Friday, June 05, 2015

And another Democrat

Yesterday, another of the longest of longshots entered the race for the Democratic nomination for US President. Still, small though his chances may be, he might not be the first to drop out. That’s something, anyway.

Lincoln Davenport Chafee announced his candidacy yesterday, and added all sorts of oddities to the race. Chaffee was a Republican US Senator from Rhode Island who lost his bid for re-election in 2006. He then ran for governor of his state as an Independent, then became a Democrat. So, he and Bernie Sanders are two candidates for the Democratic nomination who have a past as NOT Democrats. That’s pretty weird.

When he was a Republican US Senator, he was probably the last moderate Republican in the US Senate—maybe in all of Congress. He was the only Republican US Senator to vote against the invasion of Iraq, and he was a frequent critic of the Bush Administration. So, even as a Republican he was a bit different, to say the least.

Lincoln Chafee at his announcement (Source: Facebook).
Apparently, Chafee is the first-ever person from Rhode Island to run for president. That’s more interesting than actually freaky, but still. Of course, his connections to politics—and Republican politics—in Rhode Island are deep and long. As his rather posh name might suggest, he’s from an aristocratic Rhode Island family.

Chafee is 62, placing him third by age among Democratic candidates. On Inauguration Day, he’ll be 63 years, 301 days old. The oldest US President, Ronald Reagan, was 69 years, 349 days when he was sworn in.

Chafee is a social liberal, and signed Rhode Island’s marriage equality bill into law while he was governor of that state. But his support goes back years before that. He has moderate to liberal positions on a number of issues, but the media fixated on refusal to rule out talks with ISIS/ISIL, and that he called for the USA to adopt the metric system. On the face of it, I can’t disagree with either.

I think that Chafee’s biggest obstacle, as it is for so many running for either party’s nomination, is that people will say, “WHO?!” if asked about him. Familiarity may breed contempt, as frontrunners inevitably prove, but lack of familiarity breeds dismissiveness.

Still, Chafee is not any of the other announced Democratic candidates. If a Democrat doesn’t like Hillary, is scared of Sanders, and finds O’Malley boring, well, Chafee’s an option. None of the Democratic candidates so far are “bad”, after all. They may have different priorities and positions on issues, but—unlike the Republicans—none of them are horrible.

Chafee’s best hope, probably, is to wait to be seen as a compromise candidate should Hillary falter and Bernie fail to launch. That’s assuming O’Malley doesn’t grab the mantel first, of course.

I often wonder how many of these longshot candidates (either party) are actually running for vice president: They’re proving their appeal to voters, building name recognition and a fanbase (and donor list…), so that make put them in a better position to be selected by the eventual nominee. I’m not suggesting that Chafee (or anyone else) is doing that—how would I know?—but it is at least a possibility.

At any rate, the Democrats have a nice, sensible sedan to carry their candidates, unlike the crowded double-decker bus the Republicans have. Since the “worst” Democratic announced candidate is better the “best” announced Republican candidate, our side clearly is the luckiest at the moment.

That’s a very good thing, indeed.

Related: “Where they stand: Chafee on some issues of 2016 campaign” (AP)

When Chaffee announced, there was still 1 year, 5 months, and 5 days until the US presidential election.


rogerogreen said...

I'm still thinking that Hillary is NOT inevitable, if only because she' run her campaign so far as though she is. But I don't know yet who, other than Bernie, whose chief liability, as far as I'm concerned, is his age, will make a dent.

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

It will not surprise you in the least that I agree with you. I do note that Hillary's campaign is modelled on her successful campaign for US Senator, which may (or may not) be fine for a primary campaign (we'll see). I also agree that Bernie's age is his main obstacle. Every day I see his quotes shared widely on Facebook, but that's not enough to win a nomination: Votes are voters and Facebook posts are—when's lunch?

If Bernie can't move past mere social media engagement, then age will be the least of his concerns. IMHO.

rogerogreen said...

When she ran for Senate, she visited every one of the 62 counties in NYS, many of them large but not particularly populated.She got props from even those rural, GOP officials. But you can't visit 3000+ in the US...

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

No, but she doesn't have to. She only needs to visit them in primary states, particularly early ones. If she wins the nomination, then in the general election campaign she'll have to concentrate on visits to states that can get her to the magic 270 electoral votes.