Linc is Linc. That probably best summarizes what happened last Thursday when the state’s first independent governor registered as a Democrat.
When Chafee disavowed his Republican roots, a party that helped elect him to the Warwick City Council, mayor and U.S. Senator, it was viewed as a principled, but not a politically practical, action. He had put himself out in the cold and the consensus was that that is where he would stay.
We know that didn’t happen.
The Chafee name and money – plus a divisive number of other candidates for governor – enabled him to get elected governor with barely more than 30 percent of the vote.
Now that he holds the job, his decision to embrace the Democratic Party is being seen as nothing more than a move to improve his chances of re-election. It certainly appears to add up that way. With polls consistently showing him with poor approval ratings, and with the potential of facing more popular candidates, he had to do something.
We don’t think so, although there were surely those in the Chafee camp who urged him to become a Democrat in hopes of keeping their jobs. Chafee could have remained an independent and, with Ken Block having already declared as the Moderate Party candidate, he would have been in a four-way General Election. Those odds could look pretty good, depending on how a Democratic primary shapes up.
But this is for political strategists to figure out.
Linc doesn’t play that game. If he did, he wouldn’t have stubbornly championed some causes, like lowering the sales tax but broadening it to include a broader range of services when it was obvious he didn’t have the legislative support to pull it off.
Is his affiliation with the Democrats without political motive?
No doubt, Chafee saw political benefit from the move and he wasn’t going to squander that. It’s hardly happenstance that the leak about his decision came out of Washington or that President Obama, who he endorsed, should welcome him to the party.
Fundamentally, Chafee said he was looking for a political home.
As Warwick City Clerk and longtime Chafee supporter Marie Ahlert put it Thursday, “He believes in what he does.” That’s Linc. He’s an independent and if the Democrats haven’t already reached that conclusion, they soon will.