I’ve been contemplating whether to answer Edward Fitzpatrick’s question, “How did Healey get 22 percent of governor’s vote with $36?” My largest hesitation is that a lot of people with whom I interact for politics and policy locally and at the state level aren’t going to like my conclusion. It was an odd experience to be the villain on Matt Allen’s radio talk show when I criticized Healey’s last minute leap into the gubernatorial race, and I’m about to double down.
According to Fitzpatrick, Healey thinks he drew more votes away from Democrat Gina Raimondo than from Republican Allan Fung. That’s a convenient thing for him to believe, of course, because it would mitigate his responsibility for whatever progressive, corporatist machinations Raimondo implements over her first term as governor.
I take the view of pollster Joseph Fleming that Healey drew more from Fung, and by the math, Fung would have won if he received at least 61% of the Healey vote. That’s if every Healey vote went to one of the two major candidates. Any votes that went to the lesser-known candidates rather than the Democrat would have lowered the percentage that Fung needed; if no Healey voters would have gone with Raimondo, for example, Fung would have only needed 21% of them to vote for him.
Whichever way the Healey vote would have gone, my opinion — based on conversations before and after the election with people who did vote or who considered voting for Healey — is that he gave Rhode Island voters on both sides an excuse not to take their vote for governor very seriously. He’s a character-actor politician who materialized on the stage for the final act and gave the audience permission to forget the rest of the plot.
With Healey’s out-of-the-blue appearance after the primaries, people didn’t have to spend more than a couple of months contemplating the significance of voting for him. If he’d run an honest campaign, beginning when every other candidate was required to declare for office, voters may have tired of his shtick. At the very least, simple odds would have made it more likely that they would have had to consider, just a little bit more, whether it was true that there is no difference between Raimondo and Fung.
Of course, there’s plenty of room to criticize Fung’s campaign for not making the differences clearer. Following an overly aggressive primary campaign against practical outsider Ken Block with a milquetoast campaign against progressive Raimondo may have made sense in a certain political playbook, but it had the effect of turning off much of Fung’s base.
Be that as it may, the unofficial campaign slogan of the Healey campaign — “there’s no difference between the Democrat and the Republican” — simply is not true. The difference may not be as great as many of us would like (on both sides of the political divide), but that’s how democracy works.
More importantly, at this point in the history of Rhode Island and the United States, the difference between the two is critical, no matter how slight. With RhodeMap RI and the larger “state guide plan,” government agencies, ideologues, and special interests have been hard at work quietly winding a giant noose around our property rights and freedoms, and they’re now preparing to begin the process of pulling it tight. In HealthSource RI, the same sorts of people are putting together the pieces of a machine to draw Rhode Islanders into a condition of dependency on the government, with all the loss of liberty that entails. And that’s on top of the state government’s continuing focus on economic development via special deals.
Anybody who thinks neither Raimondo nor Fung is preferable in that environment is just not paying attention. And even if the two were political twins, their bases of support are very different. When it comes to their administrative decisions, the two politicians have to consider groups that couldn’t be more different, and without which they cannot win elections. That can make all the difference on issues of which few people among the minimally informed general population are not even aware.
I’ve seen no evidence that Raimondo will do otherwise than continue the work of the Chafee administration in dismantling our rights and operating government under the philosophy that people who know better than everybody else should plan and direct our society in ways large and small. In that regard, Healey’s electoral results arguably made her more likely to tug the rope.
After all, to the extent that he did draw votes away from Raimondo, they were the votes of partisans raging at even the mild feints toward reform represented by her pension legislation. That message was surely delivered. Fake central-planning-style “reforms” will be much safer for her, and they might even be obligatory for her career.
In deadly serious times, Bob Healey drew our eyes to the edge of the stage, and I fear we’re going to pay for it dearly.