Here is a link to the website for Lincoln Chafee’s presidential campaign. If you will, scroll down to the bottom and keep that link open.
For those who have not heard of Chafee, he is a former Republican, turned Independent, turned Democrat, which is not to say that he is flaky in anyway, as some might, but is, in fact, to note that he is, I assume, fully aware of the power of partisan identification and issue alignment in the ever-shifting ideological landscape of American politics. Good for him; he is a Democrat now, was a prominent supporter of President Obama’s campaign in 2008, and seems to have long held many of these liberal beliefs. As for experience, Chafee served as a US Senator and, as he often notes, the mayor of the town of Warwick, Rhode Island. Most recently, he was the Governor of Rhode Island, before electing to not run for a second term in 2014.
He seems to be a perfectly reasonable candidate, though the changes in party affiliation may rub some the wrong way. If not for Hillary Clinton, Lincoln Chafee’s experience seems to give him the potential to be a legitimate contender for the Democratic nomination. Yet, Hillary Clinton is running for President, so this primary season is, by no means, “open” for the Democrats. She stands as an imposing frontrunner, and Bernie Sanders has immerged as the favorite of voters who would like anybody but Hillary, as Rick Santorum, in 2008, became the favorite of those who did not want Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee. Along with Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb, there seems to be no place in the Democratic field for Lincoln Chafee.
O’Malley and Webb, though, have more obvious roles in this primary, though there is a distinct possibility that both of these men truly believe they could become President. “Delusional,” as you might expect, is a commonly used adjective on politicians’ resumes. The history of candidates campaigning for their party’s nomination with, quite simply put, absolutely no chance at winning is not short. Among several explanations throughout history, there are two prominent reasons for this phenomenon of sorts. The first is to highlight a specific issue, otherwise known as “shaping the debate.” Jim Webb seems to fit into this category, as he frequently references his military record and his experience in defense-related areas. The Democrats, in the public eye, have a rather poor recent history of supporting this country’s troops and possessing knowledge on military policy. Whether this is true or not is beside the point, as Webb may, very well, be attempting to shift the focus of Democrats towards these military issues that he holds so dear. He, of course, would never publically admit this, but expect Webb to continue to mention his military record.
The second prominent strategy for these hopeless candidates is to attempt to force oneself to national prominence. Webb is nearly seventy, so this does not seem to be a rational strategy for him, but crazier things have happened. Martin O’Malley, on the other hand, has many years ahead of him, having only left the Governor’s mansion a few years past fifty. The common conception is that these lower-tier candidates are, truly, running for the vice-presidency. For O’Malley, Joe Biden’s office would be nice, but a cabinet post would be good enough too. Mike Huckabee is a recent example for O’Malley to, potentially, look towards. In 2008, Huckabee was just a Governor for a small, conservative state, but, today, he is a standard-bearer of the right. O’Malley could try to work himself into a similar role for the left, if only to keep his name in the mix for the next open Democratic presidential primary. O’Malley could have elected to run for the Senate seat that Barbara Mikulski is vacating and stood a decent chance at winning, but he wants this national spotlight now, for better or for worse.
Lincoln Chafee does not fit firmly into either of these categories. He has not made any large policy overtures in his campaign, and, unlike Webb, he has nothing in his biography that stands out in regards to the direction he hopes to, reasonably, push the Democratic Party. Additionally, he is a decade older than O’Malley, so the benefits of his potential, newfound national prominence seem, at least politically, limited.
Yet, financially, Chafee might just have a trick up his sleeve. Gaining national prominence has the potential to, quite noticeably, line a candidate’s pockets. Christopher Dodd, a former US Senator and a candidate for the 2008 Democratic nomination, is currently the CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, so he gets an executive’s salary and free movies. In fact, especially with the rise of mass media, there is an epidemic of “unsuccessful” Presidential candidates, both Republican and Democratic, finding great financial success, because they are only able to stare at White House from afar. These candidates leverage our democracy for their own personal profit. These actions are in addition to the common practice of former congressmen and women taking high-paid lobbying jobs on the hill after their political careers come to a close. Though our system has long been dirty and unfair, this type of corruption gives a candidacy for the highest office in America, one that men and women must strive towards based on firm ideological convictions and a belief in their own personal capacities, a simple financial incentive.
So, please, take a look near the bottom of Lincoln Chafee’s website. If you did take the time to do so, as I am fairly sure you did not, you found an advertisement incorporated into the website for his campaign to be President of the United States, asking you to buy Against the Tide, Lincoln Chafee’s book.
Perhaps, we cannot stop politicians from misusing our political system for their own profit, but, certainly, we can try.