990WBOB.com radio co-host Kevin Aherne asked me why President Obama was still so popular in Rhode Island, and why gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo embraced his endorsements, while Democratic candidates elsewhere treated the Cheerleader-in-Chief like Ebola.
I could ask my California constituents the same question. My new Congressman, Ted Lieu, took a grand picture with President Obama one week before the election, then won the district by fifteen points. He passes cottage industry bills promoting left-wing causes (ending therapy for gay minors, private sale of puppies, etc). He also has heavy support and funding from Big Labor.
One answer to the Raimondo question: Democrats are demographically well-positioned in the state, and there are enough left-wing true believers to balance out the disillusioned liberals who realize that all their hope in Obama produced no change. Why? Big Labor, pure and simple.
But maybe it’s the ocean, too.
Like Rhode Island, my congressional district hugs the coastline. Lots of wealthy people buy property and invest there, too. I have noticed that most of the Left’s biggest cheerleaders are millionaires and billionaires: i.e. individuals who do not absorb the consequences of government micromanaging (or help instigate it).
I am aware that there are plenty of mansions, plenty of wealthy people hiding in Rhode Island, too. Super-rich types have tag-teamed with big government for a long time, making their lives cozier, enabling poverty, and squeezing the middle class. How long this double-teaming will last, however, is anyone’s guess
What else is it about the Ocean State, then, that Republicans, conservatives have struggled to initiate a stronghold there?
A few other reasons:
The welfare state is a big problem. Individuals forced off the dole (briefly) leave for a month, then come for another five years of handouts. State rep Doreen Costa warned about generational poverty taking hold, where kids are brought up believing that life comes and goes depending on the next welfare check. Coupled with welfare is sanctuary statehood. Like California, Rhode Island governors have practically welcome illegal immigrants to sponge of the state, suspending e-Verify, then offering drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants (we already have this in CA, and RI’s Raimondo promised the same).
If you don’t like the taxes and fees, it’s very easy to cross the border into Connecticut, Massachusetts, or even New Hampshire and find a better deal. Why try to change the political culture, when all anyone has to do its pull up stakes and leave? We Californians cannot do that. If I want to find a better state, I have to drive six hours to Nevada, or Arizona. A number of big businesses have done exactly that.
The secular, university culture in New England has seeped into many aspects of public life. I had commented before, and I share it again, progressive, socialist principles germinated in the Universities. Harvard removed mentions of the deity from its coat of arms, and as for Brown, the new mayor Jorge Elorza may or may not believe in God. The divinity issue is crucial to the well-being of any city. Providence is the least Biblically literate city in the country, and the political culture reflects it. Don’t believe in a loving God watching out for you? Then you will turn to the state for almighty protection.
Then there’s the culture of accommodated corruption. When the New York Times wrote the expose on 38 Studios, the columnist started out claiming that Rhode Islanders are accustomed to their politicians’ behaving badly. Yet 38 Studios was particularly egregious, enough that residents did not want to talk about it. How about the FBI raiding Smith Hill? Speaker Fox’ Office? If voters tolerate individual corruption from their mayors or town leaders, should anyone be surprised at the endemic failures of the state?
The corruption issue (plus others) may help RIGOP chances. Rhode Island had (conservative!) Republican governors sixteen years in a row because of this crisis of integrity. There’s the angle that future Republican candidates may need to consider. When a state senator shouts “Go F—Yourself!” at constituents, when the Democratic governors search the trash for bribes, when police ticket residents in a key ward as payback for a bad contract, then the corruption issue has hit too close to ignore.
What else could hit voters directly enough that they will reconsider their political leadership?
Republicans have been the law-and-order party for decades. Republicans tend to win wars, while Democrats lose them. Richard Nixon ran representing the protestations of the Silent Majority, fed up with rampant crime and indulgent criminal prosecution. If residents feel the pain in their physical person, so to speak, not just in their wallet, they could change their voting habits very quickly. For example, the terrorist scares against school children in Warwick, Cranston, and Johnston should rattle anybody, and US Senate candidate Mark Zaccaria debated this issue. Besides, Republicans did well at the local level in 2014, gaining six seats in the General Assembly and two more in the State Senate.
Fighting crime and corruption, promoting local issues: this kind of ground game could revitalize the Republican brand and capitalize for the future.