The colonial founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, fled the Big Government of Micromanaging Puritanism in colonial Massachusetts to establish a new government based on religious toleration and mutual respect for all of God’s creatures. The intolerant Puritans were a walking contradiction because they had rebelled against tyranny in England, but then they reestablished the same in the New World. Unlike them, Williams was not afraid of liberty, as many liberals are today. Democratic leaders and “Progressive” elites insist, contrary to the very tenets of their label, that more laws mean more safety and security for the community. More taxes, more spending, more regulations will give everyone more protection, peace, and prosperity. Williams understood that the grace of “leaving people alone” would work all things for good. His fellow exile, Anne Hutchinson, was not an “antinomian”, contrary to popular lore, but a powerful woman filled with the spirit of liberty, who had learned about the New Covenant prophesied in the Old Testament and realized in the New. If left to thrive, without fearful burdens or provocations from the state, men and women will not just survive, but thrive.
Man does not need a bunch of rules from the government in order to live. He needs an awareness of a respect for law and order, tradition, and custom, with the fewest set of rules possible which will establish an identity of respect and community. Former welfare-brat turned millionaire comedian Adam Corolla is the picture-perfect example that people do not need a nudge or a nicety form the state to make it. Mankind is capable of great things, but if they are burdened with rules or buoyed with subsidies, then they will not be able to do much.
Despite the flaws of human nature, a culture of liberty and freedom allows people to thrive, provided that the voters can elect politicians independent of intra-party wranglings and special interests.
Governor Chafee approaches this liberty, as the only Independent executive in the United States. His example holds a striking parallel with another independent, William Bloomfield Jr. of Manhattan Beach, CA. Like “Linc”, Bloomfield was a Republican, but because he differed with the hyperpartisan approach of the Republican leadership, he left the GOP. Bloomfield ran a more than credible campaign against 38-year incumbent Henry Waxman, the former Chairman of the House Oversight and then Energy and Commerce Committees.
What gave Bloomfield the freedom to take on “The Eliot Ness” of the House of Representatives?
Bloomfield had sponsored two necessary and effective electoral reforms in California: first, an open primary system which permits voters to choose any candidate that they support, regardless of affiliation. The top-two vote getters move on to the general election. In the previous system of closed primaries, a Republican and a Democrat were assured a spot in the general election, and third party candidates were remained at best marginal contenders. In heavily slanted districts, the election was all but decided after the primary.
The second reform, the Citizens Redistricting Commission, took the power of drawing legislative districts away from the politicians and gave it to a panel of California voters, evenly divided along party lines, with four independents. The new districts forced incumbents to compete for their seat, when they had received neatly drawn, safe districts in the previous decade. Congressman Henry Waxman and his close associate Howard Berman had run a political machine for decades because of Howard’s brother Michael and his undue influence in the Sacramento redistricting effort.
Following these reforms, Howard Berman faced off against the younger and more vitriolic Brad Sherman, who eventually won their contended district. Waxman faced off against a savvy homeboy in a district which forced Waxman out of his West Los Angeles comfort zone to the more moderate “South Bay.” Waxman barely won reelection, and even he admitted that he was running the campaign of his life to stay in office.
The same reforms which have returned the power to California voters can do the same in Rhode Island. Not just as a Republican, nor as a classical liberal who believes (as did Roger Williams), that free markets and free enterprise make free people, but as a citizen who believes that real competition will enhance individual liberty in the Northeast and throughout America, I hope that Rhode Islanders will pressure their representatives and their leaders to end the one-party tyranny of the union-bought Democratic Party in Providence.
I have a more selfish reason, of course. I have read that the Rhode Island General Assembly has contemplated eliminating the state income tax. Massachusetts has also discussed lowering their sales tax. If these two New England states, suffused with liberalism, are willing to lower the tax burden on their residents, then the leaders and legislators in my state of California have no excuse for keeping my tax rates so high. I would love to see the day when California joins Florida and Texas, and even Delaware, as a state with no state income tax.
Governor Chafee, lower your state’s taxes. You will do the rest of New England, the entire country, and me, a huge favor.