The RI GOP’s Big Tent Must Be for Sleeping
On gut impulse, I attended the Republican Party’s convention last night. Given how busy I am, it turned out to be a huge mistake. I’ll put it this way: the Rhode Island Republican Party is so dull that it can suck the excitement right out of Steve Laffey. When members of the party are inclined to lean over into the press box to empathize about boredom — even expressing astonishment that Dan Yorke, who didn’t “have to be here,” had cared enough to show up — you know there’s a problem.
For one thing, the pacing of the thing was horrible. Granted that conventions involve a bit of process, such as the delegates voting for nominees, but they also ought to stir the base and create buzz in the media. I had to leave during the governor’s acceptance speech just after nine o’clock (and I’m sure Andrew will post on any subsequent excitement), but the only bit of political theatre that I saw came when Lincoln Chafee — he of the scripted hand gestures — finished his acceptance speech and John McCain’s voice suddenly blared over the speakers while a parade of Chafee supporters marched around the delegates. Of course, with magnificent symbolism, there was a mass exodus of the Chafee people thereafter. Those looking to Chafee to build the party more broadly in the state, it seems, would do well to look elsewhere.
Most notable, though, was the absense of the pot-stirring opposition. Dennis Michaud, running for governor, had some signs hanging from the balconies, but he didn’t even bother (or manage) to find somebody to nominate him for party endorsement. (According to Scott MacKay and Elizabeth Gudrais, Michaud appeared early on, but made his exit.)
Worse, Steve Laffey’s boycott of the event apparently carried over to his supporters, and like charade-candidate Michaud, he failed even to be nominated. A rumored Laffey-crowd walk-out didn’t materialize. With the only mention of his name being those made in nomination speeches for other candidates, Laffey might as well have been a member of a different party.
And that, to my mind, is why Laffey was the big disappointment of the evening, especially in contrast to the life that he brought to the convention a couple of years ago. Effective rebels find ways to highlight imbalances and injustices; they don’t assist in masking them by allowing themselves to be made irrelevant. If Laffey were truly the RI GOP’s subversive hope, he’d have at least found a way to stoke the doubts that those bored Republicans have in the party as currently constituted. As it was, we would have been better off staying home. And as it is, Republicans in this state will continue to need, as Chafee put it, “the votes of independents and Democrats to win.” Perhaps they should be invited to the conventions, as well.
I do have some photos and video that I’ll try to add later.