Moderately Annoyed

Ken Block is trying to build a party of moderates that can become a force within Rhode Island’s political system. Literally…

Rhode Island’s politicians and political processes are failing the citizens of this state, and Rhode Island deserves better. A longstanding Democratic super-majority in the General Assembly has led to unchecked power, which has left the state with a severely hamstrung economy, out-of-control government spending, one of the worst tax environments in America and a continuing parade of unethical conduct by our politicians….
To counteract the roadblocks that will be erected against reform, I ask you to support the creation of a new political party, the Moderate Party of Rhode Island
In the Projo op-ed that the above excerpt was taken from, Mr. Block lists an initial agenda for his new party…
Fully implement separation of powers…Implement term limits for all legislators…Implement a two-year term limit for the positions of speaker of the House and president of the Senate…Prohibit the use of one-time payouts like the tobacco settlement to help balance the budget…Strengthen ethics rules by requiring that legislators with conflicts of interest to abstain from voting on legislation…Strengthen the Ethics Commission by disallowing the possibility of “settling” an ethics complaint by paying a fine but admitting no wrongdoing…Bar legislators from profiting from business relationships with companies with legislation pending or passed…Require that any bill, or amendment to a bill, be before the public for review for at least 30 days before it can be put to a vote.
The focus is clearly on process reform, but Mr. Block is vague on what exactly is “moderate” about the Moderate party.
On its website, the fledgling Moderate Party does hint that there’s a bit more to being a big-M Moderate than having a process-oriented worldview. The site uses the term “socially moderate” at least twice in describing its goals. Does that mean people who are socially conservative will or will not be welcome in the new party?
Ultimately, however, the biggest question for the Moderate Party surrounds the fact that process reform is an idea not exclusively moderate, nor liberal or conservative, for that matter. The particular political alliances that exist in Rhode Island’s state-level politics have obscured this, but there is a place in the political spectrum held by people who believe that government needs efficient, transparent processes so it can most effectively provide people with the big programs and the tight management of their lives that they need. (This is the old liberal Republican position. Think former Senator Lincoln Chafee). Is big government well-run the ultimate goal of the RIMP, or will the organization be open to ideas about governmental reform that go beyond process reform?
Much to Mr. Block’s dismay, it’s not possible to clearly answer these questions without taking at least a few stands that are identifiably liberal or conservative.

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16 years ago

Strange. Every idea listed on Mr. Block’s platform is supported by Rhode Island Republicans. This raises a larger question.
I know some social moderates who feel that the RI Republican Party is now firmly in control of conservative Republicans.
They cite Linc Almond, a social moderate, being replaced by Carcieri; John and/or Linc Chafee no longer serving in the Senate; the replacement of Patricia Morgan by a more conservative party chair; the publishing of Steve Laffey’s book; and generally conservative candidates running for the US House and Lt. Gov’s office last year.
It seems like Block is trying to unite the left of the Republican Party with the right of the Democrat Party. Is this evidence that the RI GOP is now controlled by conservatives?
Just a thought for discussion.

16 years ago

For a moment, I thought I was reading The Onion.
“I know some social moderates who feel that the RI Republican Party is now firmly in control of conservative Republicans.”
I’m actually thinking you could possibly be serious. So, in order to entertain your interesting hypothesis, I’ll reply in kind. As an active conservative Rhode Island Republican, I’m quite upset that I haven’t received the memo notifying us of our complete control and total domination of the RI Republican Party.
The thing that I don’t get at all, is that there seems to be a belief among some “moderates” that simply by allowing conservatives to have a voice within the party which they should naturally be attracted to because of the principles that it claims to hold [mainly at the national level], that it somehow constitutes “control.” This is beyond bizarre.
However, I do believe that conservatives [in RI] have made some inroads within the party recently, simply by getting a place at the table. We haven’t quite signed a mutual non-aggression pact with the RIGOP, but I do think there is a much better working relationship now, as well as open channels of communication, than had existed previously [which then, was more or less, open hostility]. I’m not sure why that should be a cause for concern for the liberal/moderates who have controlled the party for decades, with very little to show for it — unless, they’re just control freaks or something.
There was recently an article in the Warwick Beacon which talked a little about this subject. However, even I think they may have gone a little over the edge in the way they described conservative influence within the state party. We still have a long way to go. index.php?option=

Ken Block
16 years ago

I don’t have enough time to cover the ground that I would like to cover here right now, but I wanted to make a few comments to your piece.
The main purpose of my editorial piece, and the web site, is NOT the creation of a new political party. It is trying to get some of the changes mentioned in the piece moving and possibly enacted.
The political party is a long shot at best, and is mentioned as a possible lever to get our legislators to pay attention.
Speaking for myself personally, and many of the people who have registered on based on their comments, we are looking to promote change in our system of governance. What is happening in our legislature now has to be stopped.
Greater than half of the respondents who gave me comments on the web site have also indicated that they do not feel well represented by either the Democratic or Republican parties.
Isn’t it possible to ask for quality representation in government without taking on a specific social agenda? In my experience, people want to be governed from the middle.
In RI in particular, if the balance of power is to be swung away from the Democrats, it won’t get done with a conservative social agenda.

16 years ago

“In RI in particular, if the balance of power is to be swung away from the Democrats, it won’t get done with a conservative social agenda.”
Ken, you nailed it. And many of those in power in the R.I. Demcoratic Party share the conservative social agenda of the more rightward Republicans.
Your agenda, of course, will never fly as long as either Carcieri, Murphy or Montalbano are still in power. They may have a few staged fights over budget and other select matters, but in the end, those three share the same set of interests: social conservatism, taking care of their buddies, and keeping themselves in power. These three men or obstacles to any useful reform in this state, and anything that threatens their hegemony is worth pursuing.

Mike Younng
Mike Younng
16 years ago

Ken Block’s “process” objectives [eg-separation of powers] are laudable–the “good guys” have been advocating them for over 20 years.
Unhappily, the success level=zero.
The problem is not objectives–it’s the political activism needed to make change happen–it’s candidates running for office getting elected and voting for change.
The Democrat party leaders will not let it happen. They love the status quo.
The Republican party leaders have totally failed to expand their base. They appear to have found solace in dabbling with “social issues”.
NEITHER is really interested changing the “system” which is designed to maintain a taxpayer funded gravy train for connected politicians and our bloated, overcostly, incompetant bureacracy.
It’s my belief that a significant majority of RI citizens are tired of BOTH local parties and could be ripe for real change. BUT–it won’t happen unless real live candidates unite under a new banner and engage the public in an election.
I’m personally not the least bit interested in the usual values buzz words. What bugs me is the reality that our beloved state is patronage plagued, overpriced, over-taxed, an economic non-competitive outmoded disaster.
To sum up: we do need a third political party –NOW. It needs real live hands-on participants. It should probably start off by identifying and supporting carefully selected office holders from the current parties [no opportunists,please]. Divisive side issues should be avoided like the plague. And the title “Moderate” should be dropped because it implies a social value level to voters.
I’ve been interested in a home for the “unaffiliated” for over 20 years–even ran for the Assembly once as an independant,
Mike Younng

16 years ago

The “party leadership” consists of the Governor, national committeeman/woman, chair (elected, but really appointed by the Gov) and executive committee. Carcieri, Manning, Slocum, Cicione are all conservatives.
What you’re describing might be a difference between “grassroots” versus “non-grassroots” or maybe even “activist” versus “non-activist”. But I don’t think the divisions in the GOP are over beliefs or values (ie: conservative vs. moderate).
The divisions are more about petty personal politics. Perceived outsiders rail against perceived insiders and vice versa.
Sure, there are a number of moderates involved in the RI GOP such as Avedisian and Watson, but neither one of them “control” or even “lead” the RI GOP.
I would agree that there was a time when “moderates” controlled the GOP–but that was back when names like Arlene Violet, John Chafee, Lila Sapinsley, Trudy Coxe, Jeff Pine, Ron Machtley and Lincoln Almond controlled the GOP. Those days are long gone.
I think Lincoln Chafee’s defeat and the replacement of Patrica Morgan as party chair effectively ended any claim to “moderate” control of the RI GOP.

Tara Reid
Tara Reid
16 years ago

YOung, so tired of reading your rants in Newport This Week along with your anti-Americanism. If you’d like to leave little Rhody, exercise your FREEDOM and move – isn’t America beautiful? Practice what you preach and, btw, did you say you won or lost Assemblyman??? You didn’t say

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