Moderates Continue to Flee GOP: Lincoln Chafee

PROVIDENCE — Lincoln D. Chafee, who lost his Senate seat in the wave of anti-Republican sentiment in last November’s election, said yesterday that he has left the party.

Chafee said he disaffiliated with the party he had helped lead, and his father had led before him, because the national Republican Party has gone too far away from his stance on too many critical issues, from war to economics to the environment.

“It’s not my party any more,” he said.

Chafee’s departure is another step in the waning of the strain of moderate Republicanism that was once a winning political philosophy from Rhode Island and Connecticut to the Canadian border. For the first time since the Civil War, the six New England states combined now have only one Republican U.S. House member, Connecticut’s Christopher Shays.

Chafee said he disaffiliated from the party “in June or July,” making him an unaffiliated voter. He did so quietly, and until yesterday, he said, “No one’s asked me about it.” He said he made the move because “I want my affiliation to accurately reflect my status.”

“There’s been a gradual depravation of … the issues the party should be strong on,” and the direction of the national party, he said.

That’s no secret. In a Journal Op-Ed piece published on the Thursday before the election, Chafee himself laid out some of the ways he disagreed with his party, notably as one of only 23 senators and the only Republican to oppose the resolution supporting the invasion of Iraq. He went on to criticize the “permanent deficits” caused by Republican tax cuts.

Chafee referred yesterday to the broad-based, bipartisan Iraq Study Group that Congress created, a process Chafee approved of. The study group recommended a gradual pullback of American forces, and insistence that the Iraqi government take more responsibility for security. But he said that since the study group made its recommendations, which he agreed with, “no one’s paid any attention to them.”

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