Unlike Connecticut, last night’s victory of incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee followed in most respects the normal course of these events. The national party got behind its incumbent. A hard core group of ideologically oriented party members opposed him but, in the absence of a “silver bullet” issue like gross misconduct or a staunch and unpopular position on, say, a war, they could not dislodge him.
What on earth would we be doing talking about that race on a site called Connecticut Local Politics?
There are several issues that we might discuss (one hopes) relatively dispassionately.
One is the tension – in campaigns, in political parties, in candidates and in a lot of voters – between beliefs and principles, and the realities of politics and governing. Hardly a subject restricted to the Grand Old Party or the world's oldest party. There might be a race or five right here in Connecticut where this conflict has at least a supporting role in the contest.
In a previous post, I said that “I wondered whether the right wing of the national GOP would target the heretic RINO Chaffee as part of their crusade to purify the Party.” I'm not advocating for or against the GOP - the term RINO is one coined as I recall by the right wing of the Republican Party specifically in reference to Lincoln Chafee and others who do not share their views (which are heavily influenced by religion); and the journalism and books written on the systematic takeover of the Republican Party and the public statements of strategic intent from GOP architects like Rove, Nordquist and Kristol should be enough to place a sentence like that within the vocabulary of a “non-partisan” blogger (albeit one interested in fomenting debate).
To address the question then, you might find a reasonable parallel with this particular situation (where I obviously don't have a dog in the fight) and the three Congressional races and particularly the Senate race in Connecticut, where there appears to be no avoiding having a dog in the fight any time one opens ones mouth.
I then raised the issue of whether or not the dominant (Democratic) party in Rhode Island is willing and able to sack the Republican incumbent – despite his popularity and the good will he (and his father before him) has built up, and the fact that his voting record on key issues is just fine with a lot of Democrats there and elsewhere – in service of a strategic imperative of the national party.
So if someone accuses me of trying to draw a parallel to Rhode Island’s Senate race and Connecticut's Senate race, I guess I would have some difficulty denying it.
Rhode Island isn’t the only state in New England small enough for everybody to get to know everybody and form meaningful bonds of friendship and mutual obligation. In both races, the core principle in politics of loyalty to one's allies and friends is set against the core principle in politics of loyalty to one's party and respect for the process.
Finally (although there are certainly additional pertinent questions that could be discussed in the context of the Rhode Island Senate race), in both races the incumbent's personal convictions and the obligation to consider all their constituents’ views regardless of political stripe, are set against their obligations to their party's most loyal adherents and their demands that their party’s representatives reflect their views. Neither party has a monopoly on this dilemma.
So, whatever else you might wish to say by way of commentary on the foregoing, I put this rhetorical question to you: are these in fact legitimate subjects for debate, with potentially meaningful insights to be had? Or should we just keep yelling at each other around here?
How ‘bout it?