Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican U.S. senator who became an independent after he left the Senate in 2006, slammed the GOP on the issues of gay marriage and immigration. Two weeks ago Chafee signed a bill into law making Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize same-sex marriage. He said that moderate Republicans who’ve supported gay rights, like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, haven’t come out for marriage equality because they’re worried about being challenged from the right in a primary.
“From the old days, of when in the '50s and Eisenhower, and '60s and Rockefeller, the Republican Party stood for, ‘Take care of the finances and stay away from my life -- keep the books in black ink and leave me alone,’” he said in an interview on SiriusXM OutQ. “And that changed to where we were doing the opposite. We were getting fiscally irresponsible, giving tax breaks to the wealthy and at the same time getting more involved in people’s lives, whether on Roe vs. Wade or gay marriage.That was just a change in the party and I kept to the old values that the old Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans cared about: ‘We want black ink and we want the government to leave us alone.’” (Listen to the full interview below)
Chafee said the GOP will have to change on the issues of immigration and gay marriage if it wants to win elections.
“States are just waking up,” he said. “If you’re going to grow your base, you’ve got to be inclusive. It’s immigrants, and now gay rights. It’s good, good for our country. It’s good to see the electorate responding in these states on various issues. [On gay marriage] It’s a younger generation issue. They just don’t understand why we’re not more welcoming of gays. It’s going to spread as younger people become a bigger and bigger voting block.”
Regarding his former moderate Republican colleagues in the Senate, such as Susan Collins of Maine, Chafee said they’re worried about being challenged in primaries by Tea Party and social conservative candidates.
“I think that in these states you have to worry about a primary,” he said. “That’s just a reality. You saw [Sen.] Bob Bennett in Utah lose a primary. [Sen.] Richard Lugar [in Indiana] lose a primary. [Congressman] Mike Castle in Delaware lost a [Senate] primary. That’s what you worry about as a Republican. They’re going to come at you from the far right. I’m sure that’s what Susan Collins is worried about [on gay marriage]."
Listen to the full interview with Chafee: