Same Sex Marriage, Environment & Jobs: Lincoln Chafee Should Be Rhode Island’s Next Governor


lincoln chafee finger twn.jpgOn January 4th, former US Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) will formally announce his candidacy for the governorship of Rhode Island — as an Independent.
In September 2007, Chafee resigned from the Republican Party. He authored his farewell memoir to the party, Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President. Chafee distanced himself from the pugnacious nationalist wing of Republicans by allying with Center for American Progress CEO and Obama confidante in co-chairing the Commission on Climate and Tropical Forests.
As an Independent with Republican credentials, Chafee joined former US Representative Jim Leach and Republican national security and intelligence expert Rita Hauser in launching “Republicans for Obama.”
At an event I chaired at the New America Foundation titled “What Does Patriotism Look LIke?“, Chafee went into significant detail as to the reasons he was opposed to the direction George W. Bush and Richard Cheney and their followers had taken the party. When asked at the event by Kiki Ryan, who was then working for the Washington Examiner and now is on the fast track at Politico, what Chafee thought of Sarah Palin, the former Senator reported she was “cuckoo.” See the short two minute video clip posted further below.
Chafee and his team delivered the decisive blow ending John Bolton’s chances of securing a vote confirming his appointment as US Ambassador to the United Nations — thus ultimately compelling the recess-appointed John Bolton’s resignation from the post in December 2006 before the 110th Congress convened in 2007.
From challenges on the environment and climate change to sensible economic policy — to issues of war and peace — and presidential appointments that were over the line, Chafee has shown himself to be a thoughtful, deliberative leader. I still enjoy recounting that on an occasion when I stopped in to meet Mark Silverman, Chafee’s then foreign policy adviser who now heads government affairs for the International Committee of the Red Cross, I found a bunch of scruffed up “farrier licenses” that Linc Chafee had had over the years mounted and framed in as nearly a scruffed up manner. Chafee was a hard-working, long-haired guy who shoed horses, if that’s what they call it.
I knew (in the way any staffer in the Senate rubs elbows and shares trams with Senators) the late and great moderate political Republican icon, John Chafee (R-RI), who served in the US Senate for 23 years. The elder Chafee had a raspy grasp of basic folks but held himself in the posture of a Newport, RI state aristocrat — and all I could think about was what holidays with the hippie-looking son Lincoln and the elder Senator dad, John Chafee, must have been like.

But despite his leadership and sensible decisionmaking process, I support Lincoln Chafee for another reason — for his brave and correct view on same sex marriage equality in Rhode Island. Chafee is showing the kind of commitment to American civil rights advancement within his state that I wish Barack Obama could muster at a national level.
In June of this year, Chafee penned an oped that addressed same the sex marriage debate in Rhode Island.
The piece, which should be read in full, starts:

On Wednesday, June 3, 2009, the New Hampshire legislature took another step in our country’s ongoing struggle to ensure full equality for gays and lesbians by voting to permit same-sex couples in their state to legally enter into civil marriages. The vote makes New Hampshire the sixth state in the country–along with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine– to provide equal marriage rights to all its residents, and it now leaves my home state of Rhode Island as the only New England state that does not permit same-sex marriage.
Rhode Islanders are currently facing enormous challenges, particularly with an unacceptably high unemployment rate and a growing state budget deficit. State lawmakers should therefore quickly join our New England neighbors on the right side of history and pass a marriage equality bill, so that their energies can be focused on the priority issues that affect all of us.
To me, the issue of same-sex marriage boils down to a question of basic fairness. We all know someone who is openly gay or lesbian. Gays and lesbians have contributed to the diverse fabric of Rhode Island and the rest of the country for generations, strengthening our communities in innumerable ways. Far too often, same-sex marriage has been used as a wedge issue to divide and distract us from the bigger problems we face as a nation.
But once you acknowledge that homosexuality exists not by choice, the next obvious step is to grant gays and lesbians the same liberties and freedoms as every other American. We all share the same basic aspirations: a safe town and an affordable home to live in; a good job to provide us and our families with economic security; good schools for our children; quality health care; and, perhaps most importantly, someone to love, share experiences and grow old with so we’re not alone.
As a proud Rhode Islander who thinks of my state as a leader when it comes to treating others with dignity and respect, it troubles me to think we’ve fallen behind in granting our gay and lesbian family members, friends and neighbors something as fundamental and important as the right to have their relationships fully recognized by the state. That is not in keeping with the state’s proud history of inclusion and progressiveness, which can be traced back to Rhode Island’s very foundation.

This is exactly the right tone — and substance — that America’s political leaders should be setting whether at the federal level or in states.
I had the pleasure of speaking recently to a couple hundred students at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island — and got a brief but real sense of Rhode Island’s people and some of its challenges. Over the years, I have gotten to know many other Rhode Island citizens from other political battles — and although I ‘rarely’ endorse any candidates, I am conveying to all of them my strong support of Lincoln Chafee’s independent bid for Governor.
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “Same Sex Marriage, Environment & Jobs: Lincoln Chafee Should Be Rhode Island’s Next Governor

  1. David Morrill says:

    Lincoln Chafee has been a champion for doing the right things in favor of Rhode Islanders. Supporting equal rights for all people in the State is about delivering “basic fairness” to them. Chafee has a good focus on what must be done to create that type of positive living environment. There are many important challenges ahead, which the next Governor will have to tackle – such as reducing the very high unemployment rate and huge budget shortfall existing now. Mr. Chafee not only will work hard to solve those pressing problems, but he’ll communicate with State lawmakers to pass bills that provide “basic fairness” to all residents of the Ocean State.


  2. Steven Lubrano says:

    Unlike most modern politicians, Lincoln Chafee looks past partisan bickering to actually solve problems. During his tenure as a U.S. Senator, Chafee stood up to President Bush’s right-wing agenda even if it meant doing the politically unpopular thing. A true champion of sensible politics, Chafee has always put people over politics, something nearly unheard of it today’s two party system. In his independent gubernatorial campaign, Chafee is embracing Rhode Islands strong tradition of independence. While other politicians pander to the electorate, Chafee serves as a voice of reason, doing what he knows is right for Rhode Island, even if it is not politically expedient.


  3. Matt says:

    Haha, he called her a “cocky whacko,” not “cuckoo”!


  4. David says:

    Onward thru the toxic fog emanating from fundamentalist cultural luddites, Mr. Murder.


  5. Mr.Murder says:

    The availability of Gay Marriage may attract certain persons to a state. Becoming citizens there may allow them to bring capital and assets for investment. The rainbow has green(the color of money) in it.
    For the most part, it seems the demographic for gay marriage is one that has its share of per capita value. Money talks.
    Imagine certain tax shelter states adopting the same policy and having people claim citzenship there to avoid income tax levies, etc. Suddenly we’ve brought a bit of the Bahamas home to people with plenty of capital expenditures.
    It would make for extra honeymoon purchases….


  6. GGinRI says:

    During the last election, I found myself torn by my affection for
    Lincoln Chafee, and my concern about another Republican vote in
    the Senate – with the outside chance that Democrats might get to
    60. I voted for Whitehouse, and am pleased with my vote. Now,
    with Senator Chafee essentially renouncing the regressive policies
    of the current Republican Party, and with his attitude and ideas, I
    will enthusiastically support him for the Governorship of Rhode
    Island. We’re a small state, and I’m excited about the prospect of an
    independent, progressive leader who has the potential to transform
    RI into true laboratory for cutting edge environmental, economic,
    and social policy initiatives.


  7. ProvidenceBoy says:

    Thanks for posting this! I’m from Rhode Island, and I met you in
    DC at one of your speeches on foreign policy and Japan at CSIS.
    This is a great line up of reasons to support Lincoln Chafee, and I’ll
    do my part here.
    Thanks again, and happy new year!


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