The Rhode Island Right’s Bizarro Politics
Both intentionally and not, I’m on various email lists from conservative bloggers and activists from around the country, and their content is often too far toward meat-throwing for my tastes. I’ll admit, though, that I often chuckle at what the guys are up to and delete their messages. I’ve got to side with Dan Yorke in saying that those red-meat emails are too often press releases from Republican Party Chairman Gio Cicione, including this one that arrived yesterday:
Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Giovanni Cicione says the teacher unions which have authorized strikes in several Rhode Island towns this week are breaking the law, disrupting the start of the school year for tens of thousands of students, and creating chaos for families scrambling for child care arrangements at the last minute.
“Strikes are illegal in Rhode Island, and this is nothing but an organized effort by the unions to break the law and the unions have to be held accountable,” says Cicione.
“The U.S. Attorney should consider a RICO Act investigation against the NEA, Rhode Island, which is authorizing, and has authorized in the past, illegal strikes by teachers unions. The NEA involvement in these local teachers union strikes amounts to extortion, which is an explicit RICO violation,” Cicione continues.
“Both Robert Walsh and Lawrence Purtill, top officials of the NEA, RI should be named in such an inquiry.”
“This state faces a serious fiscal crisis, the unions have got to be told that the days of getting their way on every issue are over and they’re going to have to learn that their demands exceed what communities can afford.”
Strikes have been authorized in East Greenwich and Tiverton where contract talks failed to produce a settlement. In several other communities, including Burrillville, the Foster-Glocester school district, the Exeter-West Greenwich district and Providence, contracts remain unsettled but teachers are working while talks continue.
Cicione also emphasizes union leadership’s tactics of authorizing an illegal strike hurts the reputation of teachers who get caught in the middle and have no authority to overrule their own union. “The NEA is breaking the law, and using both teachers and students as pawns for their political gain.”
“Hard working and dedicated teachers in these communities may not want to strike and may only want to return to the classroom but they are not in charge of their own schools once the union takes over,” Cicione continues. “These kinds of illegal job actions hurt their reputation in their communities and the union does a disservice to their respected profession by doing this.”
The tax burden problem in Rhode Island is another key factor in the strike crisis. He credits the Governor with addressing the property tax burden on communities, who led the effort to implement a cap on how much communities can raise property taxes. Communities in the state overall depend on property taxes to fund 60% of school costs, compared to 43% nationally, in figures compiled by RIPEC this year. Overall, Rhode Island has the sixth highest property tax burden in the nation.
“Union leaders don’t want to see caps on property tax increases , they want to hike taxes on the grossly overburdened RI taxpayer, they want very little health benefit co-pays and the list goes on and on,” Cicione continues.
“Communities can’t afford it, the state can’t afford unlimited aid to communities for schools, and we can’t afford – or allow -illegal strikes to hold communities and families hostage.”
The notable thing is how backwards the conservative movement is in Rhode Island. Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
- Somewhat wacky and unaccountable bloggers and grassroots activists push right-wing views too vehemently.
- Right-wing talk radio hosts back off the message a bit, but shout it to a broader audience.
- Conservative Republican politicians go as far to the right as they think their constituencies will tolerate.
- Republican Party officials and back-room political geek types translate those views into a practical strategy that will build the party and move the political center.
Note the aesthetically pleasing flow as the more powerful figures back off the comments of the more heated ideologues. In Rhode Island, things are a bit different: We at Anchor Rising are geeky intellectuals. Our most prominent conservative talk radio host stresses responsible journalism. And the party chairman throws red meat when he ought to be translating our good ideas into practical policies that will help get Republicans elected and improve the state by moving its center to the right.