Politics & Policy

Man of Many Parties Lincoln Chafee Joins 2016 Field

Imagine going from Republican to independent to Democrat in less than ten years. Sounds exhausting, right? Welcome to Lincoln Chafee’s world.

Chafee burst onto the political scene in 1999, when he was appointed by Rhode Island governor Lincoln Almond to fill the Senate seat vacated upon his father John Chafee’s death. The following year, he ran for and won a full term in his father’s old seat.

The younger Chafee quickly made a name for himself in the Senate as one of the body’s most liberal Republicans. He is pro-choice, pro-gun control, and supportive of same-sex marriage and raising the minimum wage. He was also the lone Senate Republican to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002.

Chafee lost his 2006 bid for a second term in the Senate to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, and subsequently left the GOP, becoming a registered independent in 2007.

He is pro-choice, pro-gun control, and supportive of same-sex marriage and raising the minimum wage.

Following a stint as a visiting fellow at Brown University, Chafee ran for governor of Rhode Island in 2010. The one-term Senator was able to beat the Republican, Democratic, and Moderate candidates and win the race with 36 percent of the vote. A little more than halfway through his term as governor, Chafee announced that he was switching parties (again), and finally registered as a Democrat. A few months later, he announced to the shock of many that he would not be seeking a second term as governor.

He surprised political observers again when he announced in April that he had launched an exploratory committee to run for the Democratic nomination for president. And on Wednesday evening, he formally announced his bid for the White House at George Mason University.

“I enjoy challenges and certainly we face many today,” Chafee told a crowd heavy on reporters. “Today, I’m formally entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president.”

Throughout his address, Chafee often reminded the audience of his opposition to the Iraq War and the Bush-Cheney policies that he cites as the genesis of America’s current problems in the Middle East. He said he learned within the first nine months of George W. Bush’s administration “not to trust them.”

“The staple was I’m a uniter, not a divider. He said clearly that foreign policy would be humble, not arrogant, and he promised to regulate carbon dioxide, a climate change pollutant,” Chafee said. “These policies were all broken in the early days of his administration. And sadly, the lies never stopped.”

Although he made a few subtle jabs at Hillary Clinton’s tarnished record at the State Department, the newcomer to the 2016 Democratic field kept his focus on issues important to him, largely eschewing attacks on his rivals for the nomination.

#related#Chafee’s “fresh ideas for America” include a more peaceful U.S. policy in the Middle East, furthering efforts to combat climate change, allowing “Edward Snowden to come home,” and converting America to the metric system of measurement.

During a question and answer session following his speech, Chafee was asked what separates him from the rest of the Democratic field, and he cited his “record, character, and vision.” Whether he possesses these qualities or not, Chafee is obviously a long shot at nabbing the Democratic nomination for president. He has a substantially smaller base of support among voters and donors than most of his fellow candidates.

Chafee is the forth Democrat to enter the 2016 presidential election, joining Clinton, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. The Republican field is expected to gain its tenth candidate when former Texas governor Rick Perry makes his announcement tomorrow.

— Julia Porterfield is an intern at National Review, editor-in-chief of Red Millennial, and a junior at Regent University.

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