Former Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee thinks he has a chance of winning the Democratic nomination and, despite an excellent opening speech to set out his liberal credentials, failed to make much impact. Indeed Chafee had a few occasions which may have killed his slim chance especially in the manner of these what I perceived as car-crashes.
On the issue of electability Chafee, who used to be a liberal Republican, said that “I may have changed party but I’ve never changed my positions”. This statement and the response of the audience, was proof of how the Democratic base are much more intellectually mature. The audience didn’t respond at all to Chafee openly declaring that he used to be a Republican which marks the difference between the Democratic and Republican bases; what would the reaction of the GOP’s base be if say John Kasich used to be a centre-right Democrat?
When asked about gun control Chafee said that if president he would bring the gun lobby in to discuss gun safety in order to work in a bipartisan way. The problem with this is that it assumes that the NRA and Gun Owners of America actually want bipartisanship; the Democrats, and the American people, have said they support stronger gun laws especially regarding background checks, whereas the NRA’s Vice Executive President Wayne LaPierre famously said “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun”.
Chafee was strongest on foreign policy in which he was applauded for being the only Senate Republican to vote against the Iraq War in 2001 and criticised Clinton for her poor judgement in her support for the war. He also criticised Webb for his characterisation of the Iran nuclear deal as harmful, and said that the problems in the Middle East was the biggest threat to national security. He went on to speak about his approach to the Middle East more broadly by saying that he would end the foreign wars, do fewer drone strikes and create a “new paradigm”.
Chafee spoke about the Patriot Act and Edward Snowden in which he said that although he voted for the Partiot Act the Bush Administration had gone too far in regards to bulk collection of data and the NSA because it was understood in the Senate that it would be subject to the Fourth Amendment and that investigators would require warrants. He also said unequivocally that Edward Snowden should be welcomed back to America as a patriot.
Regarding the economy Chafee wasn’t given much time to speak about the issue in much detail but he identify himself as opposed to the Bush tax cuts. The other main thing he said was in reference to his vote to repeal Glass-Steagall: “Glass-Steagall was my first vote in the Senate, my dad had died and was appointed to the Senate. It was 92-5”. This statement killed his chance. If you didn’t know what you were going to vote on then abstain or don’t vote, and if your defence is essentially ‘everyone else was doing it’ then that disqualifies you for the presidency because you didn’t think for yourself. On a smaller point the actual vote result was 92-8 but that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
The final thing of substance he said was that the enemy was most proud of to have made was the coal lobby due to his views on climate change, which was interesting given that the obvious political choice given recent events would have been either the NRA or “my former party”.
Chafee was always going to have a tough time at the debate because he was one of the three other candidates that the media wasn’t really talking about. All Chafee had to do was establish himself as a liberal alternative to Clinton in order to boost his notoriety among the base and thus improve his poll ratings. Instead he admitted that, although he was definitely better than all of the GOP candidates in terms of policy substance, admitting that you voted against something because everybody else was going to immediately disqualifies you from become president.