April 22, 2008

Not Going Around the Block

Justin Katz

You don't name a new entity "the Moderate Party" in the current political context without the expectation that social liberalism will be implied. If Ken Block wanted to emphasize the single-minded nature of his new party, he would have called it "the Fiscal Party" or something along that line.

Rhode Island conservatives should allow Mr. Block's effort to accomplish what it will do with or without their participation (assuming some degree of success): draw moderates away from the Republican Party so that it may be reformed with a clear and conservative message.

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Posted by: Tom W at April 22, 2008 9:05 PM

Nothing benefits the Dems more than a GOP determined to shove natural allies like moderates aside. If the GOP imposes a social conservative litmus test, it will blow what should be a golden opportunity to gain General Assembly seats.

Posted by: rhody at April 23, 2008 12:03 AM

Those "golden opportunities" have existed election after election after election. Did a moderate GOP succeed during the banking crisis for instance?

Today Republicans have a handful in the GA, only one statewide office holder, and no RIer in Washington. Until the GOP offers a true alternative, there will be no reason to elect more Republicans.

Posted by: mikeinRI at April 23, 2008 12:14 AM

What a wonderful idea Justin, if your aim is to assure that no "conservative" will ever be elected in RI. Sure, Republicans have not succeeded in electing many to the General Assembly, but what success they have had in winning statewide elections will evaporate in a three-way race with "moderates" in another camp.

First of all, how will they raise money for statewide offices? Let's say $2-3 million for governor, more for US Senator. $2 million divided by the three dozen people in RI who meet your rather definition of conservative I think comes out to a number that violates the campaign finance laws.

Oh, you think that with a more clear "conservative" message you will be more successful. Uh, huh. Haven't really been involved in politics much have you?

Anyway, who the heck cares if some unknown guy has a pipedream to start a new political party? Great. If he raises more than $5,000 or ever registers more than 50 votes in any state rep race I will be shocked.

In all of the history of the United States since the rise of the two party system in the early 19th century, the examples of a relevant third party are very few and very far between. Something makes me think that Mr. Block doesn't have a chance to be even a half-rate Cool Moose, never mind a Bull Moose.

Posted by: Pragmatist at April 23, 2008 12:23 AM

And to accentuate the point, can you name one person fitting your definition of conservative elected to a major statewide office anywhere north of the New York-New Jersey stateline?

Posted by: Pragmatist at April 23, 2008 12:33 AM

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"

I happen to think the "moderate party" idea is just that -- and idea. In practice, it seeks to appeal to a "broad range" of Rhode Island voters, by deliberately excluding many voters (values voters) from the get go. Besides the fact that it doesn't have a national equivalent to back it up (such as the Green Party or the Reform Party), it doesn't seem to offer any new ideas. Most of it seems to be borrowed GOP ideas, minus the mention of social issues.

I'm a conservative. However, I would also like to be able to have Republicans win elections in Rhode Island. I don't think those two statements are mutually exclusive -- even in Rhode Island. Ronald Reagan won Rhode Island in 1984, because he was able to appeal to a range of both economic and socially conservative Republicans, independents, and "blue dog" Democrats. There was no magic in that idea. It made sense then and still does now.

My personal goal is not to "draw moderates away" from the Republican Party itself, but rather to keep them from active leadership in it, so that they do not lead it further astray. You can have a lot of people ride on a train, while making sure you have a conductor who knows where you've been and how to get to where you're going. The idea is to attract them to the power of your conservative ideals, not to keep capitulating until everyone agrees with you. What we need in order to win is a basically conservative center-right party -- not Democrat lite -- and certainly not a neutered local version of the Republican Party calling itself something else.

PS I will admit that I have a bias as well against the term "moderate," because it usually little more than a euphemism for "liberal." It's like when you hear "comprehensive immigration reform" -- for most people, it simply means "illegal alien amnesty."

Posted by: Will at April 23, 2008 1:04 AM

mikeinRI, there was a time (not too long ago) when moderate Republicans controlled most of the state's general officers and it had been the norm for at least one, if not two, federal seats to be held by the GOP.

Almond, J. Chafee, L. Chafee, Pine, Machtley, Violet, Mayer, Schneider, Farmer are few of the names that come to mind.

That's not to say RI won't ever elect consevatives--Carcieri is the most conservative governor in the northeast--but it is not the norm. Heck, Carcieri wasn't even registered as a Republican until just before he ran for office.

I do believe that this is a "put up or shut up" year for conservatives in RI.

Taxpayers are being hit with increases, the state is in a terrible financial position and many voters have realized that the taxpayer-funded perks (full pensions, no health care co-pays, etc.) that teachers' unions and state workers enjoy are unacceptable.

November is the test. It's an ideal situation for conservative candidates to run for the General Assembly. If conservatives can't pick up a few seats, or if they can't even run about 10 qualified candidates, I think that is sufficient evidence to say there won't be any marked change in the next 20 years or so.

If this turns out to be the case, nobody can blame Mr. Block for attempting to create a viable alternative to losing.

After all, it could just be that the majority of Rhode Islanders are happy living under some sort of quasi-socialistic government with high taxes and heavy regulation.

Posted by: Anthony at April 23, 2008 3:25 PM

It will be difficult for the GOP to retain the RI Governorship in 2010,. For the forseeable future our legislative numbers will be small. We don't as Republicans really have a place at the table without the RI Governorship.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at April 23, 2008 6:43 PM

Then why don't conservative candidates challenge Montalbano, Murphy, Alves, Williamson...precisely the Democrats we most need out of there?
Oh. For all of conservatives' chest-thumping, there are Dems they don't have the testicular fortitude to challenge.

Posted by: rhody at April 23, 2008 8:12 PM
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