Lincoln Chafee on why he joined the Libertarian Party

Lincoln Chafee (Boston Globe photo)

Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, who recently switched his voter registration to the Libertarian Party, wrote this opinion piece for the Boston Globe on July 19:

As an American, I have been saddened and embarrassed by recent failures of American presidents to exercise their global duties responsibly. We have entered into never-ending, illegitimate conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa; bypassed our Constitution and the Fourth Amendment by eavesdropping without warrants on people at home and around the world; shredded free-trade and other international agreements; sanctioned extrajudicial assassinations by drone strikes, which also kill innocent civilians; shredded the Geneva Convention protocols on treatment of prisoners; and worst of all, never apologized to the world for all the lies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In my time in public office, nothing was as searing as going to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda to visit the brave young Americans who’d come home bearing the scars of war. Not only the missing arms and legs, but the lifelong psychological consequences of the trauma and horror to which we’d sent them. A generation has come of age and never known a nation not at war. Americans are entering adulthood today who’ve never known a time when loved ones and friends and classmates didn’t come home wounded or dead, year after year.

The sad fact is that the two major political parties are either enthusiastically guilty of these crimes or, at best, negligent of proper American values. I am alarmed about the direction of the two parties, aided and abetted by the pro-war mainstream media. These hawks, many of whom have never seen combat, seem ignorant to the reality that American aggression and arrogance has frightening consequences, particularly in the era of nuclear weapons.

Thankfully, there is a political party that is willing to fight against irresponsible American global behavior and against the inexorable march to more senseless wars. Libertarians have a different view of American “exceptionalism”; it is truly conservative, truly progressive, and full of American confidence. The Libertarian Party has 34 platform planks and a Statement of Principles that have been crafted and refined over the years. I would argue that the Libertarian Party is stronger on many important issues than either the Democrats or Republicans: protection of Fourth Amendment rights, opposition to capital punishment, opposition to crony capitalism, support for balanced budgets, opposition to cruel and unusual torture, support for free trade and, most important to me, “an America at peace with the world.” The Libertarian Party is also strong on LGBT rights and a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions and has an enlightened approach to the corrosive and failed war on drugs.

I was a Republican in the days when the party had a place for those who stood for fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. Those days are long gone, since Republicans have squandered a surplus by cutting taxes without cutting spending, on top of promoting a $6 trillion unnecessary war in Iraq. And now Republicans are escalating their aggression toward the most traditional contributors to American’s greatness: immigrants.

After I was the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq war, I was elected governor of Rhode Island as an Independent. As governor, I stood against such crony boondoggles as the notorious 38 Studios, successfully fought the federal government’s effort to expose a Rhode Island prisoner to the death penalty, and championed the passage of the law granting freedom for same-sex couples to marry. I also dipped my toe into the waters of the Democratic Party, even seeking its nomination for president. What I learned is that the Democratic Party machine is pro-war. By joining with the pro-war mainstream media, they corrupted the process to ensure a war hawk of their liking was nominated.

Consider this: Senator Bernie Sanders, who also voted against the Iraq war, overwhelmingly won the Rhode Island presidential primary. He carried 37 out of 39 cities and towns, a massive statement by Rhode Islanders. Yet when Rhode Island was called to cast its vote at the Democratic Convention, it was 19 to 13 for Hillary Clinton. Super-delegate elites perverted the system. Ask Donna Brazile about the rancid connection between the Democratic National Committee and Clinton, Inc. And then they did the impossible and lost to Donald Trump. No thanks.

Recently my wife and I moved to Wyoming, embarking on a new adventure in a beautiful new home. Before I registered to vote in the state, I considered the Libertarian Party. With no home for me in either of the two war parties, I decided to read the Libertarian platform on their website.

Of the Libertarian Party’s 34 platform principles, I decided that I agree with most of them, disagree with two or three, and a half-dozen I’d need to study up on and think about it. For my children’s sake, my favorites are the planks numbered 3.1 and 3.3, promoting a strong defense but also opposed to foreign entanglements such as the quagmires of Vietnam and Afghanistan.

If you are a restless Democrat or Republican fatigued by partisan gridlock and the resulting politicization of even the Supreme Court, look up the Libertarian Party’s platform and score yourself. I happily registered as a Libertarian earlier this year. I’m proud to stand with the party of peace and freedom.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”