All aboard the Party Switching Express

Next stop: Rhode Island? The chat rooms buzz with rumors about Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

Published June 12, 2001 4:57PM (EDT)

Big buzz

Is Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee the Democrats' ace in the hole? A columnist from the senator's hometown newspaper seems to think so.

"Chafee has repeatedly said he wants to remain a Republican and try to moderate the Senate's GOP contingent," writes Providence Journal columnist M. Charles Bakst. "He seemed to say he might jump ship if Torricelli had to leave and Republican Trent Lott reemerged as majority leader. Yesterday, to pin this down, I asked Chafee, 'Are you saying that you're not thinking of bolting now, but if the Republicans somehow get back the majority, you're going to start thinking about it again?'

"He replied, 'Yes.' He is 'genuinely dismayed' by the direction of the party under Mr. Bush and the conservative senators. As usual, he cited domestic policies -- he was a holdout on the tax-cut vote -- but now he also added international considerations. He noted a newspaper story reporting deep concern in Europe over Bush policies."

One poster decoded Chafee's comments for the faithful. "In other words ... I have no convictions, I have no ideals, I have no morals. As soon as I'm in a position to get some reward or power I'll switch."

Writes another: "The US Senate is a cesspool filled with pompous little fa@ts who do nothing but blow hot air and cause trouble for the country. There is only a very small handful of people in the Senate that are worth the trouble to pay any attention to at all and Chafee sure as hell isn't one of them. Most US Senators would be behind bars if they were not senators and protected by their fellow crooks."

Which begs an interesting question: Is "fart" a bad word?

The folks at are ready to welcome Chafee with open arms, offering this online petition for voters to sign: "To Senators Lincoln Chafee, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter: If you truly believe in the fundamental principles [of choice, impartial judges, fair budgets, sane defense, and the environment], then we call on you to join Senator Jeffords in leaving the Republican Party. If you join the Democratic Party, we will welcome you with open arms. You will be able to vote your conscience and live up to your principles. And as an added benefit, you will be in the majority - where your voice will be heard. As a result, you will be able to do more for your constituents. We urge you to stand up for your principles and join Senator Jeffords in leaving the Republican Party. This is a crucial time in our history, and your actions would make an enormous difference."

Chafee also got an OK from the Greenies over at

"Going from R to D really isn't that drastic anymore," writes one poster. "I hate how senators all seem to vote with their party and not with their constituents (or their conscience). We need senators who will renounce both parties and start voting the way the people who elected them want them to."

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By Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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