Among the interminable analyses of the election running in the New York Times this weekend came this wistful piece from defeated Rhode Island Senate incumbent Lincoln Chafee, who chalks his defeat up to anti-Bush "virulence."
He recalls meeting with his fellow Northeastern Republican moderates and Dick Cheney shortly after the 2000 election. He was somewhat taken aback — all of them were, I imagine — by the uncompromising partisan, ideological agenda Cheney promised to pursue. He sent a letter to Cheney afterwards, urging moderation. It included this passage:
Progress on environmental issues could do much to enhance the new administration’s program. I hope the new administration will be open to proposals to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign oil through energy conservation and greater investments in mass transit.
Today, of course, this sounds like a cruel joke. But here’s the thing: it sounded like a cruel joke in 2005. And 2004. And 2003. It sounded like a cruel joke when he sent it, and nothing the Bush administration did thereafter made it sound even slightly otherwise.
By 2006, it should have been crystal clear to Chafee what his party had become. His independence, his support for environmental legislation, his moderation … they were all but irrelevant. He was a building block in an utterly pernicious majority, and he never found the courage to leave it. Nice guy or not, he deserved to lose.