Symptom of the GOP’s Incumbency Disease
Republican establishment has fallen ill. A new virus, in the shape of
RINO (Republicans In Name Only), incumbents has penetrated it so deeply
so as to alter its identity. Whether the illness was brought upon by the
Bush administration, difficult elections or loss of a moral compass is
not clear, but what is certain is that the party cannot remain in power
for long without a serious change in policy.
Rhode Island Senate primary was a perfect example of the Republican
establishment’s complete obsession with the protection of its incumbents
at the cost of principle. The race saw Senator and self-proclaimed
Republican Lincoln Chafee trying to hold on to his seat in the face of
serious opposition from Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, a conservative
Republican who presented himself as the voice of those disaffected with
the incumbent senator.
nationwide rejoiced at the prospect of unseating Senator Chafee, and
contributions poured in from around the country into the coffers of the
previously unknown Laffey. Little did they know, however, that they
would be vociferously fought back – not by Democrats, but by the same
Republican establishment to whom they had most probably written
checks as well.
National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spent $1.2 million
mostly on ads attacking Laffey’s credibility, the Republican National
Committee (RNC) unleashed the 72-hour get-out-the-vote effort usually
reserved for general elections. Even Laura Bush made the trip to Rhode
Island to campaign for the same senator who refused to vote for her
husband in 2004.
would the highest-ranking Republicans feel so strongly about protecting
Chafee from an unquestionably more “Republican” opponent? After all,
Chafee is a champion of abortion rights, opponent of tax cuts and a
supporter of gay marriage. He was one of the few Republicans to oppose
drilling in ANWR, and the only Republican Senator to vote for a
non-binding timetable for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
establishment’s rationale was clear: Protect the incumbents because they
have a much better shot at re-election, and yes, even if they use the
Republican platform as toilet paper. The RNC and NRSC saw Chafee as a
more “electable” Republican in Rhode Island, and that is all they wanted
six-year-old can tell you that in a two-party system, the candidate who
is closer to the center of the political spectrum stands a better chance
at being elected. But Chafee isn’t just a centrist. He is very much on
the left side of the spectrum. Hence for those who associate Republicans
with the right (everyone), it becomes clear that a Republican on the
left side of the political spectrum is no longer a Republican. This
concept, it seems, is too obvious to necessitate an explanation, but
when you have President Bush, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman acting
irrationally, doubts about its blatancy are inevitably raised.
are conservatives. Their leaders are in theory and practice expected to
support small government, low taxes, traditional marriage and an end to
the practice of abortion. In the opening years of the 21st
Century, they are also thought to support drilling in ANWR and staying
in Iraq until the job is done. Republican leaders also lead their
constituents in voting for Republican presidents.
actively stood in opposition to every single one of these expectations,
fairly standard ones for Republican Senators. Yet the establishment is
willing to sacrifice all of these issues in order to maintain an
additional Senator under the “R” column. The question, however, is
inevitably raised: What is the significance of that “R” if the Senator
it describes votes against “R” values as actively as Democrats do? The
fact of the matter is that a Democratic Senator would vote much the same
way that Chafee does.
light of this, the Republican establishment could mobilize its troops
and spend its millions on races that involve actual alternatives, such
as Maryland and New Jersey, where Republicans stand an excellent chance
of capturing Democratic seats.
But no. The
establishment instead prefers to proudly invest its money in a publicity
campaign against an ideal conservative and in favor of a pro-choice,
tax-and-spend, liberal politician with an “R” next to his name. It feels
no shame in targeting conservatives’ money at getting out the
independent and Democratic vote in the Rhode Island Republican Primary.
Republican Party’s strategists expect to get this little something out
of a Chafee re-election, they don’t even have a guarantee that such is
the case. Chafee might very well follow in the footsteps of Jim Jeffords
and become an Independent, or even switch his party affiliation to
Democrat. After all, he publicly proclaimed that he refused to vote for
President Bush, and the latter still supports him. What could possibly
shame him into remaining in the Republican column?
establishment’s sacrifice of conservative principles will surely come
back to haunt it. While Republicans waste their resources on
unpredictable senators such as Chafee and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter,
the Democrats are encouraging ideological purity in their ranks by
ousting the likes of Joe Lieberman.
rate, the Republican establishment might have the majority column, but
it won’t have the votes on critical legislation. And until it ceases its
support for social and fiscal liberals for the sake of incumbency, it
won’t have my money either.
© 2006 North Star
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