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Keeping a Record of the Controversies

One bit of advice I’d offer to folks who are just starting to put together grassroots political organizations at the city or town level is to spend some time on an online repository right from the beginning.  Put up an inexpensive Web site and use it as a place to house all of your arguments about the issues in your city or town.

My points and research about controversies in Tiverton over the years are scattered all over the place — on Anchor Rising, on all of the local news sites (some in subscription-only archives), in the Providence Journal, on a defunct taxpayer group Web site, and probably in other places I’m not remembering.  Without a centralized place where all of those points, arguments, charts, and links can reliably be found, the local opposition is able to refer vaguely to past events in a one-sided way that is time-consuming to rebut.

Fixing that problem is one of the motivations behind Tiverton Fact Check, although because it’s a volunteer activity, it’s going to take time to fill it out, and it’s going to be more difficult to come up with easy-to-search organization with so many issues/controversies already in the mix.  On the other hand, the people advocating for the status quo in town offer helpful reminders of the issues that need to be addressed.

I’ve started the process with a response to a letter to the editor that is bursting at the seams with errors and misleading rhetoric:

One of the challenges of serving your community by getting involved in civic debate is that it’s so much easier for people to say things about you that are wrong and misleading than it is to actually explain issues.  Honest people are at a disadvantage, and often they give up when the special interests make things nasty, as Tiverton 1st and Mike Silvia have made them nasty in Tiverton.

Another bit of advice that I’d offer is to never give up.  Part of the strategy of local activists in the progressive–labor union mold is to create the illusion that everybody hates somebody who speaks up against them.  That’s not true.

Unfortunately, your city or town is mostly filled with normal people living normal lives, and they aren’t going to fill the papers with letters about how wonderful you are or put up Facebook pages in your honor to combat the Facebook hate-pages.  The periodic thumbs up at the store, back-slap at the soccer game, or encouraging question after church is going to have to suffice.

AG Candidate Hodgson Tackles One of Rhode Island’s Big Problems

Dawson Hodgson, candidate for Rhode Island attorney general, is attempting to enforce ethics through the only system that might still work in the Ocean State — politics.

Gina’s Quantum Position on Raising Taxes; Or, “Dual Nature” Doesn’t Just Describe Matter and Light

On Thursday, Gina Raimondo, democrat candidate for governor, held a press conference during which she accepted the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and expressed a desire to lift the ban in Rhode Island law on partial birth abortion. (Yes, to confirm, contrary to what she lied … er, broadly implied at the press conference, Allan Fung does not wish to change the parameters of Rhode Island’s abortion law, she does.)

This has created some controversy, as well it should, especially on the radio and social media.

On his radio show this morning on WPRO, John Loughlin took a bigger picture perspective to make the case that one of the mistakes candidate Raimondo made at her press conference Thursday was the strategic one of getting off message.

That’s probably true. But there are a couple of additional factors that come into play. Firstly, the General Treasurer is probably pleased to get her candidacy any kind of publicity, even if it doesn’t adhere to her campaign script. (Tomorrow’s episode: “Will She Take Communion???”, co-starring a vociferous cast of advocates, some in the ranks of the press, standing by to canonize her if the Catholic Church moves to bar her from communion.)

A Recurring Theme: Uniting People Through Division

Providence Mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza’s “One Providence” rhetoric strikes a disturbing note against his anti-Cianci rhetoric.

About that “Outside Special Interest” Thing

I’ve got a new post on Tiverton Fact Check that looks at the first offering of the FakeCheck site that the local political opposition has created to spread fog in the public debate in Tiverton.  Most of the post is a lesson in how to judge the credibility that a Web site deserves, but this point may be of broader political interest:

The idea that distant political forces are funding a targeted campaign in Tiverton through me is pure paranoid delusion. (Although the Tiverton 1st crowd may be thinking of the way that national labor unions and progressive groups leverage their members in our town and its government to manipulate the political system. In that case, they may just assume that those of us on the other side would naturally do the same thing.)

Coalition Radio Introduces Three Fiscal Topics into the 2014 Campaign

Issue 1: Do any candidates for Rhode Island Governor or Rhode Island General Assembly support modifying or repealing Governor Chafee’s Wall-Street-first law regarding municipal priorities?

Issue 2: Will any of the candidates for Governor of Rhode Island have their fiscal staffs look immediately into the possibility of a Providence receivership. Will they tell us if they do?

Issue 3: Buddy Cianci, according to some research done by Michael Riley, once advocated for pension obligation bonds to help finance Providence’s pension system. Might he do so again?

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 43 (Third Parties and Runoffs)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss third parties and runoffs. (And Justin adds a bit of text in “what-if” elaboration.)

UPDATED: Assessing Credibility and Intention in Political Fights

Over the course of my education, teachers and professors reinforced multiple times the need to assess the credibility of sources of information.  There are external cues — like the people and organizations that testify to the source’s credibility — and there are internal cues.  Is the author constructing his or her argument so as to mislead or to inform?  For example, are the sources cited and comprehensive, thereby showing an interest in the author in having readers check his or her claims?

The gang of anonymous activists in Tiverton who serve as the plants in the crowd for those who support the status quo and oppose my friends and I locally illustrate the point very well, having set up yet another anonymous Web site with the same URL as my group’s TivertonFactCheck.org, except with dot-com.  Call it “Tiverton FakeCheck.”

Over time, we will undergo the tedious work of reviewing their factual claims, which range from debatable to misleading to plainly wrong.  In the meantime, I’ve put up a post reviewing some of the cues that show the different intentions of the two sites:

The bottom line is that FakeCheck is not how people act when they’re trying to clarify the public debate.  It’s how they act when they want to create fog and get people to vote based on hatred, fear, and some of our other more-base emotions. …

For now just keep an eye on how they argue.  It’s the same old Tiverton 1st tactic of insult and manipulation for political benefit.  Judge both sides for how we act, and use every resource available to you to make up your own mind about what the truth is.

Campaign Technology the Root of Division and Extremism

George Will had an interesting column, the other day, decrying Senate Democrats’ extremism in opposition to the First Amendment:

Forty-eight members of the Democratic caucus attempted to do something never previously done: Amend the Bill of Rights. They tried to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech. They evidently think extremism in defense of the political class’s convenience is no vice.

They’ve been a curious bunch, the current collection of Democrats in the Senate.  Moderation does not seem to be their thing.  When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) gutted the Senate’s long-standing filibuster rules, it struck me as the kind of thing a politician does only when he thinks he’s go no reason to fear losing power.

J. Christian Adams may have found the explanation for this odd behavior:

No longer are Democrats anchored to the preferences of Americans in the middle. Bill Clinton’s triangulation is as obsolete as color film and bag phones. Obama has pushed policies far outside the mainstream, and even far outside popular will, but succeeded in wringing out an Electoral College majority in 2012 because of Catalist.

What Catalist does is to aggregate all available information about everybody in the United States and allow progressives to target their immoderate base to maximize turnout.  Adams notes that, if you can reach them, the fringes are less expensive to motivate than the folks in the middle.

Thus, the president who promised a new political harmony and allowed credulous voters to think he was a centrist uses divisive rhetoric at every opportunity and pushes radical policies on party-line votes, and the Senate majority leader takes to the floor of the people’s legislature to attack a pair of wealthy donors on the other side.  We get “war on women” nonsense, and we get climate change hysteria.

We get, ultimately, a very unhealthy political environment that will never function except to reach the objectives of extremists.

And it’s difficult not to wonder how much data from government agencies, like the IRS and NSA, has made its way into Catalyst… at least some top-secret version operated by only the most partisan radicals in their dark back rooms.

Board of Elections Rules for Healey 7-0, 4-3, 4-0

Sam Wroblewski and Andrew Augustus of WPRO (630AM) have a quick breakdown of the results of the individual challenges made by the Rhode Island GOP to Robert Healey’s placement on the ballot as the Moderate Party candidate for governor…

The first related to if Spooner properly withdrew is candidacy for Governor….the board unanimously decided that Spooner had properly withdrew his candidacy.

Next the board needed to determine if Gilbert was recognized by the state as the Chairman of the Moderate Party and could appoint Healey as the gubernatorial candidate for the Moderate Party. After a lengthy debate and by a vote of 4-3 the board determined that Gilbert was officially recognized by the state as Chairman.

Finally, the longest debate came if Healey was eligible to run as a member of the Moderate Party….Bell argued that Healey needed to be a member of the party for 90 days before he could become eligible. By a vote of 4 in favor and 3 abstentions, the board determined that since Healey was an unaffiliated voter, he was eligible to run as a member of the moderate party.

Healey’s Oh-So-Knowing Campaign Material

MoMo gubernatorial candidate Robert Healey’s campaign-as-performance-art casts a knowing tone. The problem is, he’s wrong, and to the benefit of the wrong people.

Thanks, Catherine, for the Perfect Image of Unionization

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Catherine Taylor is apparently making the rounds to make the case for Republicans in the state not to vote for her.  Of course, it’s the lieutenant governor’s race, so whatever.

We all should be grateful to her, though, for offering a personal anecdote that illustrates very well one of the problems with unionized work forces.  Explaining why she opposes right-to-work laws (that allow people to take jobs without being forced to join a union):

“Employees in union shops receive union-negotiated wages and benefits whether they join the union or not. This resonates deeply with me since as a college student [at Yale University] I chose to apply for and take only union campus jobs as a dining hall and custodial worker because of the higher wages,” she said. “It seems only fair for all employees to contribute toward the representation they receive by choosing to take the job.”

So, the union drove up the pay rate for low-end jobs on the campus so it was enough not to offend the sensibilities of a discriminating Yale student.  ”It seems only fair,” she said.

One wonders whether her sense of fairness is shared by women and men who could have gone through her Ivy League door to a better future if only the price tag weren’t so high (with one aspect being her inflated pay).  Or how about some striving New Haven resident who would have been able to afford community college (or even just the rent) if the union hadn’t priced them out of a job by driving the salary high enough to satisfy Miss Taylor?

Progressives Coming Around to the Obvious

Thanks to Providence Journal political columnist Edward Fitzpatrick for noticing that (some) progressives are stealing my Gina Raimondo tune:

Mark Gray, president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island, and Justin Katz, managing editor of the conservative blog Anchor Rising & The Ocean State Current, don’t agree on much. But they do agree that General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, the Democratic nominee for governor, is a progressive. …

In an interview, Katz said, “I find it frightening because it shows a misplaced conclusion that you ought to have faith in government.” While giving her credit for acknowledging when government isn’t working, he said “technocrats” such as Raimondo believe government can work, if redesigned by smart-enough people.

Republican Party Challenges Healey

Dan Yorke (630 WPRO-AM) just reported on-air that the Republican Party will challenge Robert Healey’s placement on the Rhode Island general election ballot as the gubernatorial candidate of the Moderate Party.

Paraphrasing what Dan Yorke relayed, the challenge will be based on James Spooner’s withdrawal from the race being conditional upon Healey agreeing to run, and on questions about whether William Gilbert, who officially made the appointment to replace Spooner, is properly the Moderate Party chairman.

A hearing at the Board of Elections has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.


According to Katherine Gregg of the Projo, the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 pm.

Final Word (Maybe) on the Bob Healey Thing

Wrapping up some threads from my Matt Allen appearance concerning Bob Healey’s surprise run for governor.

What Came First, the Apathy or the Corruption?

Which is the dominant characteristic of the Rhode Island electorate: apathy or corruption?

As I’ve pondered Urbanophile Aaron Renn’s suggestion that the Ocean State’s problem is that its people are corrupted, this shade of a difference has calcified as my main agreement.  Writes Renn:

The fact that Cianci is considered a viable candidate for mayor despite being notoriously corrupt shows something that tends to happen in communities where corruption is the norm. Namely that the people themselves become corrupted in the process.

I’d argue the specific point.  It hasn’t seemed to me that Rhode Islanders are eager to support somebody who’s “notoriously corrupt,” but rather that we’re so discouraged by the available alternatives that corruption is reduced to just one variable to consider, not a disqualifier.  What’s worse: corruption, complete managerial inexperience, or ideological naiveté?  When one ideal goes up against another, the balance ceases to be a matter of principle, but a practical question.

Buddy Cianci has proven content with personal excesses; is that really worse than a leader who’ll leave the city in ruins and/or one who’ll seek to transform our representative democracy into a socialistic patronage scheme?  (N.B. — The three categories/possibilities aren’t intended to align with particular candidates in this race, but to be general characterizations of the Rhode Island political scene.)

Of course, we can’t argue that some of the electorate is corrupted in Rhode Island, but is it so many as to characterize the whole?  Or is it more the case that a characteristic apathy allows the corrupt to define Rhode Island politics and governance?  On first expression, it might not seem to make all that much of a difference.

But it makes a world of difference for the solution and the ability to hope.

If Rhode Islanders are corrupted, then the only chance for the state is if it exports the corrupt and imports people who’ll go about insisting on clean, straightforward government.  The people who hold the levers of power in the state aren’t about to let that happen.  In fact, stopping such trends may be the reason (or a reason) that we hear so much talk about the importance of jobs and investment in our state, but so little willingness to take anything but fully controlled half steps.

On the other hand, if the apathetic and ignorant are still the majority, then they can be awoken and educated.  It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible.

Reminder: Healey Gets Second Placement on Ballot

As we discuss the impact of Bob Healey’s sneak attack on the Rhode Island electorate, it’s worth remembering that the Moderate Party won the second slot on the November ballot:


- Order in which the parties will appear on the ballot

Party Placement:


UPDATED: Healey Spits on Democracy, Jumps the Shark

I heard that habitual Cool Moose candidate for lieutenant governor Bob Healey had jumped onto the Moderate Party bandwagon pretty early this morning (proposed hashtag: #MoMo, for Moderate Moose).  The day being a whirlwind of reading legislation, seeking donations to assist with African medical facilities dealing with Ebola, and watching after an 11-month-old, it took until an afternoon pause for the news to really hit me.

Let’s just say I’ve lost all respect for Mr. Healey.  As far as I can see, this is pure, destructive vanity on his part.

My reaction isn’t based on the fact that I’d become a tepid Allan Fung supporter by the end of the primary race (so tepid that I voted in the Democrat primary even though I thought the GOP race a toss-up).  In that regard, Healey has merely made the unlikely possibility that Fung could walk the narrow political line to the governor’s seat into an impossibility.

Rather, people made decisions about their primary votes based on the transparent layout of the political landscape.  We all knew what the possibilities were, and we cast our votes based on likelihoods about the campaigns between the primary and the election.  And here comes this supposed good-government reformer exploiting a loophole in the law to announce a surprise candidacy two days after his fellow Rhode Islanders had spent their electoral power in the primary.

That’s as bad or worse than any trick that the insiders use to maintain their power… only they have the excuse of self interest.  Healey and his fellow MoMos have no excuse, although presumably they have the economic security for their own families that they can afford to make local governance into a game of Survivor, where the fun of the game (and the million bucks) is an excuse for deception.

Even after his less-than-graceful exit from lieutenant governor lore, I didn’t expect Bob Healey to become Fonzie jumping the shark.  I definitely didn’t expect him to become Richard Hatch.

ADDENDUM (9/11/14 8:30 p.m.):

Let’s not forget, by the way, that in the 2012 season, Heidi Rogers disenfranchised Republican voters three days after she won the primary in order to clear the path for Healey.  At least that was for the useless position of lieutenant governor.

Reading the Missing Tea Leaves in Providence Mayoral Primary

This may mean nothing, but I noticed something in the primary election results in Providence that readers of tea leaves might want to take into account.

Jorge Elorza won the Democrat primary in the race for mayor of Providence, and a major talking point for both his supporters and those of his most substantial opposition, Michael Solomon, was an ability to beat Buddy Cianci, running as an independent.  With one precinct yet to report, as of this morning, Elorza won with 10,562 votes, to Solomon’s 9,190.  In total, 21,426 Providence residents cast votes in the Democrat primary for mayor.

However, scrolling up to the Democrat gubernatorial results we find, first, that General Treasurer Gina Raimondo beat Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in his own city, and second, that there were a total of 22,315 votes cast.  That’s 889 more than were cast in the mayor’s race.  (Another 995 Providence residents voted in the Republican gubernatorial primary.)

So what?, you might say. The governor’s race is higher profile and probably attracts more interest, even within the city.

The thing is, that hasn’t held true in the recent past.  In 2010, the mayoral candidates attracted 24,206 Democrat votes (11,897 going to Taveras), while Frank Caprio attracted 16,553 unopposed for governor.  If we look to the congressional races, a total of seven candidates took in 21,806 votes.

In 2006, 15,225 Democrats voted for mayor (not counting mail ballots), with David Cicilline taking 11,293 of those, versus Chris Young.  Charles Fogarty took 12,273 unopposed for governor.  The three congressional candidates (spanning two races, remember) took 13,831.

In 2002, the four Democrat mayoral candidates took 26,007 votes (Cicilline receiving 13,826 of those).  By contrast, the three gubernatorial candidates took 24,972 (Democrat, non-mail) votes.

It’s a messy comparison, because every election has different dynamics, but as a general rule, more people have tended to vote in the Democrat primary for mayor than for governor.  Why didn’t that happen this year?  And (while we’re asking open-ended questions), what might it mean for all of those assumptions about ethnic votes that Elorza didn’t quite top Taveras’s mayoral total, and that Taveras failed to win his own city in the governor’s race?  (Two notes on the Elorza point: I’m not 100% the 2010 data excludes mail ballots, while the 2014 data does; there’s still a precinct missing from this year’s results.)

What, too, will be the influence of Republican Dan Harrop on the race?

Again, I don’t know enough about Providence to answer these questions, but I thought them worth asking.

With 99% of Precincts Reporting…

Two precincts are still not reporting, according to the RI Board of elections website, as of 8:45 the day after election day (Schofield Armory in Cranston, First Unitarian Church of Providence in Providence). With that disclaimer, here are the official numbers from last night’s contested statewide races:

R Governor:
Allan Fung: 17011 (55.0%)
Ken Block: 13932 (45.0%)

R Lieutenant Governor:
Catherine Taylor: 17120 (66.6%)
Kara Young: 8587 (33.4%)

R Congress 1:
Cormick Lynch: 6282 (72.3%)
Stanford Tran: 2404 (27.7%)

D Governor:
Gina Raimondo: 51770 (42.2%)
Angel Taveras: 35803 (29.2%)
Claiborne Pell: 32986 (26.9%)
Todd Giroux: 2198 (1.8%)

(More under the fold….)