Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lincoln Chafee becomes a Democrat

By Frank Moraes


Have you heard the news? Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee will become a Democrat tomorrow. You probably don't care, but stick with me because this is interesting. He used to be a Republican. And then he became an independent. I'm still not sure what the hell that is. When a regular person is an independent, it normally means that they don't have a clue or any real interest in politics. You can generally depend upon them to think whatever the news is barking at them at the time. I figure these are the people who claimed to be Christians during Bush's first term but who decline to answer now. Confused people. I'm sure you know the type.

But in a politician, independent means something else. As far as I can tell, it normally means someone is a Democrat, but they don't like the label. Put in more general terms, it means they are socially liberal and economically conservative. And that pretty much means Democrat at this point. So Chafee is just admitting what's been clear for a while. It would be like Tobias onArrested Development announcing that he's gay. But you have to wonder about his first name: Lincoln. His parents have got to have been Republicans. And let's face it: the Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln. It's more the party of John C. Calhoun, if you know what I mean.

I find it disturbing that we only see Republicans become Democrats. It never works the other way around with established politicians. Now I know: much of that is just due to the fact that the Republicans have become a revolutionary party. And indeed, most of these politicians have just stood still and watched as the Republican Party moved in directions seemingly designed to signal that they will lead the fascist movement in the 21st century. But it isn't just that. A politician could leave the Republican party and remain an Independent for the rest of his career. That's especially true of a governor. Consider everyone's favorite metrosexual Charlie Crist who only last year completed the final leg of his journey from Republican to Democrat. What's up with that, Charlie?

What's going on, I think, is that the Democratic Party has made it far too easy for old school Republicans to become Democrats. Look: I want the Democratic Party to be a big tent. If it weren't, I wouldn't be in it. Just the same, the Democrats have made it a lot harder for people like me on the left to stay in the tent because they've moved the tent so far to the right. In general, on economic issues, the modern Democratic Party is about where Nixon's Republican Party was. Actually, it's probably even more conservative than that. The only place where the Democrats have moved left is on social issue. And the only people who really agree with the conservatives on social issues are people in the bigoted Republican base. There is no doubt in my mind that the Republican elite would liberalize those positions if they thought they could get away with it.

Don't get me wrong: I am glad to have Chafee and Crist in the Democratic Party. But is it asking so very much that it not be a trivial move for the more reasonable Republicans to fit into our supposedly liberal party? That's all I'm asking for.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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