Given the title ,”Why Chafee for President actually makes sense,” I wanted to be able to lay into Ted Nesi’s essay, but I really can’t. It’s smart and well reasoned. But for all that, it’s a discouraging statement on the state of our political system.
Here’s a guy who had no real success as a U.S. Senator and was arguably a disaster as governor. His go-to talking point is that unemployment dropped during his term as governor, but that’s only the case because people’s hopelessness drove them out of the workforce. By all appearances, he opted not to run for a second term because he realized he had no chance whatsoever and might very well be heavily chastened by the vote totals.
As Ted suggests, though, he’s rich; he’s got an outsized ego; this will get him some attention; and he’s got nothing else to do, right now. Here’s the depressing part:
During his time as governor, Chafee’s aides would marvel at the warm response he’d receive when he traveled out of state, a marked contrast with his 30%ish approval ratings at home. Many Democrats still appreciate his votes as a GOP senator against the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts, as well as his repeated argument that the Republican Party is no longer open to pro-environment, pro-choice, dovish moderates like himself. Most Iowa and New Hampshire primary voters have never heard of 38 Studios – and Chafee has no reason to tell them about it. (Although, Chafee being Chafee, he probably will anyway.) His authenticity and quirkiness could play well in the retail politics atmosphere of those early states, particularly with Clinton skeptics searching for an alternative.
Political statements are fine… valuable, even. If subgroups of the major parties can have an effect on important races, then that’s a positive feature of our political system. But going with Chafee would be worse than going with somebody who is either completely unknown or who has name recognition, but hasn’t really done anything. He’s demonstrably not a competent executive or a good leader of large, diverse populations.
The statement isn’t even, “Hey, let’s give this guy a shot.” It’s more like, “What’s governing have to do with elections?”