True Moderation: Why Lincoln Chafee Must Be Defeated

Steve Clemons argues for the re-election of Republican Lincoln Chafee on the grounds that "we need to support moderates who are willing to stand up to extremists." We certainly do - but Lincoln Chafee isn't one of them. Lincoln Chafee voted for both Trent Lott and Bill Frist as Senate Majority Leader. They are extremists.

Not only that, but when the Republicans nominate Mitch McConnell for Majority Leader in January - as they probably will - Chafee will vote for him, too. McConnell's a radical rightwinger who's out of step with the electorate. He's also a partisan bully and a charter member of the Republican kleptocracy.

Here's the bottom line in this election. The Republican Party has been hijacked by extremists and corrupt politicians, and there isn't a Republican Senatorial candidate out there who won't assist them in their orgy of greed and radicalism when it matters most: in determining who controls the United States Senate.

In self-help lingo, Lincoln Chafee is what they call an "enabler." He seems like a nice man, if somewhat diffident and indecisive for a leader. Steve Clemons alludes to this weakness when he writes that "Chafee's confidence has grown enormously this year." That's nice for Mr. Chafee, but you don't re-elect someone to the United States Senate in order to encourage their personal growth.

Don't get me wrong. I think Lincoln Chafee is a pretty moderate guy, although he supported an extremist for Chief Justice. In the end, however, his re-election will help keep his radicalized and corrupted party in power. That matters - a lot.

Clemons suggests that both Chafee and his opponent, Sheldon Whitehouse, are "decent and smart guys." I imagine that's true. If so, why vote for the one that will support the runaway monster the Republican Party has become?

Clemons struggles to answer this question:

"I do hope that the Dems do well in the next race and support their taking the House and the Senate, but particularly the House -- so as to undo the power dynamics that Tom DeLay built which have kept the Congress from defending its prerogatives in our system of checks and balances."

Then why on Earth support Chafee? Because, he says, "We need to support moderates who are willing to stand up to extremists." That's the problem: When the Republican Party is led by extremists, all that Republican moderates can do is enable them. Sheldon Whitehouse will stand up to extremists, too - and he'll do it without putting them back into power.

If they re-elect Chafee, Rhode Island voters run the risk of giving Senate control back to the greedy radicals.

And let's be clear just how radical and greedy Mitch McConnell, the leading candidate for GOP Majority Leader, really is. McConnell cozied up to big pharma lobbyists who promised big contributions for Republicans. He had to give away a juicy Abramoff-directed contribution when the story came out. He led the shrill attacks against the New York Times for revealing possible GOP spying illegalities. His bullying style earned him the gift of a Louisville Slugger and contributed to the defection of Jim Jeffords (a real moderate) from the GOP. He has led the fight against campaign reform - which was the most truly bipartisan Washington effort in five years.

Why would anybody who wants to restore decency and bipartisanship support a Senator who'll vote for like McConnell - or someone like him - as Majority Leader? Says Clemons: "My blog commentary is about promoting healthy discourse and new policy ideas along with principled leadership ... "

Nobdoy would argue against such noble sentiments, but here's the problem: The Republican majority has ruled Washington the way Al Capone ruled Chicago. They've crushed "healthy discourse," belittled "new policy ideas," and smeared "principled leadership" with race-baiting, bullying, and dirty campaigning. A vote for Chafee will subvert the very list of virtues that Clemons cites - no matter how nice a guy he may be personally.

There's a school of thought among the commentariat that I call "feel-good bipartisanship." ( I won't pigeonhole Clemons based on this one piece - but think David Broder.) The "feel-good bipartisans" are people who want to think of themselves as non-aligned and above the fray -- so much so that they'll ignore any outrage by one side or the other (read: Republicans) in order to preserve the rosy glow of moderation that encircles their head like a halo.

Don't get me wrong: Bipartisanship can be a beautiful thing. I worked with the State Department in a number of foreign countries during Bush I's Administration, and was proud to represent my country. My project leaders were partisan Republicans, and we worked together just fine.

This is a different era, and an uglier one. Today's GOP is out of control and must be stopped. Washington needs to clean house of the extremists and the gangsters, and there's no Republican in Washington who can help do that.

It's unfortunate that we live in a time when voting for a moderate individual results in the continued dominance of an extremist majority. Republicans have only themselves to blame, however. Tom Daschle and the Democrats certainly tried a collaborative approach, and were rewarded with nothing but vicious partisanship in return.

Once the GOP is cleansed of corruption and radicalism, the "feel-good nonpartisans" can start finding "nice Republicans" to endorse and I won't say a word. Until then, however, it's imperative for voters in states like Rhode Island to support real change. And real change - change that promotes "healthy discourse" and "new policy ideas" - can only occur when the most partisan political machine in history is removed from power, so that the work of healing the country can begin.

Rhode Island's slogan consists of a single word: "Hope." Let's all hope that its voters do the right thing on November 7.

MODERATES, TAKE NOTE: The most unequivocally bipartisan issue in Washington today is veteran's rights, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans' Association has created a handy interactive guide to politicians' records on this issue. (Highly recommended.) Chafee only scores a "C," while his Democratic fellow Senator Jack Reed rates an "A-." That's food for thought for moderate Rhode Island voters.