— Northeastern Republicanism —

July 25, 2011

Two Candidates by the Issues

Justin Katz

I've been approaching with similar skepticism the two new faces to the RIGOP, both running for high-profile national offices based mainly on various news reports. A look at their campaign "issues" pages, however, does point to some distinctions — not necessarily huge distinctions on the stances that they take, but certainly in the extent to which they appear simply to be the anointed representatives of a well-connected political faction.

Congressional candidate Brendan Doherty's page reads like the typical political wave of the intellectual hand. He's for everything good and nothing bad.

  • "I intend to be a strong voice..."
  • "It is imperative that RI leaders work together in a bipartisan manner..."
  • "This must be accomplished in a balanced and measured, bipartisan effort by finding common ground with fiscal responsibility."

And so on. The healthcare riddle will be solved by addressing "fraud, waste and corruption," so only the pro-fraud, -waste, and -corruption crowds need fear the candidate... and them only mildly, inasmuch as he offers no concrete steps. Energy must be "clean and renewable" (and "embraced"). Education reforms must come with a "focus" on "goals and strategies."

Even immigration, which would represent a good place for a law-and-order candidate with a police background to nod toward the conservative base that he would court, comes with the usual "moderate" coloring. Doherty wants to "secure our borders," yes, and remove "criminal aliens and illegal reentries" (emphasis mine), but he advocates a "path to citizenship" for illegal aliens who merely went about chasing the "American dream" in "the wrong way." "Legal immigrants," he asserts, "are the cornerstone of this state and country." What that makes the rest of us, I'm not sure.

On same-sex marriage, he takes the everything-but-the-word approach. On foreign policy, he wants to bring the United States military home. And on abortion, he says simply, "I am pro-life," which would be wonderful except that it doesn't appear to be true — or at least accurate. According to the Providence Journal an elaboration of his position includes the belief that abortion is "a legal right" and that Roe v. Wade should remain in effect. In other words, he's pro-choice.

Based on the above, it is clearly reasonable to be suspicious that Doherty is just another insider going for an easy win of a glamorous job. Senatorial candidate Barry Hinckley is another matter. His bullet points are much more concrete, contain links to his elaborations, and, for the most part, conservative:

  • "I'll work to get Washington out of the way so small businesses can create jobs and economic prosperity for all Americans."
  • "I support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."
  • "I support term limits..."
  • "Repeal Obama Care..."

He goes on, through simplifying the tax code, emphasizing the Tenth Amendment (which asserts states' rights), and "enforc[ing] a plain English law standard." For Hinckley, energy independence doesn't mean embracing popular green alternative fuels, as it appears to do for Doherty, but "exploring America's own abundant natural resources through offshore drilling."

Conservatives will note that Hinckley's foreign policy suggestions mark him as a bit of an isolationist libertarian, but that group remains well within the political right and is at least subject to intellectual debate. Heck, I met him in the audience when John Derbyshire's spoke to the Providence College Republicans. Indeed, the debate between a mainstream conservative and Hinckley would sound a lot like the core debates that our elected officials would be having if our politics were sane.

Abortion provides an excellent example of what I mean. Here's Hinckley:

If I were the father of an unborn child, I would urge my partner to NOT terminate the pregnancy. However, I respect and support a woman's right to make this choice for herself and I support existing Rhode Island law on this issue.

One does wonder what sort of "partner" Hinckley might impregnate, but at least he acknowledges that the existence of an unborn child would make him a father. What he does not state might be more important, inasmuch as it leaves open the possibility of cooperation at the national level: namely, that Rhode Island law isn't the main problem; it isn't even all that relevant to the abortion debate. Given his emphasis on federalism, elsewhere, it's possible that pro-lifers wouldn't necessarily have to count Hinckley as opposition in an effort to push the matter back to the states.

Of course, the statement that women have the right to kill their unborn child ought to raise the usual concern about libertarianism's incomplete nature. From whence does Hinckley believe all of the individual rights that he espouses derive? In the absence of the principle that all people are "created equal" and endowed with unalienable rights to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," libertarianism is mainly a philosophy by which the advantaged can claim their Darwinian due.

Human life is unarguably "created" at the point of conception, and if a mother and her doctor may arbitrarily end that life — if one's life is not an inherent right — then the basis of all subsidiary rights must come into question because they necessarily derive not from the person simply on the basis of being a person, but from the political will of a majority of voters.

But that's a matter of legitimate debate. The point with which I'll close is that at least one of the two new Republican candidates in Rhode Island has developed a clear political philosophy that he's willing to lay out at the word "go," permitting voters to judge whether to support him or not. The other seems mainly just to want the job.

July 19, 2011

The Latest Wave of RI Republicans

Justin Katz

Somehow I don't find this surprising:

He is running as a Republican, but most of former State Police Colonel Brendan Doherty's biggest supporters are major Democratic donors, according to a GoLocalProv review of his first campaign finance report, filed last week. ...

* Nearly two thirds of the donors did not donate to a single Republican statewide candidate in the 2010 election cycle.
* Of the remaining third that did, all but a handful poured much more money into Democratic campaigns than Republican ones, donating to one or two token GOP candidates.
* About a third of the donors backed Democrat Frank Caprio in his bid for governor.

Add in this:

Barry Hinckley, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, has a new — and for now, unpaid — press secretary: Nicholas Cicchitelli, of Jamestown.

Cicchitelli, interestingly, comes with some Democratic credentials: he was an executive assistant to former state General Treasurer Frank T. Caprio and volunteered on Caprio's failed bid for governor last year. Before that, he volunteered on then-North Providence Mayor A. Ralph Mollis' successful 2006 bid for secretary of state. Farther back, Cicchitelli says, he interned in the D.C. office of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.

RI's Republicans will have to take careful looks at their candidates during primary season.

June 24, 2011

Not a Very Republican Thing to Say

Justin Katz

Ed Fitzpatrick quotes Brendan Doherty as follows, from the Congressional candidate's initial fundraiser:

Doherty said his campaign theme will be "America First" (which is going out on a limb given the strength of the "Liechtenstein First" lobby).

In emphasizing that theme, he said, "We need to reassess the billions we are spending on other countries — other countries you'd have to find a map to find out where they are." As a caveat, he said, "I understand our special relationship with Israel" and "I understand what is going on in the Arab Spring and the tenets of soft power and smart power and diplomacy." But, he said, "Some of these countries, folks, you may not have ever heard of them, and we are spending billions of dollars there. What about spending that money here in Rhode Island, here in America?"

Or how about not spending the money at all? The federal government spends billions of dollars per day that it does not have. It seems to me that any policy that reduces the government's expenditures in one area should just, well, reduce the government's expenditures.

Obviously, I don't have enough information to know whether Doherty will run on a plank of bringing home the bacon for Rhode Island or he just hasn't spent enough time tracing individual policies and slogans through to his political philosophy (whatever it is). Either way, I'd be more comfortable with his candidacy if he displayed more-Republican instincts.

It doesn't help that he apparently cited Froma Harrop approvingly...

July 8, 2010

Chafee and His Supporters Get National Play

Marc Comtois

The national press loves the independent candidate and USA Today (h/t Ian Donnis) is the latest to report about them in this year of the disgruntled voter. RI's own Lincoln Chafee plays prominently in the story and all of the classic Chafee themes are there. First, there's the typical RI attitude towards "name candidates" like Chafee:

As Chafee carries bags of the eatery's signature doughboys — a cardiologist's nightmare of deep fat-fried dough and crab — Antonio Ferreira, 67, comes over to get his photo snapped and a trio at the next table give him a friendly wave.

"I remember when he went to Cedar Hill Elementary School," says Hilda Poppe, 83, a retired librarian from Warwick whose younger daughter was in Chafee's class. She and her husband, Norman, 84, are having lunch on the outdoor deck with their older daughter, Nonnie O'Brien, 59.

"I always vote Democratic except for him," O'Brien says.

"He has a Republican name but he's always been independent," her father says approvingly.

What about his idea of raising the sales tax?

Norman Poppe hadn't heard about the proposal. "I don't like that," he says, frowning.

"But if it pays the debt," his wife chimes in. With the state's finances in trouble — there's a projected budget shortfall for next year of $405 million — she says any remedy will be painful.

"The others are saying they won't do it," her husband concedes, "but they might when they get in anyway."

Can talk ourselves into and out of anything, can't we? Then there was the Chafee-as-victim of ungrateful Republicans theme:
Chafee, 57, is a happier, more confident candidate than he was during his last race four years ago.

Then, he was challenged from the right in the Republican primary by Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. He lost in November to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

Chafee felt rejected by the GOP, which no longer seemed willing to include moderate Republicans like himself.

Lest we all forget, Chafee won the GOP primary, largely thanks to the support of national Republicans, who campaigned for him & gave him money all while Chafee actively ran as and independent-minded Republican who proudly stood against a President of his own party. As to the Moderate part? Well...that leads to the final theme: an example of the Chafee disconnect:
After losing the race, he taught at Brown, his alma mater, and wrote a book titled Against the Tide. In 2008, Chafee voted for Barack Obama, his first vote for a Democrat. He weighed joining the Green or Libertarian parties but found neither a good fit. Chafee considered Rhode Island's fledging Moderate Party but thought the name sounded "wishy-washy."
In other words, "I'm a moderate but I didn't run as a Moderate Party candidate because that name, 'moderate', sounds so wishy-washy." So now he's a liberal Independent instead of a "big M" moderate (there is a difference, right?) because I guess that doesn't sound as wishy-washy. Okey doke.

January 19, 2010

Democrats "Gingrich-Bush" Shield No Longer A Factor In Northeast

Marc Comtois

Ross Douthat comments on Steve Kornacki's contention that:

… the rise of southern/religious-based conservatism in 1994 — when Newt Gingrich and the GOP won control of Congress — triggered an immediate and enduring cultural backlash among swing voters in places like Massachusetts. Before ‘94, they still saw the GOP (generally) as a big tent party with room for moderate/social libertarian-types. But ‘94 disabused them of that notion and they stopped even listening to Republican candidates.
As Douthat explains, Kornacki dubs this the Gingrich-Bush shield, which, contra what you may initially think, protected Democrats in the northeast. Douthat observes:
Now, of course, both Bush and Gingrich are gone, taking the shield with them, and suddenly northeastern swing voters are willing to consider “voting for a Republican candidate as a way of expressing frustration with the ruling Democrats.” Thus Chris Christie in New Jersey; thus Scott Brown in Massachusetts; thus Pat Toomey’s small lead in the Pennsylvania polls.

Whether this Northeastern G.O.P. surge can be sustained will depend on a host of factors — but Kornacki’s right, I think, to imply that it will depend on whether the Republican Party can find leaders, for 2012 and beyond, who don’t make the party seem too Southern. On this front, though, I think that style and symbolism probably matter more than substance....What turns off Northeasterners, as Caldwell suggested a decade ago, is less a specific issue like abortion than “the broader cultural claims of those who put it forward” — the sense, that is, that a vote for the G.O.P. is a vote for the habits and mores of Alabama or Mississippi (or a caricature thereof), complete with guns in the cupboard and creationism in the schools....

But if you’re trying to be a national political party, you want your leadership to fall relatively close to the American mean culturally, even (or especially) if you’re going to govern from the right or left politically. That means that...if I were a Republican politician from New England, New Jersey or New York, I’d be hoping that the G.O.P. nominates a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty in 2012 — so that Yankee voters can pull the “Republican” lever without worrying that they’re casting a vote for the Old Confederacy along the way.

Based on conversations I've had over the last decade with conservative-leaning independents who used to be Republicans, it always seems to boil down to this. It seems silly, but there it is. And, for most of 'em, the same attitude extends to Sarah Palin.

January 16, 2010

RE: Frumians

Marc Comtois

Apparently, my earlier post came off as me being quite a bit more amenable to the "Frumians" than intended. To clarify, when I wrote that Frum made some "good points", I was referring to his description of Brown and his positions. I most certainly don't agree with Frum's sullivanesque paranoia with the "right wing."

Despite the fact that Brown doesn't pass all of the traditional "right wing" litmus tests, Justin's point that Brown isn't running a moderate campaign is absolutely correct. The danger of shorthand labels is apparent; for while Brown may not be a "right winger", he's not a Chafee/Snowe/Collins moderate either. How about "right of center"?

The acute point I was trying to make was that Chafee--a social liberal and economic mess--had come to exemplify a Rhode Island moderate Republican to not only voters but also within the RI GOP itself. With his break from the party, my hope is that the fallacy can finally end and the idea of what it is to be moderate can better approximate the national norm. All that being said, and assuming all candidates are competent, I think it's safe to say I'll support the more conservative candidate every time.

Re Lessons Learned: If They Can Win, Let Them Win

Justin Katz

Marc cedes too much to the Frumians, if you ask me. It isn't just that Scott Brown is more conservative than Linc Chafee, or Arlen Specter, or whomever. It's also that, in the brightest issue on the field, healthcare, he appears to be a reliable Republican. By contrast, the RINOs give the impression that they'll vote with the Republicans, but only when it's convenient for them.

More importantly, though, the accusation of a right-wing search for "purity" mixes up distinct segments of the political landscape. If a Republican can beat a Democrat and offers a more-right alternative, conservatives will back him or her. They may try to defeat such candidates in primaries (with adjustments made for the extremity of their moderateness and the likelihood of victory in the election), and they'll battle with them when defining baseline opinions of the party (as in the platform), but purity has never been a refusal to work with with others as much as possible. It's been a refusal to redefine the core of the party to be more amenable to them.

Moderates like Frum want to sell moderateness qua moderateness, not establish a neutral right-leaning playing field on which all Republicans can interact. Indeed, he illustrates perfectly the attitude that conservatives despise in moderates: His goal clearly isn't to secure a place for his relatively liberal fellows, but to overtake the party in order to advance his own ideals. Moreover, he's apparently delusional:

It would be a travesty if Brown’s victory is seized upon as a victory for anger, paranoia, and ideological extremism.

I don't think it uncharitable to interpret "anger, paranoia, and ideological extremism" to be Frum's characterization of Tea Party types and farther right conservatives. If that's the case, he misses the obvious fact that Brown is, indeed, benefiting from a national surge from that group. He is benefiting from the angst of conservatives. Without that angst, and without Brown's agreement on central issues, such as the healthcare bill and cap'n'trade, there is no phenomenon in Massachusetts.

It is likely helping Brown, locally, that Massachusetts moderates find they don't disagree with him on every issue when the national attention pushes them past their suspicion of Republicans. But Brown isn't winning because he's running a campaign as a moderate. He isn't having million-dollar fundraising days because he's tirelessly shaking hands and interacting with voters. He's winning because he's part of a national backlash.

Moreover, as Boris Shor puts it, in a post with a very interesting chart showing the political leanings of parties in all fifty states:

What this shows, however, is that the conservative base in the United States, far from dragging their party moblike into an unelectable extreme, has made the decentralized decision to support the realistically best candidate they can relative to the context in which he’s being elected. The 23rd special district election can also be seen in this light; throwing Scozzafava overboard made far more sense in the context of that electorate.

That, to my ear, is the argument being made by Rhode Island Republicans who wish to close the primary. They want to pick the best Republican candidate they can without having unaffiliated voters ensure a choice between two liberal "moderates."

In the context of this debate about "Northeastern Republicans," Rhode Island's row on Shor's chart has interesting implications. According to the data, between 1995 and 2006, Rhode Island's elected Republicans were the most liberal in the United States, while the Democrats were pretty much dead center in the national range for their party. In other words, whatever strategy one might derive from Scott Brown's success does not necessarily apply to current circumstances in our own state next door, where Republican "moderates" are far left and elected legislators overall are left of center. The fact that the RIGOP has had so little success in the General Assembly suggests that more unnatural liberalism is not the answer.

January 15, 2010

Learning Lessons from Brown

Marc Comtois

Win or Lose, the Scott Brown candidacy in Massachusetts has shown that there is a motivated bunch of people looking to upset establishment apple carts, mostly those being pushed around by the in-power Democrats. Brown has struck a chord with these folks based on his common-sense, man-of-the-people approach. Yet, as both Erick Erickson and David Frum note, Brown is certainly a big tent Republican. Erickson thinks the media is blinded by their own preferred narrative:

Right now the media is missing a really big story. It does not fit their narrative.

The narrative, of course, is that conservatives want a totalitarian pure party with a purity test for the GOP. You want gay marriage? No way. Pro-choice? No support. For government assisted health care options? We don’t recognize you. At least that is what the media claims.

So the media has and is ignoring the alliance between left and right among the GOP in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown is not a conservative. He makes no pretension of being a conservative. He defends Romneycare, which most conservative have rejected. He is pro-choice. But he is for less government interference in the free market and less spending. Like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, he is the perfect sort of Republican candidate for New England.

Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund is encouraging its members to support and donate to Scott Brown.. Marco Rubio is supporting Scott Brown. RedState is supporting Scott Brown. We, well . . . I, suspect he’ll give conservatives heart burn as New England Republicans do. But all of us know he is a good, pragmatic fit for Massachusetts. He’ll vote against Obamacare and he’d vote against a second stimulus. Conservatives do know, despite media and liberal Republican (called “moderate” by the media) claims to the contrary, that the GOP needs 51 seats in the Senate to have a majority.

Conservative and liberal Republicans are united behind Scott Brown. You’d think a mainstream media that has generated millions of words on television, radio, and print about conservatives demanding a pure party would take notice.

But that would shatter their whole narrative. And the last thing anyone wants to do at the next party at the Met or Sally Quinn’s house is mention the latest liberal friend in rehab or that maybe their group think on conservatives is shallow, self-serving, and vain.

Frum makes much the same observation, but, as usual, is attacking his fellow, more conservative Republicans, if preemptively this time.
A Brown victory will rejoice Republicans nationwide. We will revel in it, triumph in it, deploy it, argue from it. Question: will we learn from it?

The Scott Brown who may rescue the country from Obamacare is not a talk radio conservative.

Strong on defense and school choice, opposed to the Obama administration’s signature initiatives, Brown voted in favor of Mitt Romney’s health plan in Massachusetts. He describes himself as pro-choice (subject to reasonable limitations), accepts gay marriage in Massachusetts as a settled fact, and told the Boston Herald editorial board he would have voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor. He calls himself “fiscally conservative and socially conscious.” He’s got an environmental record too: In the state senate he voted in favor of a regional initiative to curb greenhouse gas initiatives.

Most important: Unlike his arrogant, brittle opponent, Brown has shown himself an open and accessible candidate, optimistic and without rancor. In short – he’s running exactly the kind of campaign that we alleged RINOs have been urging on the GOP for months now.

It would be a travesty if Brown’s victory is seized upon as a victory for anger, paranoia, and ideological extremism.

They both make good points that, from a strictly political viewpoint, are worth considering here in Rhode Island. To me, Erickson's tone is preferrable. Frum has embarked on a new career based largely on hyperbolizing the right side of the GOP because, well, they don't agree with him, apparently. Nonetheless, there are a lot of left-leaning Republicans and Moderates in the Ocean State who probably are in line with Frum and think that the "right wing" seizing the RI GOP (via a closed primary) would be the antithesis of the Brown candidacy.

Perhaps, but I think that the moderate GOPers have, in the past, made the mistake of too-closely defining such a pragmatic Republican with the current independent candidate for governor Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is more liberal on social issues than many Rhode Island Democrats (not to mention Brown) and, as for economic issues, his recent gubernatorial kick-off displayed his unfortunate predisposition to have a plan for tax increases before having anything concrete on budget cuts (and is but the latest example of his zero-sum, baseline budgeting version of fiscal conservatism). In short, the term "moderate" came to mean "like Chafee," which is a disservice to other moderates who may not be quite so....quirky. I think conservatives would be able to support a moderate candidate who displayed the same traits and competency as Scott Brown if one were to arise out of the RI GOP and run for national office. At least I would.

December 10, 2009

Keeping Republicans Republican

Justin Katz

Hooray to Raymond McKay, president of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, and the other members of the State Central Committee who insisted that conservatives should still be able to call the RIGOP their political home:

Most glaring to some was a final paragraph that says the party, in "the long-standing tradition of New England Republicans," respects "the right of all of our candidates to hold and express their own considered views on social issues."

"If you take a look at the Moderate Party's platform and you take a look at our platform, they're pretty much one and the same," said McKay, who made the motion to send the statement back for further review. "If we're going to be a party and we're going to differentiate ourselves, we should stand apart from the others and not be a Democratic-light, or something like that."

In opposition, Platform Committee Chairman Robert Manning notes that "a large percentage of the voting population are registered as independents," but there's no reason to believe that group to be made up of fiscally conservative social liberals. The fact that the Democrat Party, for example, is increasingly exclusive of pro-lifers could mean that pro-life Democrats have changed their minds about being Democrats, not about being pro-life.

Indeed, a platform that cuts out social issues under the presumption that conservatives are wrong may very well result in fewer registered Republicans. (I can think of at least one.)

November 24, 2009

Will the Real Christine Ferguson Please Stand Up

Carroll Andrew Morse

Over at RI Future, they have a post up advertising a fundraiser for Rhode Island First District Congressman Patrick Kennedy. In the middle of the list of hosts, an interesting name appears…

…Maria Montanaro, Dianne Harrington, Tim DelGiudice, Jim Harrington, Christine Ferguson, Gregory Mercurio, Bill Fischer, Frank McMahon, Terry Fracassa…
Christine Ferguson, you may recall, was also the name of the former Rhode Island Human Services Director who ran in the 2002 Republican primary for the First District Congressional seat, losing to Dave Rogers, who eventually lost to Rep. Kennedy.

Do any Anchor Rising readers in-the-know about the doings of former Republicans candidates happen to know if this is perhaps just an odd coincidence? Or maybe the fundraising host is a relative of the candidate? Or is this yet another example of a "moderate" Rhode Island Republican eager to support a Democratic agenda?

August 8, 2009

Be Regional Differences What They May, Yankee Republicans Must Be Made to See Their Own Drift

Justin Katz

To be sure, Jon Scott doesn't articulate anything that followers of the intra-Republican debate 'round here haven't heard, but that doesn't mean he isn't treading precarious ground:

"New Yankee Republicans" are fiscally conservative, believe in our nation and our troops but have little passion for social issues. "Live and let live... just don't make me pay for it," they say. "Leave us alone to make choices for our families, our businesses and our faith." These voters lie dormant because they rarely have candidates who reflect their beliefs.

That's not to say that a candidate who is pro-life shouldn't say so. The best message is one that a candidate can say with conviction. But in an area whose history is woven with rugged individualism, the focus must be on a strong message of liberty.

From where I sit, the area's "rugged individualism" is in need of repeated defibrillation. Even New England libertarianism has the taint of desiring to be left alone... to collect government largess in peace or to guard collected wealth against economic challenge. Similarly, practitioners have "little passion for social issues" because they're protecting either the public trickle that leftists have lured them to suckle or their own private indulgences. (I don't mean to implicate Jon, specifically, in any of this.)

What promoters of the "moderate" vision of Northeastern Republicanism fail to incorporate into their political philosophies is the Rip Van Winkle snooze into which our society has been lulled by liberals' perversion of the concept of liberty — allowing, encouraging, skin-deep pleasures as an opiate to anesthetize against the crushing of soul-deep rights.

In order for a Republican or (more broadly) right-of-center coalition to function, "New Yankee Republicans" have to acknowledge that the seat of individual liberty is currently to the society's right, and that it isn't sufficient to ignore social issues, allowing the Democrats to heave them left. The result of such attempts was evident in Lincoln Chafee and will likely be the downfall of the Moderate Party: The effort to prove disinterest in "imposing our will" when it comes to social issues will translate into acceptance of liberals' imposition of theirs.

August 6, 2009

A Fireside Chat with Dan

Justin Katz

Alright, there wasn't really a fire, but since we're talking radio, I like to imagine that there was one. Dan Yorke and I had that sort of conversation, yesterday, on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO. Those who missed it or who would like to revisit something (for kind or scurrilous reasons) can stream the whole segment (about an hour, without commercials) by clicking here, or listen to portions:

  • On Anchor Rising, my writing habits and schedule, and blogging specifics (traffic, money, etc.): stream, download (5 min, 49 sec)
  • On our blogging mission (or obsession) and the effect that AR and blogs in general are having: stream, download (3 min, 46 sec)
  • On profiting (or not) from online writing: stream, download (4 min, 03 sec)
  • A call from Mike and discussion of "excellence" in Rhode Island and the effects of local participation, with Tiverton Citizens for Change as an example: stream, download (12 min, 45 sec)
  • On Dan's opinion that RI reformers need a "big win" and my belief that we focus on smaller victories: stream, download (2 min, 52 sec)
  • On hopelessness and a magic wand policy change in Rhode Island (public sector union busting) and the problem of regionalization: stream, download (6 min, 48 sec)
  • On what to do about unions: stream, download (2 min, 18 sec)
  • On the coalition of problems in RI and whether all are addressable by the same principle (dispersing power and building from the community up, as well as a tangent about binding arbitration: stream, download (6 min, 2 sec)
  • On the Republican Party in Rhode Island and awareness of reform groups: stream, download (4 min, 7 sec)
  • On prescriptions for Rhode Island and the lack of leaders: stream, download (6 min, 34 sec)
  • A call from Robert and discussion of Republicans and the Tea Party as a political party: stream, download (3 min, 14 sec)
  • On the Moderate Party: stream, download (2 min, 9 sec)
  • A call from John and discussion of Steve Laffey's plan: stream, download (1 min, 42 sec)

January 2, 2009

What Should Be Asked During the RNC Chairman's Debate?

Carroll Andrew Morse

On Monday, the Americans for Tax Reform organization will be holding a debate between the candidates for chairman of the Republican National Committee. Confirmed participants are Saul Anuzis, Ken Blackwell, Katon Dawson, Chip Saltsman and Michael Steele. Also inivited, but not confirmed the last time I checked the website, are Mike Duncan, Tina Benkiser and Jim Greer.

At least part of the debate will be devoted to questions submitted and voted on via the RNCDebate.org website set up for this event. Rhode Island's own Jon Scott has submitted the following question for consideration…

The NRSC and NRCC have concentrated solely on incumbents during the last several cycles and have been ineffective. We have had no discernible answer to the DNC's "fifty state strategy". Good candidates are hard to attract and money is the mother's milk of politics. As a two time candidate for US Congress in Rhode Island; the bluest of blue states, I want to know what the contenders' plans are to support federal races and state Party mechanisms in "weaker" states.
If you'd like to see Mr. Scott's question put to the candidates, you can vote for it by clicking here (registration required).

September 11, 2008

New England Moderates' In-Tolerance

Justin Katz

I'm actually surprised that Froma Harrop would be this myopic (no permalink available):

"Cocky whacko," is what former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee called Sarah Palin yesterday during a speech in Washington. And Cocky Whacko is the general opinion around New England, even among Republicans and Republicans-turned-Independents like Chafee. We know that the Alaskan governor is beloved by the conservative base, but the reactions around here prompt the suggestion that Republican strategists get out of the office more often. New England used to be the Republican heartland. In 1936, only two states chose Kansan Alf Landon over sometimes-New Englander Franklin Roosevelt. They were Vermont and Maine. And even to this day, there remain popular Yankee Republicans, notably the Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. But other than these and a few other holdouts from other regions, the Grand Old Party of fiscal conservatism and social moderation seems dead and getting deader.

Perhaps the national Republican party has moved to the right of (or, more accurately, hasn't moved as rapidly to the left as) a constituency that was significant in New England, but do the likes of Harrop even have the objective empathy to consider whether their own intolerance drives away us New Englanders to their right? Perhaps such "moderates" should strive to become better able to work with us — rather than thumbing their noses at us cocky wackos.

December 1, 2007

How I Came to Believe in God, and Why I Shouldn't Try to Be Steve Laffey

Justin Katz

To a completely unrelated post, Theracapulas (who has commented under a variety of names over the past six months) explains the problem with Anchor Rising and the RIGOP:

As to why someone like you would say that you agree with a socialist like that URI professor is flat out perplexing. Dan Yorke didn't say that only wealthy people should have children. He said only people who could afford children should have them. She then said that was riddiculous. She's a socialist.

The point behind all this is that you're simply not a fighter, and that's why this blog is so uninspiring. Have you ever posted anything about how we need to move to a voucher system in rhode island? No, you'd rather dance around stupid points with Pat Crowley, and confuse everyone in the process. But that's just one example.

You're passive. That's the problem with the RI. GOP, but it's not just you. Gio Cicione is passive. Governor Carcieri is passive. And the members of the legislature besides Trillo, they're downright laughable. State Senator Ed Bates anyone? lol

The party needs fighters like former Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey and Joe Trillo. We don't needs people like you who dance around issues and go into way too much stupid detail as opposed to making clear, straight forward points.

Putting aside Thera's odd definition of passivity — which somehow includes a man with my schedule, not to mention a businessman who ran for and won the governor's seat and (albeit a little late) laid off hundreds of state workers — I guess the place to start, in my response, is with my conversion to Catholicism. Here's the shortened version of that story:

About eight years ago, I began to feel that the atheism to which I'd stumbled during problematic teen years wasn't adequate to make sense of the world as I was experiencing it. Yet, I'd accepted so many principles, and had learned to have emotional affinity for such a segment of society, that I felt awkward trying to believe in God. My approach to the first stages of conversion was twofold: I attacked the intellectual precepts that I now know to have been faulty by reading opposing argumentation, and I began noticing acceptance of God within the culture to which I'd acclimated. The latter strategy sounds (and is) a little silly, from a certain point of view, but having been a teenage rock/pop junky, for instance, finding religious references in Cat Stevens, Bach, Bob Dylan, and Beethoven and realizing that George Harrison wasn't nuts to be the believing Beatle helped me to develop the emotional configuration of a man in whose culture believing in God is actually a possibility. Just so, conversion requires not only the appearance of intellectual necessity, but also emotional impetus and a spectrum of tiered affinity (from Dylan to Harrison and ultimately to explicitly Christian musicians).

The relevance is that Rhode Island needs to be converted to conservative ideas. As much emotional impetus as the threat of utter collapse may provide, and as much as conservative prescriptions may be obvious necessities, for the state to be saved, its culture and its people must change in ways that touch upon identity.

As it happens, I agree that Rhode Island needs fighters — people to slap the citizens awake and to kick the agents of somnambulism out of the room. That's the central reason that I was so reluctant to support Steve Laffey's bid to take his political career out of the state. But I'm not he; I tried on the taking-no-guff hat long ago and wound up miserable and hurtful. I won't by any means be the last man in the room to throw a punch, but in some folks, belligerence isn't a tool, but a beast. In some folks, it's a comedian. I'm of the former sort, and I've learned that I'm more effective (and happier, to be sure) channeling my fight to other fronts of the war.

The Dan Yorke exchange that Theracapulas misconstrues is an example of the role that, it's fair to say, Anchor Rising in general seeks to fill. Kathleen Gorman said, "You think only wealthy people should have children?" Dan Yorke said, "Yes! Now we're getting somewhere! Only people who can afford it should do it."

Now, we on the right understand (or assume) that Yorke isn't condemning hardworking young families that make the gamble, with reasonable odds, that their professional efforts will pay off with sufficient rapidity to support a growing family. But those approaching the conversation from another direction — the significant number of Rhode Islanders whom we must convert — are susceptible to Gorman's spin/delusion that such families are of a kind with those who procreate without a thought to raising their children and look to the government for indefinite assistance. Note that it was her spun version of Yorke's position that she called "crazy," not (as Thera respins it) Yorke's toned down explanation.

"If all people waited until they had enough money to support their children," asserted Gorman, "there would be no children in the world." As a thirtysomething in my particular circumstances, I can't do otherwise than agree with the statement, isolated of itself. I take it to be my role, therefore, to seek to explain why the statement, isolated of itself, does not require agreement with Gorman's social program. In doing so, I'm also offering counsel to the fighters on my side as to how they might tweak their message for maximum persuasive effect.

How well somebody undertaking such a role actually performs it is always a legitimate area of critique, and I'll cup my meager talents in my palms and plea that I can only do as well as I can do, while always striving to do better. If my writing confuses, I can only apologize and note that I'm merely a humble carpenter. If it's the role itself, however, that you dislike, then I'll suggest that perhaps you aren't my audience. It would certainly be more entertaining for me to crash and burn, frothing with righteousness, but I doubt it would be more effective in the long run.

And if Theracapulas believes that he can create a more inspiring blog, I encourage him to start his own. Heck, I encourage him to come out of the shadows with a real name, begin submitting Engaged Citizen posts, and perhaps to become a contributor to Anchor Rising.


I'm not sure why Thera's so sure that I've never advocated school vouchers; I've done so every time it's remotely relevant to the point that I'm making. Of course, I'm more apt to describe what it is I'm actually advocating — parental school choice, as a matter of principle and practicality — than to plaster my posts with the "voucher" buzzword. The word "voucher" has already been raised as a net for ideological volleys, and at any rate, I'd like to leave open the possibility that a more feasible approach to school choice doesn't involve a voucher system.

October 18, 2007

Randall Jackvony: "Waiting on a 'Relevant' Person"

Engaged Citizen

In one of my recent columns for the Cranston Herald, I discussed nappylies.com, a site the Cranston GOP has to highlight the record of Cranston Mayor Michael Napolitano. For input on the tone of politics in the Internet age, I talked with Justin Katz.

As I mention in my column, Justin's responses to my questions made me think about things in a different light, especially the idea of a "just anger" in political speech. In Cranston, we have seen both just and self-serving anger in the past. This was particularly acute during the last five years of financial turmoil. The "self serving" anger I witnessed has colored my thinking, and sometimes I forget that judiciously used anger can be a powerful tool. As Justin told me, "If a generally mild and considered commenter reacts acerbically to something in particular, the biting nature of the response has some power." Very true. However, I think if it is overused, just anger can lose it effectiveness.

He posted an entry on Anchor Rising in response to my piece, which I didn’t come across until a couple of weeks later. The post and the subsequent comments both amused and perplexed me. As Will said, he and I have never met (to my knowledge), but he speaks like I (as a Republican who is somewhat informed of party politics) should know who he is. Perhaps if he listed his last name, I may be able to recall him.

Nonetheless, I suspect he may be part of a group of Republicans who want to enforce ideological purity or blind faith in one man as a litmus test as to whether someone is eligible to participate in the party or not. Certainly, there has to be some commonality under the GOP tent. Further, I understand and respect that some people don't want to lend their electoral support to someone they see as too moderate. However, when it comes to moving the party forward, the Republicans need to keep the big tent ideal. The attitude of some of the aforementioned group of Republicans, at times, reminds me of — borrowing from the Vietnam era phrase — having "to burn the village to save it." Or in this case, burning the tent.

The next RIGOP meeting you attend, take notice. There are people there who interrupt and shout down others who disagree with them. Bullying, insulting, and demeaning people because they disagree with you doesn't help your cause. Plus, it won't build a strong party and is certainly is not a way to change the state.

Will is certainly correct regarding my recent non-participation in GOP politics. However, I'm sure he has no true sense of why I don't participate. While he has no reason to know any more, I'm sure his knowledge of my politics doesn't go any deeper than my disagreements with former Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey. Will, I don't know the intricacies of your politics, but we probably agree on most things.

However, I am even more concerned for the future of the party if Will's opinions regarding "relevancy" are taking root in the party. The Republicans should be willing to consider a newcomer who is genuinely willing to give of his or her time to do what is right for the state as "relevant."

Perhaps that's the problem. Are some Republicans waiting for one "relevant" person to come along and magically change things? That has not worked in the past and won't in the future. Perhaps Will is part of the group that sees Steve Laffey as that person. Well, the success of his methodology can be seen by the state of GOP electoral success in Cranston.

The GOP would be more successful in the long term concentrating on school committee and municipal councils. Build up a strong, viable, and respected farm team. Higher offices will (eventually) take care of themselves, because they will be fed by that team.

The party needs to convince concerned — and yes, maybe irrelevant — people to participate and run for office. Plus, they need to know: You may have to run a couple of times to succeed.

The party needs a simple message that is repeated over and over to make people get it. It will be sickening to people who follow politics, but it's what is needed for taxpayers who are too busy living their lives to pay close attention. That message should something like: A one-party system doesn't work; it breeds waste and corruption and costs you a lot of money. Elect Republicans to bring a balance and fix our state's problems.

September 21, 2007

Finish This Sentence: When The Going Gets Tough, the Rockefeller Republicans…

Carroll Andrew Morse

Thursday's Warwick Beacon carried its report, written by Russell J. Moore, on former U.S. Senator/former Warwick Mayor Lincoln Chafee's disaffiliation from the Republican party. (Moore mentions Anchor Rising's early coverage of this story; we appreciate the hat-tip).

However, the item in the article that really caught my eye was current Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian's answer to the question of whether he would consider switching away from the Republican party…

Avedisian, a fellow Rockefeller Republican, said he personally wouldn’t leave the Republican Party as long as he is in his current term.
That's a little less than telling the rank-and-file that "I'm in this with you all the way", isn't it?

March 5, 2007

Chafee Talks Future: His and Avedesian's

Marc Comtois

File under "Moderates on the March": Providence Phoenix editor Ian Donnis spoke to Lincoln Chafee and got a couple interesting tidbits out of him:

During one of Lincoln Chafee's last news conferences as a US senator, he faced the inevitable questions about his political future. Noting how he had bought a home near Brown University, the Republican joked that he would run in 2010 to be the mayor of Providence.

Was Chafee serious?

Currently ensconced at Brown's Watson Institute, Chafee last week told me, "I'm very happy doing what I'm doing." Asked if he was gravitating toward running for mayor of Providence, he says, "This is all four years away. It's way too early."

Political junkies have been intrigued by the possibility of a rematch, for governor, between Chafee and Steve Laffey, his 2006 GOP primary opponent. Chafee's response to another question, however, suggests that this may not be in the cards.

Asked what he thinks Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian will do in 2010, Chafee says he expects his mayoral successor to "probably run for governor." Chafee went so far as to say, "At this stage, I'd encourage him to think about [running for] governor." Avedisian, who served as a Senate page to the late US Senator John Chafee, has close ties to the Chafee family, as well as to some Democrats, including Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts. Chafee says a primary between Avedisian and himself "will not happen, from my perspective."

...Running for mayor might seem counter-intuitive for Chafee. Then again, he retains considerable goodwill, would run well in a number of neighborhoods, particularly the East Side, and he could be the first Republican since Buddy Cianci to have a good shot of taking City Hall.

Stay tuned, sports fans.

December 13, 2006

Barry Goldwater: Father of American Centrism!?!?

Carroll Andrew Morse

National Review’s new political reporter Jonathan Martin has an article on “the GOP and its Northeast problem” in the print edition of this week’s magazine. Students of conservative history, as well as history buffs in general, may find this summary of some analysis from Dante Scala, a professor of political science at St Anslem’s College in New Hampshire, of particular interest…

There are those who belong to what [Scala] calls the party’s liberal Rockefeller wing, as embodied most recently by [Senator Lincoln Chafee]. They probably won’t ever come back to the GOP, but their numbers are small enough that they won’t be missed. Then there are those who belong to what Scala calls the Goldwater wing. These are traditional Republican voters who have been turned off not just by the party’s cultural conservatism, but also by its mismanagement of crises from Baghdad to New Orleans, and have abandoned the GOP even though it is more in synch with their small-government convictions. With the right message, and the right messenger, and a bit of Democratic over-reaching to remind them why they used to pull the Republican lever, these lapsed libertarians can be brought back into the fold.
Ponder this point for a moment before moving on.

And then…

Continue reading "Barry Goldwater: Father of American Centrism!?!?"