Out with the Old, in with the New
I’d been considering republishing a June entry from my own blog here, mostly so that it would be in the archives for future reference, and Marc’s latest post makes the topic more relevant. It’s my “coverage” (including video) of the RIGOP convention. Even if the reality of last week’s election has thrust the GOP revolution back into political context, I’m still hopeful that some retooling within the state’s Republican party gives indication that things can and will change.
The format of the post is an experiment that I hope to pursue more regularly in the future (assuming I manage to maintain the time without going into bankruptcy or having to sell my video camera). I’ll admit that this initial “v-blog” isn’t very good. It took a good 10 minutes of listening to the protesters outside for me to realize, “Hey, this is what I carry around this video camera for.” Furthermore, not having any defined purpose for filming, I didn’t brave the sidewalk in their midst and I didn’t give much thought to positioning, camera steadiness, and the like. Since I’d previously been remiss in my following of RI politics, I also didn’t react quickly enough to catch most of the significant moments. Although, I did catch the defining moment: Mayor Laffey declaring “out with the old, in with the new.”
As I suggested in the context of Edward Achorn’s belief that Rhode Islanders’ displeasure will, at some point, break through their political apathy, the motion might already be forming within the state’s GOP. Voters need someone else for whom to vote, after all, before they can overthrow inadequate leadership.
For that reason, it is only more fitting that remembrance of Ronald Reagan permeated the RIGOP convention on Thursday — from Chairwoman Patricia Morgan’s misspoken request for “ayes” from all who wished to endorse President Reagan’s bid for a second term to Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey’s likening of his view of the RIGOP’s prospects to Reagan’s optimism about the fall of the Soviet Union. (Both of which seem laughably improbable as predictions.)
For some idea of just how mired this state is in its political system, consider that I had no idea that the speeches related to internal controversy were of any more significance than what might be found in a high school student senate until the highest high point of the evening. Even then, I didn’t get a sense of the magnitude of the shift until I read Scott MacKay’s explanation in the Providence Journal.
Video: Scott MacKay (3sec). Windows Media
According to MacKay:
In what some Republicans saw as his first foray into making a run for statewide office, Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey spearheaded a move at the Republican State Convention last night to depose Michael Traficante, the former Cranston mayor and longtime Republican stalwart, from a top party post.
Traficante was set to run for reelection as national committeeman, a position that carries an automatic seat to the Republican National Convention, when people close to Laffey at City Hall discovered that Traficante had disaffiliated from the Republican Party.
Mayor Laffey has raised eyebrows across the state by cracking down on precisely the sort of degeneration in his town that infects the entire state and much of the country — taking on everything from “political patronage” crossing guards and gas pump inspectors to ACLU attacks on Christmas displays. Not surprisingly, the mayor — the only key figure who, despite being the most bustling politician in the room, offered a lurking blogger so much as a quick “hello” — with his somewhat wild eyes and candid language, looks to be the focal point for the incipient revolution. From MacKay:
“Out with the old, in with the new,” said Laffey in a campaign speech supporting Robert Manning, a 51-year-old retired banker from Charlestown, who was installed in Traficante’s place.
Video: Stephen Laffey (28.6sec). Windows Media
A former head of Citigroup Japan, Manning reminded the crowd that the Rhode Island Republicans are the 15 in the 85/15 split — and for a reason. Now the beneficiary of an upstart movement, he enters the scene as a representative of change.
Another such representative is Dave Rogers, who is running a second time against Patrick Kennedy for my district’s seat in the U.S. Congress. As I believe is appropriate for a national candidate, Rogers’s persona is less incendiary, and in his speech, he made a point of his intention not to settle into a political position (approximately): “Patrick Kennedy says he’s never worked a day in his life. This won’t be my first job, and it won’t be my last.”
I’ve implied before that Rogers is running against images and stereotypes that Rhode Islanders’ believe about themselves and about conservatives. So, it is fitting that he’s more approachable and less forward than Laffey and is inclined to make self-effacing jokes about the arrogance of having had to nominate himself the first time he ran. (This is by no means the best part of his speech, but for the below-mentioned reasons, I didn’t film the rest.)
Video: Dave Rogers (18.5sec). Windows Media
All considered, and admitting that I am a political naif, I couldn’t help but see, in the burgeoning movement within the RIGOP, reason for more hope for my state than I’ve yet been able to muster. I also couldn’t help but notice the irony of different groups’ relative roles. While, inside the Cranston Knights of Columbus building, a quiet revolution was beginning, with the intention of returning a balanced political system and sensible government to Rhode Island, outside, the activists marching on the street, drawing honks from passing cars, were protesting for bigger government and expanded benefits for a limited few.
Video: Protesters (30.1sec). Windows Media
As MacKay touches on, the marchers were private child-care providers who are trying to be defined as public employees in order to gain some of the benefits that come with that status in this state. In Spanish and English they exploited children and chanted ill-fitting clichés; “No justice, no peace” translated into the circumstances meant “no free healthcare, no peace.”
If the rumble within the political party that is euphemistically called the “minority” in the state of Rhode Island continues to grow, perhaps we’ll end up with justice, peace, and prosperity to boot.