Thursday, April 13, 2006

Is It Too Much to Ask That Democrats At Least Vote As Liberally As a Republican?

Voters, for some inexplicable reason, think that the character exhibited by a politician in merely political affairs somehow reflects that politician's character in important matters -- as if integrity and courage were integral to one's nature, rather than garments one can put on and off.

How silly, of course. As Democrats, we know that we can cravenly triangulate and calculate and polltake and cower in the political arena, and still be trusted to be courageous and principled on matters of war, peace, and liberty.

Not.

This article, about Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee, should shame every Democrat in Congress besides Russ Feingold and John Conyers:

EXETER, R.I. -- Lincoln Chafee was cleaning a horse stall on his well-manicured farm one recent early morning, describing his latest encounter with hostile home-state Republicans.

The GOP senator had appeared the previous night before the Scituate Republican Town Committee to seek the endorsement of the small but influential group. In his halting, soft-spoken way, Chafee defended his opposition to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. as the principled positions of an old-school conservative.

Chafee, 53, once could count on voters in Rhode Island to tolerate his maverick ways, but this time the response was blank stares. "Nobody listened to my reasoning," Chafee recounted as he piled hay into a wheelbarrow. "They support the president on everything."***

Chafee ... can be strong-willed and immovable once he makes up his mind. He shrugged off pressure from the GOP and voted against tax cuts and an energy bill packed with oil industry incentives. He was the only Senate Republican to oppose the Iraq war resolution. His greatest act of blasphemy was voting against Bush in the 2004 election. Instead, Chafee wrote in the president's father, former president George H.W. Bush....


I've said here that there are no good Republicans any more; Olympia Snowe's sellout on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Arlen Specter's vote on Samuel Alito despite his pro-choice claims and his refusal to swear Alberto Gonzalez despite his stated opposition to extrajudicial domestic spying, seemed like the last straws. But there's a Republican who, unlike most Democrats, has been willing, at some personal cost, to oppose his party's President and do the right thing.

JFK's "Profiles In Courage", the great treatise on political guts by one of the greatest Democrats, is now enacted best by a lone Republican. No Democrat has risked his own party's ire in the same way Chafee has, at least not for noble purposes (Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, unlike Chafee, have betrayed their party in the service of ignoble greed, not principle).

I don't ask much, but might I ask: could the faux-centrist "Democrats" who control our party perhaps, if it's not too daunting, be progressive enough to copy the voting record of perhaps the last Constitution-respecting Republican?
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3 comments:

Nordy said...

Don't get too mushy about Chaffee. His main claim to fame was that he was pro-choice. Like the other faux-pro-choicers out there, he voted FOR cloture on the Alito fillibuster, thereby guaranteeing Alito's spot on the Supreme Court.

He did vote against the war, though, so that was nice.

lucretia said...

Most northeast Republican senators/Reps. are moderate and often have lined up with the Dems in the past on critical votes. We have to realize everyone in Wash. now is being blackmailed overtly or not so obviously, but I think the Bush Junta has taken care of the opposition.

I think we should not expect things to be as they used to be, and we should stop trying or eulogizing someone's miserable effort.

Thersites D. Scott said...

I think we should not expect things to be as they used to be, and we should stop trying or eulogizing someone's miserable effort.

I think it's valuable to highlight any good-faith behavior by Republicans, for two reasons. First, to shame those in our own party who don't have the gumption to do the same -- just as Diettrich Bonhoeffer's opposition to the Nazis should have shamed every Frenchman who collaborated with the Nazis. If a German can stand up to Hitler, why aren't French people able to do the same?

Second, we want to divide and conquer. The more Republicans split from the party, the easier it will be to build a coalition to oppose Bush. And, if Lieberman keeps leaving the reservation, we need the occasional Republican to take his place.

Not that I'm disagreeing with you, I'm just explaining why I was willing to give Chafee a plug.