; but it seems more likely to gather around a personality first, than a platform.
When a 3rd way mounts a serious challenge to the Republican and Democratic parties, I suspect it will come out of nowhere and gather strength with surprising speed.
Once approached by Democratic Leader Harry Reid to switch parties, Chafee has long supported liberal policies. He backs legal abortion, gay rights, federal-funded health care, strict environmental protections and a higher minimum wage. Opposes ANWR drilling. Also was the only Republican in Congress not to endorse the Presidentís reelection and one of three who tried to gut Bushís tax cuts.Whatís a RINO? Wikipedia.com explains:
RINO stands for Republican In Name Only, a disparaging term for a member of the Republican Party who is thought to be too fiscally or socially moderate or even liberal. Those labeled RINOs counter that the conservatives who call them RINOs are too far right and politically naive. They point out that they win in moderate and liberal areas and without their votes the Republicans would lose control of Congress.
Log Cabin Republicans is the nationís largest gay and lesbian Republican organization. Log Cabin was founded to battle the nationís first anti-gay ballot measure -- Californiaís Proposition 6 in 1978. We enlisted Ronald Reagan to publicly oppose the measure, which was then defeated. Since then, Log Cabin Republicans has grown and expanded to become a leading voice on the national stage on behalf of the mainstream concerns of the gay and lesbian community.
We care deeply about equality and we hold Republican views on crime, fiscal responsibility, and foreign policy. We believe in individual rights rather than group rights. We believe in limited government rather than big government. We believe that free markets lead to free people and that all Americans should be able to participate fully in the political process.
We represent the next generation for the gay and lesbian community. No longer will we be told where we must live, how we must dress, and how we must vote. Now there is a political alternative. We know that we will move ahead only when gay people are honest about who they really are. And as the far right continues its drive to dominate our Party, Log Cabin Republicans joins other mainstream Republicans on the front lines of the battle for the Republican Partyís future.
The Republican Main Street Partnership was founded in 1998 to promote thoughtful leadership in the Republican Party, to serve as a voice for centrist Republicans and to partner with individuals, organizations and institutions that share centrist values.
The Partnership pursues public policies that reflect a limited, but responsible role for government and that are designed to achieve fiscal responsibility, economic growth, improvements in the human condition and a nation that is globally competitive and secure. Partnership members include individuals who are interested in moderate Republican policies, focusing on governance and on finding common sense solutions to national problems.
The Republican Main Street Partnership is an organization of party members and public officials committed to building America's principled but pragmatic center within the Republican Party and throughout the nation. The Partnership contributes to the nation's governance through developing and promoting creative public policies for implementation at appropriate levels of government.
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