Lincoln Chafee

In his speech “Civility for a Great Society” at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Tuesday afternoon, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee spoke about lessons learned from the Johnson administration and how those lessons could be applied to society today.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee said during a speech at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Tuesday that the recently increased levels of partisanship in American politics have prevented politicians from leading effectively.

According to Chafee, he lost re-election as a Republican senator in 2006, despite high approval ratings, because Rhode Islanders wanted a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Chafee said the increased polarization is partly due to members of Congress spending far less time together than in past years because of the ease of transportation today. 

“[Former South Carolina Senator] Strom Thurmond used to say, when jet travel came in, the Senate changed because everybody would go back to their districts,” Chafee said. “But that’s the reality, you want to be seen in your home district.”

Chafee said politicians should value their integrity as representatives of the people more than gathering votes for the next election.

“My colleagues in the Senate value their membership in the Senate — that exclusive club membership — more than what’s best for our country,” Chafee said.

Robert Hutchings, the dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs, said the best way to combat polarization is to fix things one at a time. He called to those dissatisfied with politics to take it upon themselves to work toward a solution by getting involved.

“Not everything is broken in government,” Hutchings said. “We’re in a bad period now, and there’s a lot of cynicism right now, but the best way to fight cynicism is to enter the arena … don’t complain, go out [and] make a difference.”

Pete Phillips, an Austin resident and ex-marine who attended the talk, said he believes a major problem to overcome is politicians whose only motivation is to stay in office, as opposed to working together toward a common goal. Phillips said he believes politicians too often allow the wills of special interest groups to sway their votes rather than focusing on the best interests of their constituents.

“The problem with American politics is that we’re too polarized today, and there just needs to be common sense brought back,” Phillips said.

Chafee said polarization is harming President Lyndon Johnson’s legacy of using government to create helpful social programs.

“I think President Johnson would be dismayed at some of the attacks on the beneficial social programs that helped grow the middle class, particularly in education,” Chafee said.

Judge allows forced medication of jailed Tucson shooting suspect

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge has ruled that prison officials can forcibly medicate the Tucson shooting rampage suspect with anti-psychotic drugs.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said he did not want to second guess doctors at a federal prison in Springfield, Mo.

Burns issued the decision Wednesday after Loughner’s attorneys filed an emergency request to prevent any forced medication of their client. Defense attorneys said Loughner had been forcibly medicated since June 21.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the January shooting that killed six people and injured 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
He has been at a federal prison facility in Missouri since May 28 after the judge concluded Loughner was mentally unfit to stand trial.


State Senate approves civil union, needs Rhode Island governor’s OK

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island Senate has approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, a measure that Gov. Lincoln Chafee says he’s inclined to sign.

State senators voted 21-16 Wednesday evening to endorse the bill. The legislation, which already has passed the state House, allows gay couples to enter into civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits given to married couples under Rhode Island law.

It is now headed to Chafee’s desk for his signature.

Several gay marriage advocacy groups have urged Chafee to veto it because of what they call overly broad exemptions that would allow religious institutions to ignore rights given through civil unions. The measure would, for instance, let religious hospitals refuse a civil union spouse the right to make emergency medical decisions.­