October 15, 2010

In Favor of a Split Government

Justin Katz

Portsmouth historian Mary Beth Klee is right that Rhode Island can't afford to put the state government entirely in the hands of the Democrat Party, whether that means a Governor Caprio or a Governor Chafee, who is ideologically sympathetic to the worst, most ill-suited-to-lead segments of the Democrat Party. In making her case, she does remind readers that, for all of his inexplicable actions over the past year, Governor Carcieri has done some good for the state:

Rhode Island's tax burden has dropped from fourth heaviest in the nation to tenth. (Still a far cry from nearby New Hampshire's 50th in the nation or Massachusetts, at 24th.) The governor has worked to streamline state government and pass balanced budgets without increasing citizen tax burdens.

My personal favorite: His administration made it possible to renew a driver's license or vehicle registration quickly at the AAA instead of waiting endless hours at the hopelessly inefficient Division of Motor Vehicles. The governor also called for Rhode Island's state and municipal workers to sacrifice with the rest of us, and take salary cuts, as most employees in the private sector have these past two years. (They did not.)

The question that arises for Republicans and conservatives who would vote for Frank Caprio as a means of blocking Lincoln Chafee is whether they believe that, once in office, Caprio would pull his entire party toward him — including the politically dominant General Assembly — or his party would pull him toward it. Those of us who would find him preferable to both of those options should realize that Republican John Robitaille is not out of this race.

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The first step in bringing some sanity to the GA is to have enough republicans or republicans plus dissident democrats to sustain a veto in one or both houses. This implies a governor willing to wield the veto pen. I don't see that in Caprio or Chafee.
I see Chafee as the worst case scenario. Regardless of GOP gains in the GA, Chafee goes along with the status quo and The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations continues to circle the bowl. Then in 2012 the Democrat Chair blames the GOP as Chafee used to be a Republican

Posted by: Phil Hirons, Jr. at October 15, 2010 2:27 PM

What starts out as a 6th grade history lesson turns into this: (Justin had only to include the last paragraphs from this political advertisement)

"Ocean Staters cannot afford to fly in the face of historical lessons and put yet another Democrat (or a wanna-be Democrat such as Lincoln Chafee) in the executive spot. The simple historical lesson is: “two parties, please.” In November, we should put many more Republicans in the General Assembly to curb the wild spending of that body. But most important, given the lessons of the past and the strengths of the GOP nominee, we should boost John Robitaille into the governor’s chair.

The pronunciation of his name will require statewide tutelage. (It’s “ROE-buh-tie.”) But Rhode Islanders will like what they find in the Central Falls-born and -bred Providence College graduate. A former army paratrooper, a former labor-relations negotiator, former small business owner, Robitaille has seen the State House from the inside, having served for two years as Governor Carcieri’s director of communication. He is a common-sense, solutions-oriented leader who insists: “Rhode Island doesn’t have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem.”

For the next four years, let’s learn from the lessons of the last 10.

Mary Beth Klee is a historian and lives in Portsmouth, Rhode Island."

How nice of the Journal to give Dr. Klee the space to give us this unpaid political advertisement for a candidate for Governor. (It’s “ROE-buh-tie.”)

We have been burdened with Republican Governors for almost 16 years. With the GA being controlled by Democrats in all those years we have had the divided government the historian is recommending. Why would you continue to do exactly what has been done before. Most of you at Anchor rising do not seem to be too happy with the government of the last 16 years.

Posted by: Phil at October 15, 2010 3:55 PM

Yeah Phil,let's make sure it's a totally Democratic state,including the Ag,so we can emulate those other great one party states like Venezuela and Cuba.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 15, 2010 4:07 PM

I don't think we should be voting on changing the name of the state, we should just vote to have the state consumed by MA or Conn. Carcieri was a bum, and the next guy will probably not do much better. I would vote for Block, but he doesn't have much a chance.

Posted by: Swazool at October 15, 2010 4:14 PM

William H. Vanderbilt was the last Republican Governor who served with both branches of the R.I. General Assembly in Republican hands. Governor Vanderbilt who served one term was elected General Officer and U.S. House with an all GOP slate in 1938,.
Governor Vanderbilt championed a state civil service for state employees not exactly a patronage friendly position. 1938 was the last year Republicans won control of the R.I. House of Representatives.
I think John Robitaille should stress the fact he is a Republican. Even the most non political people in Rhode Island realize a check on the R.I. General Assembly is important. Robitaille has run positive ads which I think a number of Rhode Islanders will find refreshing. Robitaille's vote totals may surprise some people on November 2ND,.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at October 15, 2010 4:23 PM

Governor Vanderbilt lived in Portsmouth BTW,. In later life lived in Massachusetts.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at October 15, 2010 4:25 PM

Either Phil is unaware of the dominant power our state constitution gives the GA or he is purposely distorting the truth. Now if the Governor had a line-item veto and the ability to refuse to spend irresponsibly appropriated money, that would be a step towards balancing the powers in state government.

Posted by: BobN at October 15, 2010 6:50 PM


I was going to suggest to Phil that I'd happily switch to a Republican GA and a Democrat gov.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 15, 2010 6:55 PM

This could be the first time you did anything "happily". As for Bobn-- well - if there is a more miserable person alive in this state ( other than Mike Capelli) and I hope to never meet that sad soul- you could qualify-I can only hope that you realize your errors and in some way make amends.

Posted by: David S at October 15, 2010 7:58 PM

David, I have a somewhat infrequent personal email exchange with Mr. Katz, and he strikes me as a very upbeat, fun-loving, life-loving guy; moreso than myself.

Maybe you missed his personal site, AR posts about the natural beauty of regular days here, or haven't met him in person. Definitely a positive guy.

Posted by: mangeek at October 15, 2010 8:36 PM

David S, I don't know what you believe qualifies you as an amateur psychoanalyst, but you are 180-degrees wrong. Typical liberal BS, all smug and demeaning of other people who are not iny your clique. Of course, the idea that it is your beliefs that require reexamination would never occur to you.

Your anger makes me happy.

Posted by: BobN at October 15, 2010 9:50 PM

" I'd happily switch to a Republican GA and a Democrat gov."

Yes, please!

Until then, though, I'd be happy with a non-veto proof majority.

Posted by: Monique at October 16, 2010 6:23 AM


I was going to suggest to Phil that I'd happily switch to a Republican GA and a Democrat gov.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 15, 2010 6:55 PM


There's a way that you can get what you wish. It's only a couple of weeks away. I believe you have noticed the signs with people's names on them seemingly everywhere. If you watch TV or listen to the radio there's many people saying that they and only them will fight, fight, and fight for you. So after enduring the signs and all the ads (including the one I wrote about) maybe I would prefer to simply "switch" to whatever political alignment I think favors me too, but somehow I don't think that you and I will agree on what that may be.

Posted by: Phil at October 16, 2010 9:40 AM

If Robitaille is serious about winning (I sometimes question if he is), he needs to get after Caprio ASAP. The voters that could be the difference for him are the Republicans who are going to Caprio purely out of hatred of Chafee.
I certainly haven't counted Robitaille out - if he can get the Republicans back he's allowed to go over to Caprio, he can still win. With conservatives focusing so much of the attack on Chafee, Caprio's gotten a free ride.
If I were managing Robitaille, I'd have him push Caprio on SSM hard - he could win some Catholic voters back.

Posted by: hellas at October 18, 2010 1:31 PM