November 6, 2006

The Rhode Island U.S. Senate Race: Advocating for Change by Staying on the Sidelines

Donald B. Hawthorne

This is a post I began writing on September 12, right after the primary vote had been counted. Not wanting to write anything rash after a hotly contested election, I chose to reflect on its contents for several months - expanding my thoughts as new events added more perspective.

First, a few reminders from the past: I have expressed admiration for Mayor Laffey's personal life story but expressed doubts about his decision to run for the U.S. Senate and was highly critical of his energy and healthcare public policy positions even as I agreed with many of his other policy stances. Near the end of the Republican primary timetable, I reiterated how both candidates were a letdown and reiterated some rather blunt criticism of Mayor Laffey's policy recommendations. In other words, I am not writing this post as a highly partisan Laffey fan.

Along the way, the Republican Senate National Committee showed that its core was the preservation of its own power for the sake of power rather than the articulation of any meritorious principles. If the national and state GOP offer no principled reasons to stand with them, then they are no different than any other political party and deserve to be abandoned as I have said here.

So where are we today, one day before the election?

I have no respect for Sheldon Whitehouse. To say he has a track record of even limited accomplishments would be kind. To say that he articulates a vision in this race - other than personal animus toward President Bush - would be wildly generous. And then there is his insufferable personal style.

But I cannot vote for Lincoln Chafee and have made the decision to stay on the sidelines for the U.S. Senate race in Tuesday's vote.

There are three major policy reasons for my decision:


I disagree with Chafee on nearly every major fiscal and tax policy issue of importance as he frequently votes with Democrats and is part of the PAYGO crowd. The PAYGO advocates are intellectually dishonest when they refuse to acknowledge that budget deficits have never been due to a lack of tax revenues. Rather, deficits have always been a result of uncontrolled spending and PAYGO is nothing less than a trojan horse for further undisciplined spending. Chafee's fiscal and tax policies are not that dissimilar from Democrat policies.

More specifically, Chafee apparently doesn't grasp that it is incentives which drive human behavior and the validity of supply-side economics (see here and follow the links at the bottom) is directly attributable to its recognition of the importance of such incentives. If you want even more empirical data, read this excellent article by Arthur Laffer, in which he presents historical data on the effects of marginal tax cuts from the Harding-Coolidge (1920's), Kennedy (1960's) and Reagan (1980's) eras - which also turn out to be the three times of greatest economic growth in the last 100 years.

Unlike those of us who are entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley and have created jobs and wealth through innovation and hard work, PAYGO is a philosophy that - not surprisingly - is frequently associated with some Northeast liberal Republicans whose world view is more influenced by the personal experience of clipping coupons than having to meet a payroll.

(For more particulars on the logic problems of PAYGO, go here, here, and here.)


We are at war with Islamic fascists who seek the destruction of America. Some have responded to this battle of our lifetime with clarion calls for standing tall, like Senator Santorum did here.

Yet, in this difficult time, all Chafee can offer us on foreign policy issues is contradictory and incoherent views:

After the first three Republican Senate debates, Senator Lincoln Chafee left voters with three seemingly incompatible views of foreign policy…
A flirtation with pacifism ("A bad peace is better than a good war"),

Support for isolationism ("Fear of foreign entanglements"), and

Support for American hegemony ("A world where America is the strongest country in a peaceful world").

His broader views on the Middle East are - to be kind - befuddled.

And, during a time when North Korea is exploding nuclear bombs and Iran is actively developing nuclear weapon capabilities, Chafee unilaterally derailed the nomination of U.N. ambassador John Bolton - even after Bolton had shown, by his on-the-job performance, a level of sophisticated and stalwart leadership so desperately needed.

In other words, Chafee has neither the beliefs nor the personal fortitude to give a speech like Senator Santorum did. Like many Democrats on the national stage, Chafee articulates a confused and unrooted world view at a time of danger in our nation's history.


The Republican-controlled Senate has not distinguished itself on many, many issues. In fact, the only reason to argue for why it is important for the Senate to stay Republican is so a different sort of judge will continue to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.

Yet, Chafee voted against the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court and opposed other Bush-nominated judges. And that makes him no different than Rhode Island having another Democrat senator or turning control of the Senate over to the Democrats.

In this way, Chafee is aligned with left-wing fundamentalists who seek to portray the debate about judges as a struggle between left-wing and right-wing judicial activists. Which just proves how they don't get it.

An alternative viewpoint is highlighted in Moving Beyond Loyalty to the Rule of Law Mixes Law & Politics, where I wrote about the importance of rediscovering the proper and limited role of the judiciary as envisioned by our Founders and how "conservatives were not simply seeking to confirm judges who will be activists - albeit conservative ones - from the bench." More on this alternative judicial philosophy can be found in the numerous links at the bottom of the preceding post as well as here.


In addition to disagreeing with Chafee on these three important policy areas, there is also a gravitas issue. Writing in President Bush's father in the 2004 presidential race - and talking about it publicly - while taking money and support from the very party he disdains is an example of unprincipled opportunism, not gravitas. And that is why this quote from a Pittsburgh editorial about Senator Rick Santorum's opponent in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race pretty well defines my view of Chafee:

But, first, allow us to dispatch, quickly, with Santorum's Democrat challenger, Bobby Casey Jr.: There's no "there" there.

We can't even say Mr. Casey, the state treasurer, is one of those fellas who says everything but says nothing; he simply doesn't say much of anything. And when he does speak, it's so passive and intellectually vapid that silence would have been more engaging and informative.

For all of these reasons, I will not vote for Chafee tomorrow. And, unlike Chafee himself, I won't try to be cute and write in his late father's name. Nope, what Chafee will get from me tomorrow is the deadly silence of one no vote.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

You should just write in Steve Laffey's name. Not cute at all, and a much clearer message to Chafee (who probably believes a blank ballot means that the person forgot to vote).

Posted by: AuH2ORepublican at November 6, 2006 7:07 PM

Couldn't agree more with your analysis of the two candidates. However, I will write in a name. While no candidate can ever be the perfect match, Mayor Laffey brought forth the potential for real change in Washington. I still long for that change, and will write in his name. A vote against Chafee, but not one for Whitehouse.

I am still angered by the actions of the national Republican party during the primary. I concur that the GOP demonstrated an interest more in power than principle. Republicans gained power when they stood for strong principles in 1994. Fitting that they could lose the coveted power in tomorrow's election, the year power trumped principle in the GOP leadership.

Where's the next Newt Gingrich to restore conservatism to the party that claims to espouse it?

Posted by: rightri at November 6, 2006 7:14 PM

Two observations. First a little known fact: Sheldon's father was the first Asst. SecDef for Special Ops. and was widely respected in that community. Second, anybody who knows Sheldon has seen how he behaves around cops and soldiers -- frankly, he seems more relaxed in that environment than in any other. When it comes to national security issues, there is a lot more to Sheldon than meets the eye.

Reality is that a politician's first obligation is to get elected, and sometimes that requires some compromises. Granted, some will prefer the glory of an ideologically pure campaign that results in defeat. I am not one of them. For better or worse, Sheldon learned some lessons from his defeat in the 2002 primary, and they have been on display in this campaign. Quite simply, he is doing what he believes he needs to do to win. And I am the first to say I don't like some of his new friends. But I also believe that history has shown, repeatedly, that there is often a difference between how a person campaigns to get elected (especially the first time) and how he or she governs (or legislates, as the case may be). In this sense, I am voting for Sheldon on the basis of a longer perspective on who he is.

I realize that this may not go down well with people on this blog. But the truth is, I think Sheldon has the potential to be a great Senator, and is far more of a centrist than most people realize.

Posted by: John at November 6, 2006 9:25 PM

LOL. Yeah right. He will, UNLIKE CHAFEE, cast identical votes with Kennedy and Schumer. Why do you think the far left is spending $10 million dollars against Chagfee? KEEP CHAFEE DUMP SENATOR FOR LIFE SHELDON.

Posted by: Mike at November 7, 2006 8:15 AM

I'm with Don.

I vote neither.

Posted by: don roach at November 7, 2006 2:44 PM

I held my nose and voted for Chaffe, more as a vote against Whitehouse (who, frankly, scares the pants off of me).
I also had a desire to attempt to maintain the GOP majority in the Senate, although, I admit to not knowing why.
I waited 40+ years for a totally GOP national government, and have been EXTREMELY disappointed in it. The GOP squandered an opportunity to show it's potential to the people on this great country. Too many of them talk like "R"'s but legislate like "D"'s.
After 6 years of GOP domination, taxes should be MUCH lower, the deficit shoud be all but history and honesty and integrity should be busting out all over DC. And yet, they became just another bunch of tax & spend Senators that couldn't keep their fly's zipped.
I find myself wondering, tonight, how soon the secessionist movement in the midwest/mountain states, which went on hiatus after the Gingrich revolution, will resurface.
There are two distinct, and non-compatible views of what America is, and should stand for. Forty years ago, I had a premonition that I would outlive the USA, and I'm afraid that today's return of the elitist party to power will bring that to pass in the very near future.

Posted by: Ted Young at November 7, 2006 11:34 PM
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