Mayor Avedesian, the RI GOP and the “Drift to the Right” Bogeyman

This past Friday, John Howell of the Warwick Beacon reported:

While Republican candidates across the state and the country were washed away, Warwick’s Mayor Scott Avedisian not only withstood the pull of the outgoing tide, but defied the odds by notching a nearly 68 percent win over challenger Donald Torres…
“He’s really studied government, so he does a good job,” [RI GOP Chair Patricia] Morgan said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Morgan said Avedisian takes his job seriously, doesn’t let his ego take control and works to solve problems. She called Avedisian a “rising star” and said he is “destined for statewide office,” whether in a run for a seat that would take him to Washington or the State House…
Avedisian gained a greater percentage of the Warwick vote than any other candidate, with the exception of Congressman James Langevin and Frank Caprio, candidate for general treasurer.
Such a showing would appear to give Avedisian not only a viable shot at a statewide office, but a commanding position in the party’s ranks.

Morgan continued on her recent “Perfect Storm” riff and blamed the Laffey candidacy for splintering the party. When asked, Avedesian said he wasn’t seeking a leadership role within the GOP. But then he had to go and say “it.”

Avedisian holds out great hope for the party, observing it was “on the verge of extinction in 1974” and has held the governor’s job for the last 16 years. But he says, “It is increasingly difficult when the party drifts to the right.”
He doesn’t agree with efforts to take the party to the right.
“I think that’s the wrong way to go,” he said, “we need to come to the middle and the principles the party was founded on.” {emphasis added}

Governing a city is an entirely different animal than legislting or operating on the state-level. It demands much more pragmatism than ideology and Mayor Avedesian has been an effective leader in Warwick. Yet, before he sets his sights on higher office, I hope he reconsiders his apparent distaste with what I believe is an over-generalized caraciture of “the right.”
For every time I’ve heard Morgan talk about welcoming those from across the ideological spectrum into the RI GOP, I’ve also heard fearmongering about how a conservative turn or a “drift to the right” (usually with an overt linking of Steve Laffey to a grassroots conservative movement within the RI GOP ranks) is bad for the Party. I urge Avedesian, Morgan and others within the RI GOP hierarchy not to fall prey to over simplifications: disapproval of Senator Chafee doesn’t make one “un-moderate” nor does being conservative automatically equate to being a Laffey supporter.
I suppose that my first question is: what exactly are these “principles the party was founded on” I keep hearing about that “the right”, apparently, won’t seek to uphold? Perhaps they are the principles that Senator Chafee listed after his Senate loss: “fiscal responsibility, environmental stewardship, aversion to foreign entanglements, personal liberties.” If so, I think that Mayor Avedesian’s fear that a “drift to the right” will endanger them is misplaced. For the most part those on the “right” may disagree with “moderates” on the best way to maintain–and implement policy reflective of–those principles, but not the principles themselves.
If the RI GOP seeks to be a big tent as it claims, shouldn’t it consider actually listening to traditional conservatives who are often the most committed individuals within the GOP ranks (hint: grassroots)? Then again, too many in the old-guard RI GOP don’t really seem to care. No, I fear that a “drift to the right” is a not-too-subtle warning that anti-abortion, traditional marriage suppportin’ (“redneck”) theocons need not apply. Apparently, you can’t be anti-abortion and pro-environment or fiscally responsible at the same time. Who’s applying the litmus test now?
If such a message continues to be sent, the current RI GOP will get their wish. Instead of a RI GOP that could be revitalized with an infusion of new blood and ideas from the heretofore ignored “right,” the party will continue to be nothing more than the “yeah, but…”, Democrat-lite party it is now. All that Rhode Island conservatives ask is that they get a seat at the table to take part in the discussion about the future direction of the Party. Given that nothing else seems to be working, the RI GOP would be fools to pull a Heisman on them now.
But need I say more?

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Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Why is Pat still in charge of this party? Drifting to the middle worked so very well in the last election, so let’s do it some more?!

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Greg,
I think most Rhode Islanders feel that the country “drifted right” from 2004-2006 and locally they attribute the loss of the Rhode Island’s only Republican seat in Washington, DC to Steve Laffey’s challenge from the right.
In discussions with moderate Republicans, the “grassroots” activists are now viewed as more likely to work for the defeat of moderate Republicans than for the election of conservative Republicans. This is a change from two years ago when more of the “big tent” language was being used.
I understand you disagree with that view, but many people believe it.
I’m sure that Steve Laffey and Rob Manning will be recruiting someone, if not Laffey, to run for state party chair against Carcieri’s pick, whether it be Patricia Morgan or someone else, so the saga will probably continue.

Will
Will
14 years ago

I’m at a loss for words as to where to begin. Scott has been a generally good mayor in Warwick, but he is deceiving himself if he thinks he represents the views of any sizable segment of the Republican Party, whether it be nationally or here in Rhode Island. He could probably be mayor for life in Warwick, but I really doubt he would be a viable candidate for anything other than that. Unlike Chafee, he neither has the family name, nor the family money. I would describe him as fiscally moderate and socially liberal — that’s hardly representative of the Republican Party anywhere. Heck, it’s not even necessarily indicative of the Democratic Party in Rhode Island! Did you ever notice that the so-called “big tent” only seems just big enough for them, but when conservatives want in, there’s only room left under the bleachers? The irony isn’t lost on me. I don’t advocate kicking anyone out of the party who wishes to affiliate with it — I’m not for a “litmus test” like our liberal friends. I just want the leadership to be representative of the rest of it. I am for including conservatives, who are the base of the Republican Party, in basic decision-making. I’m for a bottom, up party; not for a dictated top, down approach. As for the “principles the party was founded on,” I’m pretty sure we freed the slaves. The party has embraced additional principles over the last 140 years since then. “Given that nothing else seems to be working, the RI GOP would be fools to pull a Heisman on them now.” Yes, they would be fools, but it’d hardly be the first time. One reason we don’t tend to do very well year after year is that we repeatedly do the same… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

Even more dismaying than the Avedesian stuff are the quotes from Patricia Morgan. She either knows the following isn’t true and so is a liar, or believes it and thus is showing that she’s not from Venus, but Uranus ….
>>“It doesn’t need to be rebuilt. This was a bad year,” said Morgan.
The RIGOP doesn’t need to be rebuilt? Huh? Yeah, and the World Trade Center doesn’t need to be rebuilt …
>>There’s more to it. Morgan said Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey’s bid for the Senate, which resulted in a costly primary that Chafee won, “weakened the party” by draining off money that would have otherwise gone into the general election and disenchanting those who could have become involved in the party.
What “drained off” money???? The Republican Party dumped huge amounts of money here – and the RIGOP devoted 100% of it – and everything else, to prop up Chafee before and after the primary – leaving every other Republican candidate to fend for him or her self.
Besides, since when is it a sin form a candidate to run in a primary? Is it the position of the RIGOP that once in office, no candidate can be challenged?
>>“Laffey lost among Republicans … I’m not sure that’s the right face we want for the party,” she says.
Laffey didn’t lose among Republicans. Everyone knows that. Chafee won the Republican primary thanks to Democrat crossovers … who then went for the endorsed Democrat in the general election.
I’m no Laffey acolyte, but he’d be a far better “face” for the party than that nobless oblige equivocator (and post-election whiner) Chafee!

Tim
Tim
14 years ago

A true Big Tent Republican voted for both Carcieri and Chafee on November 7th. That Big Tent is awfully tiny on this blog isn’t it? lol
Spare us the lip service about how you’re the all inclussive Republicans but the other side is so narrow. Your actions say otherwise.

Will
Will
14 years ago

Tim,
Your bitter attitude says a lot about you. I’m NOT for being “all inclusive.” I’m for being inclusive enough to retain our base and to attract enough people to win a majoirty of the vote, which is what is generally what is necessary under our form of government. If it were possible to effectively govern with less than that, I’d be for it, but we don’t have a parliamentary democracy here.
I just read the Warwick Beacon article, since Tom picked some good quotes, and I’m stunned (okay, not really) that Pat learned absolutely nothing from the smackdown that got handed to the party under her “leadership” in November. Yes, it was a bad year for Republicans, but what did she do to try to make it better?
Hindsight is always 20/20. If anything, Laffey’s presence helped to reinvigorate what would have been a very dull election season otherwise, especially among Republicans (who, by the way, Laffey did win handily). Of course, her definition of “Republican” is anyone who voted in the Republican Primary. If she thinks trying to scapegoat Laffey is going to help the party, and that everything’s just dandy, she’s going to be in for a very big surprise. Instead of blaming everyone else, she could stand to look in the mirror (no Nancy Pelosi jokes). She needs to reconnect with reality. Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I, for one, don’t want to repeat it.

Smackey
Smackey
14 years ago

Will, it doesn’t really matter if Steve Laffey won the Republicans in a Republican primary. If he truly was going to be able to grow the party, than he would have also won over enough independents to defeat Chafee.
I think Laffey has too much baggage now to be effective. He has been branded a far right nutcase – who hates old people – and that is the kiss of death.
I think he cost Fung the election.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>I think Laffey has too much baggage now to be effective. He has been branded a far right nutcase – who hates old people – and that is the kiss of death.
And that baggage was promoted by who?
To Chafee, anyone to the right of Comrade McCain is a far right nutcase.
When Chafee and Whitehouse agreed 100% on every single issue, the voters were left with almost no choice but to vote for Whitehouse.
Chafee tried his lame “vote for me in case the Republicans retain control” spiel, but let’s face it, when faced with two Democratic position opponents, the voters would expectedly vote for the endorsed Democrat.
Chafee was doomed from the beginning. That is why, contrary to conventional wisdom, Laffey had a better chance against Whitehouse than Chafee.

Will
Will
14 years ago

What (may have) cost Fung the election was the lack of a vowel on the end of his name and little more. By any standard, he should have one. He got hurt by straight party voting and by having the “wrong” ethnicity for some people in certain parts of Cranston. I really don’t think it had anything to do at all with Laffey. Allan’s political life is not done by a longshot.
As for Laffey himself, he’s not far right, it’s actually pretty debatable as to whether or not he’s even a “conservative” in the traditional sense. Laffey is his own person; he’s a leader, not a follower. He was certainly a more conservative alternative than Chafee, but so is virtually everyone in the Republican Party. I always love how liberals try to simply label people they disagree with, as if that label somehow neuters them. Laffey will be back, perhaps sooner than you think. 🙂

Marc Comtois
14 years ago

A true Big Tent Republican voted for both Carcieri and Chafee on November 7th. That Big Tent is awfully tiny on this blog isn’t it?
Tim, don’t get confused. First and foremost, this is a conservative blog, not a Republican party affiliate. Of course there is a natural overlap, but there is a difference.
Second, there are more conservative Republicans in the GOP than there are liberal, Chafee-type Republicans, but that isn’t currently reflected in the state party leadership. My big tent argument is for the inclusion of these conservatives and not the exclusion of the liberals (who don’t seem to be quite as generous in their definition of a big tent, btw).
But there is an additional mistake being made when people attempt to equate Senator Chafee with the definition of “moderate” Republicanism. In truth, Senator Chafee is the far outlier within both the national and state GOP and by any definition is a liberal. I’d say that Mayor Avedesian would be a much better example (look at Will’s description in the comments above).
All that being said, there is still room for Sen. Chafee within the GOP, but there should also be room for conservatives.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

Slapping the state’s number two elected Republican, an up-and-comer who’s proven he can get Democratic votes, doesn’t seem like any way to effectovely grow the state GOP, people.
“What (may have) cost Fung the election was the lack of a vowel on the end of his name and little more.”
Will, it can also be argued that the vowel at the end of his name saved Carcieri. And Fung would’ve won if he had put a little more distance between himself and Laffey.

George
George
14 years ago

Nov. 7 was a huge day for liberals, therefore it was a big day for Scott Avedesian.
The same didn’t work in Chafee’s favor this time because Sheldon Whitehouse is more well known than Don, uh (what was Avedesian’s opponent’s name again….?

Will
Will
14 years ago

For once, I agree with Rhody on something. I do think that “i” on the end of Carcieri’s name helped him marginally, perhaps as much as the lack of a vowel ended up hurting Fung. When races are very close, little things can make a big difference.
As for putting distance between himself (Fung) and Laffey, I don’t know exactly what you would have liked for him to say or do differently than what he did.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Smackey and Will:
If Fung loses, it will be because he had the same 6% handicap that all other Republican candidates unexpectedly faced this election, not because of a shortage of vowels in his name or because he failed to burn an effigy of Steve Laffey in front of his campaign HQ (or whatever Smackey thinks he should have done).
That means, by the way, that the Governor, Mayor Avedesian and all other Republicans effectively won by an additional six percentage points.

Will
Will
14 years ago

I agree with SusanD’s basic premise, that Rhode Island Republican’s were starting with essentially a 6% or so disadvantage (like in a “normal” year, Gov. Carcieri would have had 57-58% of the vote), due to factors largely outside of their control. The problem, as I stated before, is that when a race is extremely close, such as the one in Cranston, something that should normally be (you’d hope) inconsequential, such as vowels or the lack thereof on the end of a name, end up making the difference. Hopefully, in two years, some of the folks such as Allan, who didn’t quite make it, will find an easier time competing on their own merits, rather than having the GOP tag as a yoke around their necks.

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

When you hear terms like “Republican in Name Only” it doesn’t sound like a “big tent”.
Both Chafees used to contribute financially and help Republican candidates far more conservative than themselves. The favor was obviously not returned, so how can you cricitize RINO’s from backing away from the big tent terminology?
Avedisian has many times proclaimed himself to the left of Chafee and is pro-union. Strangely, he is now the only major elected Republican official in RI other than Carcieri, who is term-limited.
The fight started this election cycle will no doubt continue as candidates begin jockeying for governor, perhaps another self-destructive primary between Avedisian and Laffey?

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>When you hear terms like “Republican in Name Only” it doesn’t sound like a “big tent”. Both Chafees used to contribute financially and help Republican candidates far more conservative than themselves. The favor was obviously not returned, so how can you cricitize RINO’s from backing away from the big tent terminology? Avedisian has many times proclaimed himself to the left of Chafee and is pro-union. Strangely, he is now the only major elected Republican official in RI other than Carcieri, who is term-limited. The fight started this election cycle will no doubt continue as candidates begin jockeying for governor, perhaps another self-destructive primary between Avedisian and Laffey? If this were a contest between two sports teams, the R’s and the D’s, then whoever scores the most candidates wins, and that would be fine. This seems to be the premise upon with the “moderate” RIGOPers found their position, i.e., if we act like semi-Democrats here in blue Rhode Island, at least we’ll score some points. But this is politics. And not only in the micro sense (RI), but the macro sense (USA). There is a “cold war” going on in this country. On one side, the 1960’s-McGovern era Democrats who are determined to move this country into a European Socialist-Democrat model (e.g., France). They have been succeeding. The “moderate Republicans” are essentially collaborators with this side. On the other side is the “conservative Republican base” that sees the economic and social decline this country has suffered since the 1960’s (and to some extent since the FDR 1930’s), and wishes to fully restore and maintain America as it was envisioned to be by the Founding Fathers, and as expressed in the U.S. Constitution. We’re the counter-revolutionaries to the 1960’s Democratic Party revolutionaries. So the issue is not “moderate” vs. “conservative” or “big… Read more »

Will
Will
14 years ago

No, “Republican in Name Only,” unlike [Republican] “liberals” who call themselves “moderates,” means exactly what it says. It is NOT a descriptive for all non-conservative Republicans. I think the Republican Party can accomodate people who disagree on some issues, just not on the core ones — otherwise, what’s the purpose of even having political parties? Political parties are supposed to bring together people with common ideals and principles. A RINO is a person who affiliates with the Republican Party, but who doesn’t agree with a majority, a plurality, or even a significant fraction of what the party says that it stands for. They tack on the name “Republican,” but that’s it. However, what it really does is end up hurting the majority of Republicans who actually believe in the principles of the Republican Party.
I’ve heard RINOs described this way:
“RINO’s are like rats heads in a cola bottle. When you find a rat’s head in a cola bottle, you don’t just set it aside and buy another. You change brands, and the word spreads like wildfire that the brand is not reliable. RINO’s are like those rat heads. They destroy the Republican brand.”
The Chafee’s give money to the party and to candidates in order to buy support — or at minimum, toleration — from people who otherwise wouldn’t give them the time of day. If they didn’t throw all that money around, they wouldn’t have been tolerated for as long as they were. Money talks.

Rhody
Rhody
14 years ago

There are just as many DINOS out there. Mollis, Corvese, Sue Menard…both parties deal with the “in name only” problems.
And if certain social issues come up in the General Assembly next session, Murphy and Montalbano will get pretty DINO, too. Difference is, the Democrats are a much larger party that can withstand these kinds of internal divisions. If Langevin were a Republican, would some of the RINO-haters be wanting to take him down because of his stance on stem cell research?

Roland
Roland
14 years ago

We have to change the conversation.
RIGOP Leadership over the last years has done nothing to attract me to the party. My involvement now stems from the energy of a few “grassroots” individuals. That involvement will extend far beyond the next election cycle. It began with one conversation.
By exclusionary remarks about “Drifting to the Right”, leadership will alienate the “extreme” that contains the RI political spectrum, thus redefining the “moderate” or “centrist” far to the left of what any conservative would desire. If economic conservatism is viewed as extreme, this state is on a path to become a miniature of the Soviet Union when only members sympathetic to the Party can be elected.
To call me extreme and unwelcome is outrageous. I firmly believe that private markets can redistribute wealth more efficiently than any government function. Any interference by the government will only impede the growth of our state. In no other state are these government interventions creating a greater impedence. God forbid that extreme.
Quit the blame Laffey crap and focus on an issue that people will talk about over the next two years. I am offering a new HSA plan to my employees for 2007 giving them the opportunity to save up to $4,000 in health care costs. There are 3.6 million anticipated new HSA participants next year nationwide. Why are government employees not given this same opportunity? A few success stories could make union memberships scrambling for this cost reducing measure while shoring up the states fiscal health. If we just start talking about that (or anything else)….

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

Roland, Laffey helped deliver the United States Senate into Democrat control this year. He gave to Bill Frist’s opponent when control of the Senate was up for grabs in the 90’s. He left no legacy whatsoever in Cranston. Given the assertions from some conservatives that Laffey would do well leading the party or being governor, I think it is appropriate to question his political judgement before blindly following someone who has shown himself to be lacking in political judgement. Laffey may call himself a conservative, but from what I can tell, he has done more to hurt than to help conservatism nationally and his only willingness to help seems based upon what is in his own best interest. New Topic Will, you’ve just likened RINO’s to dead rats heads. So let me get this straight, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani–both of whom have been described as RINOs–are the equivalent of rats heads? Not exactly the “big tent” philosophy that you demand of others. I’ve heard enough of the big tent analogy anyway. Look if you want to be successful recruit a couple of candidates and get 100 people to go door-to-door and staff some phone banks. There’s a strong chance that your candidate will win. If you can’t get 100 people to help, then you’re probably not going to get the tens of thousands of people your guy needs to win and you don’t merit the right to have input. If your candidates do get elected, the party “elite” will have no choice but to deal with you. That’s where the “power” of the “grassroots” resides. It comes from being the organizational backbone that is not just helpful to electing candidates, but is indispensible to electing candidates. The power they have is earned, not “given” by the governor, party leadership… Read more »

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

One other quick commment. Yes, Fung probably lost the election because of his ties to Steve Laffey, but then again, Fung never would have gotten elected if it weren’t for Steve Laffey. It’s a wash.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“Both Chafees used to contribute financially and help Republican candidates far more conservative than themselves.”
Let me understand. The Chafee’s gave vital resources to candidates that, from what Anthony indicated, I support.
And the criticism of this is …?
“The Chafee’s give money to the party and to candidates in order to buy support — or at minimum, toleration — from people who otherwise wouldn’t give them the time of day. If they didn’t throw all that money around, they wouldn’t have been tolerated for as long as they were. Money talks.”
Damn straight. They’ve “bought” my toleration, my support, indeed, my gratitude, the same as if they had knocked on doors or manned a phone bank.
One of our top priorities is fundraising. Our candidates can’t get far without it. Big tent means, we have a common enemy, there’s a lot to do to defeat them AND WE NEED EVERYONE’S SKILLS TO DO IT.
I would be dreadful at managing a campaign or running for office but I’m fine doing research or picking up a phone. Conversely, Mr. Chafee may not be into research. But if he is impelled to write a check or muck in with a campaign finance committee, he sure is welcome to the party.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“I’ve heard enough of the big tent analogy …”
– There is no “I” in team –
– Push the envelope –
– Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes –
(I’m just thinking of more cliches to further annoy Anthony …)

Anthony
Anthony
14 years ago

SusanD,
As Steve Laffey might say, there may be no “I” in TEAM, but you you can’t spell TEAM without “ME”…..

Will
Will
14 years ago

I actually like the ME in TEAM concept. Anyway, as a party, I think we have to look forward instead of looking back. Recriminations or woulda, coulda, shouldas, aren’t going to build the party at all. People who live in the past generally end up staying there. I don’t mind if the Chafee’s keep throwing money around, I just don’t like the idea of people getting bought off. If money was given “no strings attached” that’d be fine, but there always seems to be a quid pro quo with them.
PS I don’t necessarily consider John McCain to be a RINO. He’s actually pretty conservative by most measures (life, defense, etc.), though he does get handicapped by his support of the farce called campaign finance reform that he pushed. Rudy is a nice guy, but would probably be on the edge of the RINO category. Economically, as well as on defense issues, he does very well, but on many other things, he’s very moderate to liberal. I don’t think that would get him by the Republican base as a presidential candidate, but possibly as a VP candidate in a good year.

Ted
Ted
14 years ago

As a liberal, the only Republicans I voted for in this election cycle was Mayor Avedisian and his pick for Ward 1 City Council. The notion of a more conservative GOP in RI may be very attractive to all of you but it is completely unrealistic. With the exception of the Governor’s office, the only republicans to survive state-wide have been Chafees. Scott Avedisian has been an effective leader–you would be lucky if he ran for higher office under the GOP. In 2008, Scott could ironically run to the left (in some regards) to Jim Langevin. Or he could just wait till 2010 and actually win something.
Steve Laffey is finished in state politics, surrender your idealistic and naive dreams about a conservative revolution. If you like the Steve Laffeys of the world–move down south or to Utah. It just isn’t about to happen here.
Embrace Linc Chafee, Scott Avedisian, and Sue Stenhouse–they are your tickets to future victories. They actually represent the electorate.

Scott Bill Hirst
14 years ago

Hi!
We need to start thinking about the next election.
1.This coming March at the Conservative Political Action Conference http://www.cpac.org a number of potential GOP Presidential nominees will be attending no doubt.
2.We need to encourage the Governor to replace Patricia Morgan.Reach him at Room 222,State House,Providence,RI 02903.
3.Whether either side will admit it BOTH Sen.Chafee and Mayor Laffey have admireres in the Rhode Island GOP.However unlike Sen.Chafee,Mayor Laffey is NOT talking about leaving the GOP!
4.Local Republican city,ward,and town committees will organize in January.They will be electing delegates and alternates to the Rhode Island Republican State Central Committee.These will constitute most of the voting members of the Republican State Central Committee in March when new officers are elected.
5.A year from now will be thinking of getting various Republican candidates for President on the ballot.Also various filings for delegate candidates will be happening in January,2008,.
Regards,
Scott

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