Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Rhode Island is a strange state.  Lincoln Chafee will be quite hard to beat in the general election, and the real threat to him comes from Laffey in the primary.  There's no way Rhode Island will send Laffey to the Senate.

Which makes the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters and their encouragement of their members to vote for Chafee so irritating.  You see, there's not many Republican primary voters in Rhode Island.  30,000, I think.  But it's an open primary, so independents can vote.  So the Sierra Club and LCV could have actually ensured Chafee's defeat.  They did not.  They did the opposite.  More importantly, they didn't even use the leverage they had to force Chafee onto their turf.

Let me put it another way.  The LCV and the Sierra Club could, for instance, have demanded that Chafee caucus with the Democrats for their support.  They could have demanded this and defeated Chafee had he not acceded.  But they did not.  They chose to support a majority Republican Senate and Republican Commttee Chairs.  Don't give me any nonsense about them supporting their friends.  If they wanted Chafee as a friend, they could have demanded he act like it and still endorsed him.  They didn't.

So if there's an open primary, and the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are encouraging their Independent members to vote for Lincoln Chafee in the primary, then why don't Rhode Island Democrats organize voters to vote against Chafee and for Laffey in the primary?

(I'm not up on Rhode Island election law - can Democrats vote in the Republican primary?)

Tags: Environment, League of Conservation Voters, Lincoln Chafee, Sheldon Whitehouse, Sierra Club (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

no only indies

by yomoma2424 2006-04-27 08:37AM | 0 recs
I have said this before

But I will say it again if Sen. Chafee of still in the US Seate ten years from now he will not be in the Republican caucus, at some point he will jump.

by THE MODERATE 2006-04-27 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Democrats in RI can disaffiliate by a certain date - I believe in June or July - and therefore be able to vote in the GOP Primary.  Recently, Chafee's wife has called upon registered Democrats who support Chafee to disaffiliate so that they can support Chafee in the primary.  There are still other Democratic primaries - including for Lt. Governor and Secretary of State, plus any mayoral and state legislative offices with competitive primaries - that could keep at least some independents from switching to the GOP Primary.  

by browndem 2006-04-27 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

This is what I remember. I think you are right.

by punchingbag 2006-04-27 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Yes, well their dedication to the environment is just so obvious now, isn't it?  They aren't dedicated to their direct mail bases or anything, what with the intense focus on the irrelevant ANSWR and no focus on CAFE standards.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 09:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

1. How many Dems would actually go through the trouble to disaffiliate just to vote for Chaffee, someone who votes for Frist as majority leader?

2. It's not that surprising that LCV and Sierra Club would endorse and support Chaffee. Isn't Carl Pope a Rockefeller republican himself? I would bet that Chaffee is the kind of person that they would ESPECIALLY want to support. A moderate republican from yester-year that supports environmental protection. I wouldn't be surprised if they have decided to support him because they're trying to send a message to other moderate republicans that if stick to their guns then they'll get LCV and SC money as well. Maybe they're trying to turn back the tide on the Republican Party.

It's stupid and useless, but it would not surprise me.

by adamterando 2006-04-27 09:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

I agree.

It's something of a mark of the screwy relationship between the Dem party and organizations like NARAL and the Sierra Club  that folks moan about the image of the Dems as a mere mouthpiece for single-issue groups.

And then, when those groups do something that (some) Dems don't like, they're harangued for their lack of regularity!

If the Sierra Club needs the Chafee endorsement for Sister Souljah purposes, fine.

In any case, the moderate New England GOP as a species is now pretty much incumbents-only.

Once they're extinct, presumably, lefties will be imposing a litmus test on these groups' Dem endorsements...

by skeptic06 2006-04-27 09:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Bugger! I was actually agreeing with Brer O'Connor.

I need a lie-down...

by skeptic06 2006-04-27 09:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Be careful, Lucas--you are making sense and actually demonstrating that you know what you are talking about when it comes to interest groups, and that is unacceptable on this topic!

Environmental groups, like pro-choice groups, labor unions, etc., are supposed to push a single set of issues.  But, gee, wouldn't it be great if there were organizations that advocated for a whole range of issues; that presented a unified theory of how to govern; that existed in all 50 states and had a national presence, too?  

And wouldn't it be great if they named themselves after our democratic republic form of government?

And wouldn't it be great if instead of being dour and boring, they celebrated public participation, and called themselves something fun--like a party?

Matt knows better than this--it's the Democrats job to entice Chafee to caucus with them, not the Sierra Club or LCV's job.  The Sierra Club and LCV have a single focus, and that is to encourage public action to protect and preserve the environment.  Particularly ridiculous is this gem:

"If they wanted Chafee as a friend, they could have demanded he act like it and still endorsed him."

Gee, Matt, have you checked at all into Chafee's LCV ratings?  The guy scored 90% on their scorecard--how much more of a friend to the environment could he have proven himself to be?

Although the environment is a central focus of my political activity, I would vote for Whitehouse over Chafee in November.  But you fundamentally misunderstand the role of interest groups in our political system if you insist they adhere to a checklist of positions that are outside the realm of what they were formed to focus upon.  That's the role of parties, not interest groups.  

The only way Chafee can possibly win in November, assuming he gets through the primary, is by distancing himself more from Bush, and he either votes with us more often, or the Republicans punish him and he becomes a Democrat or Independent a la Jeffords.  The Sierra Club and LCV endorsements will be meaningless in light of the Democratic tide that is coming, though.

And, BTW, Matt, when can we expect to see a diary criticizing the 36 Democrats who voted for the Pombo bill gutting the Endangered Species Act? Are these our "friends"?  If we let them get a pass just to get a Democratic majority, how are we going to ever get progressive legislation passed once the Democrats are in power?

by rayspace 2006-04-27 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

The Sierra Club and LCV have a single focus, and that is to encourage public action to protect and preserve the environment.

And the don't.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 09:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

My point is not about tactics.  These groups aren't about protecting the environment, they are about direct mail fundraising and pandering to insiders.

Choices like this are an outgrowth of weak leaders.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 09:50AM | 0 recs
Missing one key point: Which candidate is better

It would be one thing if Chafee were clearly the better candidate on the environment in the general election.  Then it would make sense to talk about the balance between supporting those who support your issues, vs. the enabling Senate leadership that opposes them.  But how likely are Rhode Island Democrats to nominate a candidate for Senate who isn't better than Chafee on this issue?

When it comes to endorsing the candidate who is not the better candidate on your issue, and it's also strategically a tough choice because of the trade-offs you described, the choice seems simple to me: Wait until we know who the Democratic nominee is, evaluate his and Chafee's positions and records, and endorse the better candidate (as far as environmental issues go).  Doing so allows the group to avoid "playing politics" and keep its integrity.

by cos 2006-04-27 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

What matters is THE ENVIRONMENT, not a fucking arbitrary voting record that they set up.  Geez.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

I will concede that endorsing for the primary and general right now makes no sense.  There's no benefit for the Sierra Club or LCV if the Democrats win the Senate and Chafee wins his seat.

On Matt's point that these groups "don't" protect the environment, you may have noticed that we've had 6 years of a hostile Republican White House and Congress, during which no strong environmental legislation had any chance at all of passing.  Environmental groups have been fighting a rear-guard action during this time just to preserve the gains that were made in the 1970s and 1980s.

It does make sense to have some pro-environment Republicans in the House and Senate for these periods when they do control Congress, however, especially with the large minority of anti-environment Democrats still in office.

by rayspace 2006-04-27 10:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island
  Progressive single interest groups have failed miserably in their missions this decade. Simply put, the Sierra Club, LCV and the pro-choice groups are not effective and helping them is a waste of time. If you're pro environment and pro choice, then put whatever effort you put into politics into electing Democrats in your district and state and leave our side's tired, ineffective interest groups to die well deserved deaths. The Democratic Party, not the Sierra Club or LCV, is the only chance the environment has in this country. The idiotic move of endorsing Chafee demonstrates how pathetically out of touch with modern national politics the leaders of the environmental interest groups are. When I donate, I donate only to Democrats, when I volunteer I volunteer only for Democrats. I would never waste my time or money enabling the weak minded fools who run groups like NARAL and the Sierra Club.
  If you are a Democrat living in Rhode Island, please temporarily change your registration to Republican or independent so you can vote for Laffey in the Republican primary, then you can change back to Democrat later. A Laffey victory in the Republican primary would guarantee a Sheldon Whitehouse victory in the general.
by DallasDem 2006-04-27 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Yeah, 'cause there's no chance at all that a Democratic could ever be anti-environment or anti-choice, right DallasDem?

by rayspace 2006-04-27 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

That isn't the point. The reason environmental and pro choice groups have been losing ground this decade is that the Republicans control Congress and the White House, period. It doesn't matter whether a Republican is pro environment or whether a Democrat is weak on environmental issues. All that matters is which caucus the Representative or Senator belongs to.

by DallasDem 2006-04-27 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Of course it matters where someone stands on the issues.  36 Democrats voted for the Pombo bill to gut the Endangered Species Act last October.  If the Democrats get 218 seats this November, there's still a chance for Pombo's bill to pass, even with a Democratic majority.

by rayspace 2006-04-27 11:12AM | 0 recs
Pombo's bill couldn't pass with 218 Dems.

It couldn't pass if it isn't allowed out of the committee, which would then be controlled by the Dems.  Or not allowed to the floor for the same reason.  That is the difference.  That is why, although it is worth opposing regressive Dems, they do far less damage when the Dems are in power.  They do their damage whan the R's are in power.  So at this moment in time the chief goal is to elect Dems. That is why the Busby race is more important than any of the primaries, especially those designed to hurt an incumbent Dem.  (Although I admit to having sent money to Lamont, I don't believe he would be beaten by a Republican.  Butit is a matter of priorities, and how many races one can contribute to.)

by Mimikatz 2006-04-27 11:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Pombo's bill couldn't pass with 218 Dems.

But it could easily come out of committee if enough anti-environment Democrats are on that committee, and if enough anti-environment Democrats vote with Republicans to force a floor vote.  This can happen more easily in the House, of course, but do you know who's kept the Pombo bill from reaching the floor of the Senate?

Chafee.

by rayspace 2006-04-27 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

These organizations are unaccountable and failed behemoths.  

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Obsolete. They belong to the GI generation.

by Jerome Armstrong 2006-04-27 11:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

You are acting like a child.  First you say that it's the environmental groups' job to protect and improve the environment.  So I point out that they aren't in fact doing this, and you suggest that I'm off topic.  Whatever.

by Matt Stoller 2006-04-27 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

But by your logic, no progressive-oriented issue group could EVER endorse a Republican, regardless of how dedicated that Republican may be towards their issue.  For example, if there was an ACTUAL pro-choice republican (rather than the pretend kind like Specter, etc.) running against Casey in PA, by your logic NARAL should still be endorsing the Democrat b/c that would help keep bad judges in committee and bad bills from reaching the floor.  Maybe that makes sense on some level, but such a conclusion is hardly self-evident.

Just to be clear, I don't think that THIS endorsement is justified b/c Chafee substantively is NOT particularly good on the environment.  But I do think your pronouncements are a bit sweeping in this case.    

by HSTruman 2006-04-27 11:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Also not the point, and silly to boot given that Bush is the President and not a Congressman. Someone as right wing as Bush would never join the Democratic Party today. For the sake of argument, if Bush were a Congressman, switched to our Party (I'm assuming that you're a Democrat)and promised to vote for either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, then I would hold my nose and vote for him rather than for a pro environment Republican. That's called party loyalty. I'm loyal to the Democratic Party, not to interest groups. I'm pro choice and pro environment and I believe abortion rights and the environment will be protected only by a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.

by DallasDem 2006-04-27 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Replacing a pro-environment Republican with a pro-environment Democrat, as in Rhode Island, makes sense.  My original point was that the Sierra Club tries to have allies in both parties, which is why they bent over backward to find reasons to endorse Chafee.  I also argued that they made a mistake with endorsing for the general so early in the game.

But there are too many DINOs to make the case you're making.  The environment will not be protected simply by electing Democrats, as the vote on the Pombo bill showed.

I'm loyal to the principles the Democratic Party stands for.  I live in Chicago, and we have too many Democrats who can't be distinguished from Republicans for me to accept hard-line party loyalty as a good thing.

by rayspace 2006-04-27 11:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

I should clarify my last post. I'm not advocating backing DINO's in primaries, by all means nominate real Democrats. I'm only talking about general elections where I do advocate backing the Democrat no matter what. As far as Rhode Island goes, Whitehouse seems like a good guy so voting for him rather than for Chafee (if he wins his primary) shouldn't bother environmentalists.

by DallasDem 2006-04-27 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Some Thoughts on Rhode Island

Because it's a pain in the ass to go down to the county clerk (or however they do it in RI) and change your party affiliation just to vote for a republican that you like. Esp. since these are dems. that probably wouldn't care if Chaffee was replaced by an actual Democrat.

by adamterando 2006-04-27 11:42AM | 0 recs

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