Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, September 16, 2007

  Lincoln Chafee quits the GOP: "Not my party any more"

crossposted from unbossed

A few months ago, without fanfare, former Senator Lincoln Chafee left the GOP—something that I had predicted was virtually unthinkable within his social circles in Rhode Island.

“It’s not my party any more,” he said

It's remarkable how candid Chafee is now about his disaffection with the national GOP.

Chafee said he disaffiliated with the party he had helped lead, and his father had led before him, because the national Republican Party has gone too far away from his stance on too many critical issues, from war to economics to the environment...

“There’s been a gradual depravation of … the issues the party should be strong on,” and the direction of the national party, he said.

"Depravation"...that's putting it mildly.

Chafee also complained about the Republicans' failure to treat seriously any of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. But at the core of his critique is the belief that the national GOP doesn't come close to reflecting traditional New England Republican values.

Yesterday, he criticized Republican leaders for abandoning fiscal conservatism, once a mainstay of Republican politics, by passing tax cuts without spending cuts to balance the resulting loss of revenue.

He said the “starve the beast” strategy that Republicans have used in an attempt to shrink government has undermined social programs that bolster a strong American middle class. He mentioned Pell grants, which help needy students attend college, and Head Start programs, which support the education of low-income children. Instead of supporting those “good social programs,” he said, the party’s approach was “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.”

There are two things remarkable about his decision to re-register as an unaffiliated voter. The least of these, the one that commentators outside R.I. are most likely to focus on, is the fact that the national GOP went to bat heavily for Chafee, both in his primary challenge by Stephen Laffey and in the general. That heavy investment of both money and staffers greatly limited the Republicans' ability to respond to strong Democratic Senate challenges elsewhere in 2006.

More remarkable is Chafee's willingness to leave the state Republican Party, in which his family has been a fixture for generations. Traditionally the R.I. GOP is both a political party and a tight-knit social circuit. I witnessed this, growing up in one of the few Republican towns in R.I. It's one of the things that has maintained some coherence for the Republican Party in New England states as the national Party went off the rails during the last few decades. Inevitably, a break with the Party means severing or straining many social contacts for an insider like Chafee. He commented to the Providence Journal:

He said he regrets that leaving the Republican Party means leaving the Rhode Island Republican Party...However, he said, “The national shadow just got too great for me.”

h/t to Libby at Newshoggers

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