Lincoln Chafee’s abortive presidential candidacy was treated by many as a joke, but the focus of the former governor and senator’s campaign was deadly serious: His was the stridently anti-war candidacy.
Chafee, the only Republican senator to vote against the Iraq war, may have dabbled a bit in domestic issues, but it was clear that he was in the race as the peace candidate. He repeatedly lambasted Hillary Clinton and others for “drinking the neo-con koolaid,” and his platform included a call for “ending drone strikes” and warrantless wiretaps. He opposes the current anti-ISIS campaign, and in an echo of George McGovern’s call to “come home, America,” Chafee urged the U.S. to “get grounded.” Even his (justly maligned) proposal to move America to the metric system was predicated on the need for the United States to embrace more international cooperation.
Yet for all of his peace-candidate bona fides, Chafee ended up trounced by Hillary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war, spearheaded the Libya intervention, and supports drone strikes, and Bernie Sanders, who despite having voted against the Iraq invasion, has barely mentioned foreign policy on the stump at all. (And Sanders supports drone strikes in certain contexts, by the way.) All of which seems to suggest that despite their strident opposition to the Iraq war (at least while George W. Bush was in office) the Democratic base doesn’t care all that much about the issues that it claims to. Chafee may have opposed a war that a large majority of Democrats say was a mistake; but, hey, Hillary Clinton supports paid leave! (Chafee did too, by the way.) Vietnam Syndrome this ain’t; it appears that the Democratic base’s bout of “Iraq Syndrome” was just a passing head cold. Indeed, it’s enough to make one question the sincerity of anti-war sentiment during George W. Bush’s presidency.
Meanwhile, it appears all but inevitable that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. That means that barring a late Lindsey Graham surge, the Democratic candidate for president will have voted for the Iraq war, and she will face a Republican opponent who didn’t.