January 17, 2006

Donald Carcieri, Ronald Reagan, and Ian Donnis

Carroll Andrew Morse

In his early preview of the dynamics of Rhode Island’s upcoming governor’s race, Providence Phoenix News Editor Ian Donnis begins by describing the qualities that have allowed Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri to become a successful politician…

Carcieri’s superb communication skills bolster a Reaganesque affability that is the political equivalent of gold.
Towards the conclusion of the article, however, Donnis makes note of what is a fundamental difference between Carcieri and Reagan…
Carcieri has proven adept at using his knack for political communication to build a broad following while downplaying his affluence and conservatism.
Reagan, of course, used his communication and political skills in the service of, and not to work around, a philosophical conservatism.

These bookends to Donnis' analysis quite nicely summarize the problem -- and a potential solution -- facing Rhode Island‘s Republican party. Governor Carcieri enjoys a tremendous personal popularity in Rhode Island that the Republican party, as a legislative party, does not. Personal popularity is not something that can easily be shared between candidates. So how can the governor best help build the legislative GOP?

The answer is for Governor Carcieri to use his communication skills and affability to help promote a conservative message. The RI Republican message, which seems to begin and end with the promises of lower taxes and honest government, doesn’t suffice as a means for attracting voters or candidates. Everyone accepts that a certain level of taxation is inevitable, and everyone favors lowering taxes as much as possible. The real debate is about how low is too low. Contemporary liberals argue that the state must take enough from people to fund its massive bureaucracies, because only big bureaucracies can effectively manage a complex, modern society.

To be successful, Republicans must convince voters they want to cut back the bureaucratic state not just because they want to lower taxes and save money, but because they want to free individuals from rigid bureaucratic control in personal areas like healthcare and education. If they start to take this conservative idea seriously, Republicans will find that the communication skill and the affability possessed by a leader like Governor Carcieri can help persuade people to listen, for a little bit longer than usual, to some good ideas (school choice, charter schools, health-savings accounts, etc.) that might otherwise be too-quickly dismissed.

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Complex issues must be untangled, and then as each part is separated from the others things become clearer. Your case in point: Don Carcieri.

Here is why even his best communications skills won’t cut the mustard.

He is not a party builder or a savvy political leader. He hasn’t moved the needle on a single important issue facing the RIRP. The liberal, free spending, hand in the cookie jar General Assembly is running the state. The RIRP has no platform, no money, and almost no viable candidates for any of the major state offices. Where’s the $500k? Ms Morgan is a liability not an asset. The old party leaders are keeping the bull elephant in a coma. Sorry, but its all true.

He supports Chafee, the leading RINO in America and the most indecisive man alive. He could have stayed neutral but somebody got to him. Was it the NRC or the NRSC? Probably. He was swept off his feet by the power brokers down south. They must have promised him a nice reward. They don’t know any real Rhode Islanders yet.

His lack of gravitas, youthful energy, and a delta force like attack three years ago on the special interests and “usual suspects” that populate the State House put him in the category of average not great.

He is definitely no Ronald Reagan. He is not a real fiscal or social conservative. He is a nice guy, well liked as a person and will probably be re-elected in November. Sadly he will probably not do much in his second term either.

If you remember, his campaign for Governor focused on the real issues plaguing our fine state. The BIG AUDIT would expose corruption and get the state back on track. Not! We have a $77million deficit this year and are headed towards $200 million in the next. This is reality people.

Top all this off with his blind eye to the vicious and repugnant attacks (expensive too) by Chafee and the NRSC on a guy who has actually accomplished all he promised and more, the gladiator from Cranston, Laffey. Yeah I know, politics is an ugly business. But remember, Reagan stayed neutral until Bush won the party nomination.

The unfortunate reality… its too late for Carcieri to persuade people to listen. He had the chance, and he blew it.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at January 17, 2006 11:39 PM

lol ...spoken like a true Laffey sycophant.
Joe, one question if I may.
If everything you say is true about Don Carcieri then why is your hero Steve Laffey afraid to challenge him?
Even you sycophants know Laffey is only running for the Senate because he perceives Chaffee as weak

{inappropriate content deleted}

Laffey is a fraud whose appeal goes down the more he is exposed in the media.
You and he will find that out in the fall.


{Tim and Yolanda, thank you for giving me the chance to make this an equal-opportunity criticism. Find less graphic ways to describe the concept of "courage" when posting comments on this board.}

Posted by: Tim at January 18, 2006 7:05 AM

Tim, though I can’t speak for Joe Mahn, Laffey would never run in a primary against Carceri because he agrees with Carceri on many issues, like those mentioned in Andrew’s post ie. school choice, health-savings accounts, etc.

Also, unlike Chafee, Carceri is a true Republican. He does advocate lower taxes and controlled spending (whereas, RINO Chafee votes against tax cuts and for pork projects).

However, Joe is correct in that Carceri has not proven strong enough to take on the special interests at the General Assembly. He’s now entering his forth year as Governor and I had hoped by now he would have more to show for it. Nevertheless, he does uphold Republican ideals and therefore, Laffey isn’t going to challenge someone who shares his vision for Rhode Island.

Posted by: ian at January 18, 2006 10:09 AM

Chafee plant Tim -

Nice try, but you're kidding no one.

{inappropriate content deleted}.

End of story.


{Tim and Yolanda, thank you for giving me the chance to make this an equal-opportunity criticism. Find less offensive ways to describe the concept of "courage" when posting comments on this board.}

Posted by: Yolanda at January 18, 2006 10:13 AM

The Gov. is highly qualified for the job. His positions are mostly Republican. Like others, I am disappointed he lacks the fire in the belly to affect real change in RI. But he doesn't URGENTLY need to be replaced. He doesn't even scarcely need to be replaced.

Chafee desperately and urgently needs to be replaced. He is obviously unqualified for the job and only does good for the likes of people who are only concerned about birds, bears and trees.

Anyone who calls himself or herself a Republican and still supports Chafee is either a. a relative of his, b. a member of the Providence Journal Editorial Board or c. an old college room mate who hasn't given up the drugs yet.

Posted by: Stretch Cunningham at January 18, 2006 4:58 PM