The field of major Democratic presidential candidates is much less crowded than the Republican one, but it does have its colorful characters. Bernie Sanders, the feisty socialist who announced his bid in May, has been joined by Lincoln Chafee, a former Rhode Island governor and senator, who is defiantly pushing for policy goals that are miles—or perhaps kilometers—from the political mainstream.
Chafee, who has switched his party affiliation from Republican to Independent to Democrat over the years, announced his candidacy at George Mason University in Virginia on June 3. Perhaps the most startling of his ideas was a possible rapprochement with the Islamic State.
“ISIS is emerging. It’s a phenomenon that’s ever changing,” he said. Some of his other stances seem like they would make more sense if he were running for the president of Europe. He says he would bring home NSA leaker Edward Snowden without punishment, abolish the death penalty, and introduce the metric system.
“It would be a symbolic integration of ourselves into the international community of the last 15 years,” he said of his pro-metric stance.
Chafee comes from a wealthy family, but was trained as a blacksmith specializing in horseshoes. After more than a decade in local politics, he came onto the national scene in 1999 when he filled the Senate seat of his late father.
Chafee’s presidential candidacy came a surprise to political observers, especially at home in Rhode Island. Unlike Sanders, who is wildly popular in his home state of Vermont, Chafee only completed one term as governor, with less-than-robust support.
While his chances for the Democratic nomination are negligible, he could serve as foil for Hillary Clinton on the foreign policy front, much as Sanders is expected to joust with her over domestic policy. Chafee has long been known for his contrarian views on military action–he was the only Republican Senator to vote against the war in Iraq.