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Travis Rowley: Lincoln Chafee - A Prince, Not a Pawn

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


It was never kept private that progressives and unions – the activist base of the RI Democrat Party – delivered the 36 percent of the vote that Lincoln Chafee needed to win the 2010 governor’s race. But Chafee desires everyone to comprehend the true nature of the relationship between himself and the Rhode Island Left – they chose him. Not the other way around.

When confronted on Channel 10 News Conference with a Providence Journal editorial that stated Chafee “undoubtedly owed the teachers unions for their support in his election,” and criticized him for “purg[ing] the RI Board of Regents of people dedicated to reforming K-12 public education” and “put[ting] in their place some who seem in public employee unions’ pockets or linked to Rhode Island’s failed past,” Chafee became frustrated not with the Journal’s disapproval of his actions, but by the insinuation that he was motivated by political obligations. Chafee explained, “I have been completely consistent on my views on public education. Support for public education, voting against vouchers as a member of the United States Senate time and time again…[So this] linkage is false.”

Governor Chafee doesn’t care if Rhode Islanders are aware of his destructive policies. He just wants them to know that they are his ideas. Trust Chafee!

Actually, being trusted seems to be Chafee’s primary concern, and this includes shedding the appearance of owing political favors. Consider his early announcement that he would be running for governor, which brazenly included his plan to raise taxes. With this early admission, the beginning of Chafee’s campaign seemed to also be its end. Unless Chafee’s pre-designed campaign slogan was going to be “Trust Chafee.”

Would this kind of sincerity be so refreshing to voters that it would be enough to win the race? Chafee calculated that it would. Rather than pretend to be an angel, Chafee decided to be the “devil that Rhode Islanders know.”

The Governor seems to believe his strategy succeeded, and that likability and honesty will continue to protect him as he advances the union-Democrat agenda. Be kind and forthright, and Rhode Islanders will let you tax them to death. This appears to be Chafee’s estimation, as he still seems unaware that an overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders rejected his boldly progressive campaign.

Is Chafee an authentic progressive? Or is he merely fulfilling campaign promises to the state’s agents of big and bad government? The purpose of his reverse-course on illegal immigration and his call for a gay marriage bill seemed to be to spark a collective orgasm amongst the progressive community, especially with more pressing budget issues awaiting his attention. But perhaps Chafee truly believes what he has claimed, that “these two actions will do more for economic growth in our state than any economic development loan.” Maybe he truly believes that “divisiveness” is the state’s primary obstacle to economic recovery.

Nobody is this naïve and silly, most Rhode Islanders reason. Chafee must have struck a deal with the progressive Democrats!

But most liberals are slightly ridiculous. So maybe it’s just as Governor Chafee insists – he actually believes gay marriage and rampant illegal immigration will spawn economic growth. After all, when Channel 10’s Jim Taricani questioned Chafee on this declaration, Chafee responded, “Yes, I do believe that.”
What can we do but take our Governor at his word?

After all, even when Chafee was cloaking himself in a Republican gown, he was helping to advance progressive policies and deliver Rhode Island to the horrific conditions we are confronting today. As president of the NEA-RI (National Education Association) informed the public last year, Chafee has “a history of being very supportive of unions.”
As mayor of Warwick in 1994 Chafee settled a dispute with the teachers union by rewarding the “Warwick teachers [who] went on strike,” and “refus[ed] to perform extra duties, such as advising student groups, taking students on field trips or meeting with parents outside school hours.” Things were getting so bad in Warwick that “some parents were putting houses up for sale to get out of the school system.”

According to the Providence Journal, this was Chafee’s solution to the union’s hostile dereliction: “Under the agreement, backed by eight of the nine members of the Democrat-controlled City Council, base pay for a top-step teacher went from $39,762 during the 1990-1991 school year to $49,371 for 1996-'97, the final year of the pact. That's a 24.2-percent hike. The deal also included an extra 2.5 percent that teachers who were working during the 1992-'93 school year are entitled to receive when they retire or resign, a bonus that continues to be paid as teachers leave.”

Seventeen years later, en masse Rhode Islanders are waking up to the fact that deals such as these have been the leading cause of the state’s high tax rates and crumbling business environment.

Going forward, Rhode Islanders should “Trust Chafee” and take him at his word. He’s not a pawn of the Rhode Island Left. He’s their prince.

Travis Rowley (www.TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans, and author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the RI Left.


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