As you may know from reading my blog (see my August 10 posts), I believe that the Republican Party would be better off if Senator Lincoln Chafee (RINO-Rhode Island) made it official and switched to the Democrat Party. Well, the announcement by Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey, a pro-life, moderate-to-conservative Republican, that he will run against Chafee in the 2006 Rhode Island GOP Senate primary could help give Chafee that “push” he needed to join the Democrat Party, where he would have a better chance of winning the primary.
Stephen Laffey is a candidate whose views are well suited to Rhode Island tastes---he is a bit populist on economics (but not a socialist or union lackey), pro-life on abortion (but not “in-your-face” about it), and a supporter of the military (but not a George W. Bush-type hawk). While, in a vacuum, Laffey is not my ideal candidate by any stretch of the imagination, we must remember that he is running in Rhode Island, a state that gave President Bush under 40% in each of 2000 and 2004, so we cannot run a 100% conservative and expect to win. Laffey is probably like a 75% conservative, which is certainly better than a 25% conservative (if that) in Chafee or a 5% conservative such as the Democrats running for the Senate.
Some of you may wonder why I call Chafee a “25% conservative.” Well, this number comes from the 12 key votes of the 107th Congress selected by Michael Barone for his Almanac of American Politics. The votes prove that Chafee is far too liberal to call himself a Republican. Chafee is markedly more liberal than the other RINO Senators (Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins), as well as far more liberal than schizophrenic Republican John McCain and conservative Democrat Ben Nelson. The 12 votes selected by Barone as representative of the 107th Congress are (1) a $1.35 trillion tax cut over 10 years, (2) expand patients’ rights in dealing with insurers and HMOs, (3) campaign finance reform (“CFR”), (4) permit oil exploration in ANWR, (5) confirm John Ashcroft as Attorney General, (6) withhold funding from schools that prohibit Boy Scouts from using their facilities due to the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters, (7) provide funds for the prosecution of “hate crimes,” (8) provide access to (and funding for) abortions for military personnel and their dependents stationed overseas, (9) prohibit U.S. cooperation with International Criminal Court, (10) extend trade promotion authority, (11) authorize use of U.S. military force against Iraq, and (12) excluding presidential authority to ban union membership for Homeland Security employees. This is a fair collection of issues, with four votes that measure economic conservatism, four that measure social conservatism, and four that measure foreign-relations conservatism.
Chafee voted with the conservatives on just 3 of the 12 votes: (1) He voted for the 2001 Bush tax cut (although he was instrumental in reducing the amount of the tax cut---in fact, Chafee was the first GOP Senator to speak out against it, even before then-Republican Jim Jeffords did), (2) he voted to confirm Ashcroft, and (3) he voted in favor of trade promotion authority. 3 out of 12 is 25%, which is 25% less than how Specter voted (Specter’s 6 conservative votes were (1) tax cuts, (2) ANWR, (3) Ashcroft, (4) hate crimes, (5) trade promotion authority, and (6) Iraq War). Snowe also had 6 conservative votes: (1) tax cuts, (2) Ashcroft, (3) ban cooperation with ICC, (4) trade promotion authority, (5) Iraq War, and (6) deny Homeland Security union. Her Maine colleague Collins had 7 conservative votes, the same 6 that Snowe had plus voting for the Boy Scouts. McCain voted conservative on 9 of the 12 votes, all but (1) expand patients’ rights, (2) CFR and (3) ANWR. And Ben Nelson, in spite of facing pressure from the Democrat leadership to vote the party line, voted conservative on 7 of the 12 votes: (1) (1) tax cuts, (2) CFR, (3) Ashcroft, (4) ban on overseas military abortions, (5) ban cooperation with ICC, (6) trade promotion authority, and (7) Iraq War; had Ben Nelson been a Republican, I think he may have voted the conservative position on 11 or 12 of the 12 votes.
Kicking Chafee out of the party would not have hurt the GOP in any of the 3 votes in which he took the conservative position (even though I think he would have voted as a liberal on all three had he been a Democrat), since the (reduced) tax cuts passed with 62 votes, Ashcroft was confirmed with 58 votes and trade promotion authority was approved 66-30. Unlike Specter, Snowe and Collins, who vote the conservative position half the time and can at least be counted on to support most of President Bush’s foreign policy, Chafee is predictably liberal across the board. The only use that Chafee had to the GOP was allowing the party to “control” the Senate back when the GOP had 50 or 51 Senators, but now that we have 55 Senators there is really no need to keep him around taking up a GOP spot on three committees (even with our 2-man advantage on those committees, there are tie votes whenever Chafee votes with the Democrats, which is more often than not) and allowing the media to say that “even one Republican Senator refused to vote for President Bush” or to call some ultraliberal measure a “bipartisan bill.”
So I say we kick him out. And if Chafee won’t leave on his own volition, Rhode Island Republican primary voters can make the decision for him by voting for Stephen Laffey in the Republican Senate primary next year.