Anti-War, Anti-Deficit, and Pro-Liberty: An Interview with Governor Lincoln Chafee | Lone Conservative

An issue many people have with the Libertarian Party is its lack of qualified leaders. However, one man is here to change that. Former Governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee has a long history of going against the grain and standing against the two-party system. Chafee has been a mayor, a United States senator, and a governor. He was the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq War and the first independent governor of Rhode Island. Chafee has been a Republican, Democrat, Independent, and now a libertarian. However, he maintains that he’s always been anti-war and anti-deficit. He ran to become the 2016 Democratic nominee for president and now he’s running to become the 2020 Libertarian nominee. Governor Chafee spoke to Siddharth Reddy about his beliefs, his experiences, and his qualifications. 


You’ve been a Republican, Independent, Democrat, and now a libertarian. What caused you to drift away from the two largest political parties and become a libertarian? 

The Republican Party changed. It used to be welcoming to the moderate and liberal elements of the party but as the South switched from being conservative Democrat to conservative Republican and more southerners became the leaders of the party, the priorities changed. It just didn’t fit with the more liberal elements of the Republican party. Then there were primaries to get us [the liberal/moderate Republicans] out of the party. I had a primary challenge when I was a senator. I did win it but it cost me all my resources and energy. This made it difficult in the general election. Even if you win a primary, you’re wounded. 

The Republican Party changed and I didn’t feel comfortable there so I ran for governor as an independent. I got elected but I felt I needed a political party to be a part of and have my back. I joined the Democrats and I got into the 2016 presidential race. I thought it was just too corrupt. For example, the Clinton campaign and their associations with the media. CNN was giving her the questions before the debate. It came out later that Donna Brazile even had to call Bernie Sanders and tell him, “Sorry, the relationship between the DNC and the Clinton campaign is corrupt.” I didn’t feel comfortable staying a Democrat. 

My fourth stop is with the Libertarian Party. When my family moved to Wyoming, I looked up the principles of being a libertarian. I saw that they were anti-war, anti-deficit, for constitutional liberties, pro-gay rights, pro-free trade, pro-choice, against torture, against capital punishment and I said, “Hey, that’s my party!” Then some party leaders asked me to get involved in the presidential race and that’s what I’m doing now. 


You are running for the presidential nomination for the Libertarian Party. According to Ballotpedia, at least 60 other candidates are trying to get the nomination, what makes you stand out?

I’ve been to about 15 libertarian state conventions all over the country. I’ve met the other candidates and many are good people. We show up at these events and make our pitch to the delegates. None of them have been elected to anything. That’s what differentiates me from other candidates who are seeking the nomination. I’ve actually won elections. I’ve been in 12 elections and I’ve won 10 of them. Very few Americans have been a mayor, senator, and a governor. I bring a local perspective, a state perspective, [and] a federal perspective. That’s a good resume.


You were the first independent governor in Rhode Island, which in itself is an achievement. 

Yes, and also, when I was a Republican as mayor, I had to work with Democratic councilmen to get things done as Rhode Island is a very democratic state. As an independent governor, I had to work with Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature. That’s an important attribute as a libertarian who seeks office. I can work across the aisle with anyone. I’ve had to, otherwise, I wouldn’t have survived.


The biggest issue faced by Americans today is the COVID-19, or coronavirus, pandemic. President Trump just signed a $2 trillion stimulus package as governors across the country impose stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the virus. Do you agree with the Trump administration’s handling of the situation? What would you do as president?

Just to back up, we’ve had record deficits prior to this epidemic. We’re not prepared financially. Both Democrats and Republicans, Donald Trump and Obama, and Congress have just not cared about this deficit that’s ballooning. When these crises occur, you have to be ready financially. 

With the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, I wish we would be better prepared financially to add this tremendous brick to the debt we already have. We’re not. It’s a big issue for me. 

We got into these unnecessary wars that cost us much of that debt. If we had not made those mistakes back in Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa, we’d be in better shape financially to deal with the coronavirus. If I were Donald Trump, I’d also have some austerity measures to go with the $2.2 trillion spending bill. Maybe some criminal justice reform to allow some of the nonviolent prisoners to no longer be incarcerated. We could end the wars right now, we can’t afford to stay in Afghanistan anymore.


What would you do specifically as president in the COVID-19 situation?

I’m not a doctor or infectious disease specialist. In these types of instances, which I’ve dealt with as governor, you have to listen to the people who have been studying this their whole lives and take their best advice. Bring in the people who have experience with infectious diseases and do what they tell you to do. Then, be the communicator with the public.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Iraq was in the news. President Trump’s strike against General Soleimani of Iran angered the Iraqi parliament and Vice President Joe Biden has been slammed for his vote in support of the Iraq War. How would you handle foreign affairs differently from President Trump and Vice President Biden?

Very differently. When we’re as powerful as we are–even with this crisis we’re in now, we have the strongest military, the strongest economy, everyone around the world looks to our artists and adopts our sports figures–we can afford to reach out to countries like Iran. I believe the Iranians want to be friendly with Americans, they don’t want to be fighting with us. I’d have a whole different philosophy of less military, more diplomacy.


You’ve said that you’re libertarian because you’re against the deficit and the endless wars. However, many people view the Libertarian Party as more than that. Some libertarian voters are hesitant to support your candidacy because of your past statements regarding gun control. Have you changed your views on the Second Amendment? 

There’s a lot that I overlap with libertarians. There’s so much we agree on but there are a few issues that we could have some good debate on. As far as the Second Amendment goes, I will say that I have changed in that as more Americans have come to not trust their government (After all, why should we? They lied that Saddam Hussien had weapons of mass destruction. This lie, the worst lie in American history, got us into a multi-trillion dollar war, cost us over 4,500 dead Americans, and a whole new generation of veterans who need our care.), it is more important than ever to strengthen the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment; these are our freedoms. The American people right now, with their distrust of government, want their politicians to protect every word of the Second Amendment, which I pledge to do.


On civil liberties, it looks like Congress is trying to take away end-to-end encryption. What do you think about that?

In times of crisis, that’s when our liberties always get compromised. With the coronavirus, our governor in Rhode Island ordered all New Yorkers to be stopped at the border. There was national outrage over that so the governor changed it to all people coming across the border. Whether it’s terrorism or fear of coronavirus, they try to curtail our liberties. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” and we should remember that. 


After 9/11, the government said they would only spy on us temporarily to protect us but we continue to be in these foreign wars and Congress strengthens the Patriot Act every year.

That’s why I’m a libertarian. I think it’s a great message. They all go together: anti-war, anti-deficit, and constitutional liberties. Once people are in fear, the government starts taking away your liberties, then the deficit goes up because we’re sending our troops all over the world to fight terrorism. The global war on terror is an unfortunate chapter in American history. We want to change that. That’s why I’m running.


In 2016, Gary Johnson drew in a historic 3.3% of the national popular vote. What qualities make you more able to draw in voters to the libertarian ticket than your opponents?

I think 2020 will be different. President Trump’s performance in this time of crisis has not been good. I have friends who have been Trump supporters through thick and thin but now they’re starting peeling away. He tried to hand it off to Vice President Pence in the beginning; he had no concept of what we were about to face. I think that changes the dynamics: the Trump base is starting to erode. With the Democrats, they nominated Joe Biden. He’s a gaff waiting to happen. He was one of the biggest cheerleaders of the Iraq War. He was involved in all these bad decisions regarding criminal justice. I can’t believe the Democrats went with [former] Vice President Biden. There’s an opportunity here for someone who’s anti-war and anti-deficit to build on that 3.3%. Maybe we can get into the debate. That’s the first hurdle to overcome and then we can start winning some states.


Are you still for metric system reform?

I am, but it was never a priority. For some reason, the media focused on it. I think it’s my anti-war stance. The mainstream media wanted that war. It wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t want it to happen. Anyone who talks about foreign policy, whether it’s me, Tulsi Gabbard, or Howard Dean, gets a hammer on the head. You’re just not allowed to talk about foreign policy. They’ll find something to beat you up on and they chose metric for me. It was never a priority, I just mentioned it as rejoining the world after the Iraq War. The war was a global mistake. I mentioned banning capital punishment, stopping drone strikes, and working better with Venezuela, Russia, North Korea but they [the media] didn’t talk about drone strikes or capital punishment. They just wanted to marginalize me. They did this to Tulsi Gabbard this year and Ron Paul back in the day. They try and pretend like we don’t exist if we talk about foreign policy.


Why do you think that is?

President Obama is quoted as saying, “There’s a bias towards war in this town.” Eisenhower warned about it in his Military-Industrial Complex speech. Too much money is being made. They want war. 


In 2016, Donald Trump ran a campaign on bringing back our troops, but it looks like he’s changed his view on that.

They all promised, so did Obama. He ran on anti-war. That’s how he beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. She voted for the war and that was the separator. As soon as he got in, they continued drone strikes and it escalated. Nothing changed. It’s the same with Trump. I bring in more sincerity, I think the American people will believe me when I say that we’re going to end these wars. 


This has been a constant issue of yours.

My family and friends even tell me, “Linc, stop on Iraq! It’s ancient history!” It’s not ancient history and we’re still paying for it today.


As a leader, sometimes you have to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do. Have you faced such situations?

It started with the Holiday Tree. As a colony, Rhode Island had the first separation of church and state. It’s in our charter. The previous governors had all called it a holiday tree so I didn’t make any changes. But for some reason, this became a huge issue. The actual charter, signed by King Charles II, was 50 feet away from the tree and I couldn’t turn my back on it, so I dug in. I got beat up on that. 

Another example is when the federal government wanted to take a murderer from Rhode Island’s custody. We [Rhode Island] don’t have the death penalty and he already agreed to plead guilty for life in prison without parole. The federal government sent me a letter asking me to release him so they could prosecute him for another crime, which would expose him to the death penalty. I wouldn’t sign. I got beat up for that. Yes, he was a terrible criminal but I’m against the death penalty and Rhode Island is against the death penalty.


Our audience here at Lone Conservative primarily consists of young conservatives and libertarians. Do you have any advice on how they can become more involved with the liberty movement?

The times are changing. The two political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, have been around for a long time and it’s time for a change. You can be part of something new instead of being part of the tired old parties that bring us endless wars, skyrocket our deficits, and curtail our liberties. This [the Libertarian Party] is the new political party to bring some youthful energy to it and I’m excited about it.

Visit to learn more about Governor Chafee and his campaign for the presidency.

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Author: Siddharth Reddy