The Block Block, Continued

Around the same time that Ken Block submitted his Engaged Citizen article, the Cranston Herald ran a Russell J. Moore article discussing his stands on social issues in a bit more detail

“Very recent history has shown that the GOP has been horrible at supporting candidates for local office,” [Mr. Block] said.
But an interview with Block reveals his reasons are more deep-seated than that. Despite the Barrington resident’s fiscally conservative streak, which may be fueled by the fact that he owns a software company (Simpatico) in Warwick, lies a socially liberal mindset.
Block said the fact that prominent national Republicans such as President George W. Bush advocate and some Bible belt states actually teach creationism as scientific theories in public schools makes him shudder. Block is also pro-choice.
“There isn’t one thing I find palatable on their social platform,” said Block.
“The national GOP doesn’t have as big of a tent as they want everyone to believe and I don’t think it’s big enough for me. Their tent is only large if you’re a social conservative, and in this state, that’s simply not going to fly.”
Block admits that the state GOP tries to focus on local, fiscal issues, but outside of that, has taken no steps to distance itself from the national GOP.
Though Mr. Block made no direct mention of social issues in his EC, they seem integral to his motivation for trying to create a new party, so I asked him about his statements in the Herald piece…
Ken Block: The idea behind this party is that two people, one of whom is pro life, the other pro choice, can agree to subordinate the abortion issue while advocating together to address the most pressing issues facing the state (in our opinion fiscal and ethical).
Every member of this party will have his or her own, possibly strongly felt, positions on the social issues of our day. My personal stances on the different social issues will not be reflected in the platform of the party, as the party is not about those issues. When a particular issue divides the country roughly down the middle (i.e. abortion), the party will alienate half the population by taking a stand on that issue, which defeats the overall mission of trying to balance out the legislature now and fix the economic mess killing our state.
Anchor Rising: If you are only focusing on one issue area (albeit a large one), why take on the overhead of a full-fledged political party? Why not, for example, go the route of an OCG-like organization for fiscal issues?
KB: The idea of the Moderate Party of Rhode Island arose because for years the State GOP has failed to win enough seats to matter in the State House and the State Democrats have been legislating poorly because they have not had to fear serious opposition in the voting booth. Our theory is that voters in this state do not identify with the National GOP brand of social conservatism and that the State GOP has inherited that brand. RI is in a mess simply because we do not have a balance of power in the State House. If the State GOP does not have a message that resonates with the majority of RI voters and therefore yields a small minority of legislative seats then a new party must be formed which can fill the void and attempt to provide balance in the legislature.
An OCG-like organization would not accomplish the goal of a balanced legislature. Legislative seats must be won from the super-majority of the Democrats, and the only way to do that is provide viable candidates with an overall message and platform that will appeal to the majority of voters in this state.
Anchor Rising: If 2 candidates in a district both endorsed the Moderate Party platform, do you envision an Moderate party that would then look to stands on social issues to determine which one to support?
KB: If only we had a district where both candidates would embrace our platform!! In this case, if we were dealing with an incumbent we would look at that person’s voting record to determine if their voting history is in line with our platform. Otherwise, we would look for the candidate who would best be able to forge consensus to accomplish our overall objectives. Jon Scott’s comments about not wanting the Democrats to pass legislation that he has in his back pocket for November is exactly the kind of activity that makes me cringe. Trick them, fool them, make them think that they came up with the idea themselves…who cares. Just get the Democrats to pass necessary legislation now. That is what effective governing is all about, especially when trying to govern as an extreme minority.

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14 years ago

As a gay-rights supporting, drug decriminalization supporting, Constitutional conservative I have no home in the GOP or the Democrat Party. So how is “The Moderate Party” any different from the already existing “Libertarian Party”?

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

What is really fascinating about Mr. Block’s proposal for a third “moderate” party is what it says about the Democrats; and apparently what he is afraid to say about the Democrats. He decries the RIGOP’s unwillingness to denounce the national party’s conservative stances on certain social issues – as if one should expect a state party to denounce fundamental tenets of the national party. Moreover, few rational observers would brand the RIGOP as being conservative. Like many state Republican parties in the Northeast it is essentially “Democrat Lite” and so continues to shrink as it doesn’t offer a conservative alternative to Democrats, and so isn’t particularly distinguishable from the Democrats, and so voters quite rationally go for the real thing (which is why liberal Lincoln Chafee lost to liberal Sheldon Whitehouse; nobody associated Chafee with the “social conservative” national party). The “moderate” Republicans of the Northeast continue to decline in number, while their conservative brethren in other parts of the country have been the wings of the party that has shown growth in recent decades. Mr. Block’s admittedly liberal social views are in accord with that of the national Democratic Party. (He assumes – probably incorrectly – that his liberal views are the overwhelming dominant ones held by “a majority of voters” in Rhode Island and so explain the RIGOP’s lack of success; certainly his liberal views are dominant on the “East Side” and such, but not among “blue collar” Democrats. Witness the dichotomy in PA between Obama and Clinton supporters.) So one would think that as a social liberal he would find a natural home in the Rhode Island Democratic Party and try to push his fiscal reform from within it – particularly since it is already in power and looks to remain so – instead of trying to… Read more »

14 years ago

I think we forgot to buy Ciclilline.

14 years ago

{Suggestion of abetting multiple felonies deleted.}

Ken Block
14 years ago

Tom W –
I have nothing good to say about the Democratic Party in RI and where their one party rule has taken this state. The quality of their legislating is awful. Separation of Powers has been back-burnered while ultimate fighting legislation gets fast tracked. Our economy is being snuffed out by fiscal policy being forced upon this state by a group of legislators who seem to have failed Economics 101.
The overall crux of the entire Moderate effort is to break the hammerlock of power wielded so poorly by the Democratic Party in this state.
So your claim is that the state GOP is not winning many legislative seats because the state GOP is not conservative enough?? I have seen no data that would backup the claim that Rhode Islanders are pining for more socially conservative politicians.
My challenge to you is whether or not you could join a partnership where social ideology is tabled while the fiscal challenges are taken on and won.

Jon Scott
Jon Scott
14 years ago

Ken: I am sorry that I have not had the chance to respond. I have been in meetings and on the road all day. You seem to have latched on to one thing that I said in my role as Platform Chairman for the RI GOP and ignored my entire campaign of ’06 – strange for a person who is ostensibly trying to build a coalition movement. If you had bothered to ask, you might have found that you and I agree on a myriad of ideas and that I not only support your attempts but once thought of doing something similar – only I would have named it differently. I chose to support the Republican Party, however, because there was an existing mechanism for getting candidates elected and, though you can argue that the track record has not been good, an existing national network, as well. You have chosen to take one line, as many will do, and wrap an argument around it that was not the central theme of the overall. As Platform Chair, I have a responsibility to the Party. A Party’s job is to get candidates elected. My Party has an existing ideology and my job is to work within the framework of that ideology to craft a message. Inside of that narrow framework, my job is not to pass legislation or to help sitting Democrats solidify their seats. Sorry if that offends your non-partisan partisan sensibilities (yes that was two partisans). Your job is to build a Party from scratch – a movement, if you will – and you will do that based on your beliefs of what will garner the most support. You must also take into account, however, that your movement has no record to stand on. You are free to call your… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>So your claim is that the state GOP is not winning many legislative seats because the state GOP is not conservative enough?? I have seen no data that would backup the claim that Rhode Islanders are pining for more socially conservative politicians. Mr. Block: They may not be pining for socially conservative politicians, but neither are they repelled by them (IMHO). There is “no data” because it hasn’t really been a factor in Rhode Island. In the last election Don Carcieri, who is moderately conservative (no pun intended)was left standing in a Republican wipe-out year, despite the best efforts of the public sector unions to insert their rubber stamp Charlie Fogarty in his place. Conversely, “moderate” (liberal) Lincoln Chafee went down in flames. There are many Democrat office holders in RI who are pro-life; pro-immigration enforcement and pro-traditional marriage. If they can hold those positions and still survive as Democrats, then the electorate is at least comfortable with those “socially conservative” positions. Meanwhile many in the RIGOP are fairly liberal regarding those topics: Chafee (when he was a “Republican” and titular leader of the RIGOP); Avedesian; Long; etc. etc. etc. would hardly be considered socially conservative. Reigning in the welfare industry; ending RI’s status as a welfare magnet (for legals and illegals alike); taking on the public sector unions; low taxes / positive business climate are generally considered to be “conservative” positions. Other than some movement by Don Carcieri (God bless him), these have not been positions of the RIGOP (which is why I say that it hasn’t been a conservative party and RI voters have not been given a chance to vote for a conservative / Republican alternative). Indeed, these haven’t been the positions of the national GOP in recent years, hence the conservatives’ disillusionment with the GOP nationally,… Read more »

14 years ago

“So your claim is that the state GOP is not winning many legislative seats because the state GOP is not conservative enough??” In so many words … Hell, YES! The party has for a long time lacked a basic conservative / populist message, as well as the ability to finance candidates. The problem isn’t conservatism, it’s that too many Republicans here have been unable, or simply unwilling to plainly convey to voters how the application of conservative principles actually gives everyone the ability to get ahead in life. You simply don’t attract people to run (and certainly, not to vote), when you’re running on a watered-down version your opponent’s ideas. The Rhode Island Republican Party has not to my knowledge ever been a conservative party — at least in the lifetime of anyone still alive. To attempt to describe it as such would be intellectually dishonest. Most Republicans are able to intellectually differentiate between the national Republican Party, and the various state parties. Many also don’t have a visceral a reaction to social conservatives having a place at the table, or a fear that someone, somewhere might be reading a Bible and actually believes what it says. We know that what flies in Mississippi might not fly completely in Rhode Island, so we can adjust the message as necessary, while maintaining a core set of principles. You win by focusing on unifying principles, not by arguing over minutia. We understand that in our form of government, that one needs to be able to form majority coalitions in order to win elections. However, that’s not a license to ignore the core conservative values of the party. You build out from a core … but you still need a core to begin with. Many of us would like our party to be… Read more »

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