Arthur Christopher Schaper: Chafee, Candidate or Comedian?


Wow, Rhode Islanders.

Finally, there is a Presidential candidate from your state. This is a first to celebrate. I thought that Democratic National Committee was vetting Governor Gina Raimondo for a top-ticket spot.

Doesn’t Chafee make you  chafe with pride? (*sarcasm*)

Yes, I know, he’s a total laughing-stock. But at least he is giving the smallest state of the union some press.  If not gravity, at least he brings some levity to the national stage.

His interview with (retired) Larry King was pure gold for exposing the clueless and out-of-place governor. He struggled to identify his current office, or why anyone should vote for him. “I am pretty liberal,” he assured his audience. He was right, considering he voted against the war in Iraq, as well as opposing a constitutional amendment to ban burning the flag.

And how can we forget his tête-a-tête with Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro?

Chafee got some free publicity from his next appearance in the national media. Actually, he did not make an appearance directly. TBS late-night comedian Conan O’Brien admitted his sympathies for a presidential candidate who is polling at literally 0.0% and pledged to help. “This is no joke,” admitted the comedian.

I have been sharing with all my Rhode Island friends this scene from Conan’s late night show. Sometimes I think that they should have a sense of humor about it. Shouldn’t getting a boost from Conan O’Brien be a good thing?

Well, not really. After all, Rhode Islanders lived under the four-year failure of a Governor who did nothing to discipline labor unions or to shore up flagging pension liabilities in the state or the capital city. He turned the Ocean State into a sanctuary state for everyone but born and naturalized citizens (if they’re also taxpayers). He even declared war on Christmas by trying to rename the centerpiece sign of Yuletide cheer a “holiday tree.”

“I’m taking a short amount of time here. I am making it my mission tonight to get Lincoln Chafee from zero percent all the way to one percent!”

Loud applause followed.

Honestly, Conan provided a thorough and accurate resume of the former Rhode Island governor when he highlighted some of his worthy achievements. Isn’t that a good thing?

  • “Chafee supports affirmative action.” This point stands out all the more, since competing candidate Jim Webb once called this program racist toward white people.
  • “Same-sex marriage.” As a Republican U.S. Senator, Chafee supported same-sex marriage. He was to the left of Republicans as well as most Democrats at the time, including former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton.
  • “Decriminalizing Marijuana.” The whoops from the audience got louder at this point. Pot for potholes might have made them roll on the floor, or roll themselves a fat one.
  • “Adopting the metric system.” The shouts and applause grew louder on this one, too. Good news for our society: People want meters and grams more than marijuana and drams.

“So that should win over African American lesbian stoners who are also CEOs of companies that manufacture measuring cups.”

Politics is all about identifying key voting demographics, right? It worked for Barack Obama in 2012. Perhaps Chafee should hire Conan as his campaign consultant. The comedian went on:

  • “Chafee used to be a Republican.” Yes, and every member of the RIGOP rues it to this day.
  • “His first name is Lincoln.” OK, Conan, where are you going with this one? “Now, this should make him very appealing to confused elderly Republicans who think they’re actually voting for Abraham Lincoln.” Not in Rhode Island, of course, but this point proves the importance of branding and defining yourself before your opponent does.
  • “In addition to being a politician, he is also a professional farrier. This is no joke. Someone who specialized in putting shoes on horses.” For a comedian who makes a living making jokes, Conan had to reassure his audience a few times that he was not joking about Chafee. “This could land another very important voting group for him. Horses.”

Don’t laugh. It’s better than illegal aliens and dead people, and we know how often the Democratic Party has relied on those two other important “voting groups” to win elections.

For the next three minutes, Conan and company handed out Chafee hats (to two people) then sang a campaign song to get Chafee to One Percent: “He’ll never be president.”

So, has the boost from late-night TV helped him?

Judging from his first debate performance, not so much. Or maybe he was trying to channel his inner comedian, since a lot of people in the live studio audience laughed.

Some of his debate highlights included his opening statements, which had me laughing out loud: “As Governor, I came in at the depths of the recession, and we turned our state around.” Really? Please comment below if this statement is true or not, and why.

He fumbled to explain his vote for repeal of Glass-Steagall: “It was my first vote. My dad had died … I think you’re being a bit rough.” Debates are intended to be rough. Any other questions?

When he questioned Clinton about her email scandals: “We deserve a President who has the best ethical standards.” Hillary Clinton, who has none anyway, batted a request for comment about her penchant for lying: “No.”

That “no” says a lot, much like her “What difference does it make?!” burst during Benghazi testimony before the U.S. Senate. Indeed.

About Chafee’s changing party affiliations, Anderson pointed out: “You’ve been everything but a socialist,” then listed his party switches throughout his career. Chafee’s response? “Anderson, you’re looking at a block of granite when it comes to the issues.” The audience crumbled into fits of laughter. I don’t think the former mayor, U.S. Senator, and governor was trying to be funny.

Conan’s attempt to bolster Chafee’s presidential campaign hasn’t paid off, yet. Still, the former Republican turned Independent turned Democrat has brought some notoriety to his state and levity to Election 2016. Chafee is awful funny. That’s good for something, isn’t it?


Arthur Christopher Schaper is a blogger, writer, and commentator on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow his blogs at The State of the Union and As He Is, So Are We Ministries and on Twitter.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    It is a sad commentary on the Democratic field of candidates that Chafee and one other were literally “handed” their senate seats. I suppose the same might be said of Hillary.

  • ShannonEntropy

    Chafee’s debate performance was so bumblingly comical that one would be forgiven for thinking he was named after the legendary cartoon character HARD DRINKIN’ LINCOLN ….