Are We Right or Should We Be Left?

Concise and clear as it is, Matt Jerzyk’s Providence Monthly piece (PDF) brings into relief an inconsistency in the narrative of the local left:

Conservatives are quick to blame the majority Democratic General Assembly for most of Rhode Island’s ills, but that’s not fair or accurate. First, many of the so-called Democrats in the General Assembly are DINOs (Democrats in Name Only). These DINOs support tax breaks for the rich, oppose women’s rights and gay rights and gang up on immigrants and the poor. In other words, they would be Republicans if they could win an election under that party banner.

And yet, with reference to Republicans’ dislike of Linc Chafee:

Of course, the irony of this tale is that Republicans historically maintained a power base in New England because of their social liberalism, not in spite of it. The fringe elements of the GOP who are casting out the moderate Republicans might as well be conducting a circular firing squad.

So, Democrats win in Rhode Island as conservatives, but Republicans don’t win because they’re not liberal? The inconsistency, here, needn’t be Matt’s; it could originate with voters. Personally, I’d dispute the notion that a decisive number of RI Democrats are very conservative, and I’d point out that conservative Republicans are decisive within their party. We have as much right not to vote for liberal (read, “moderate”) Republicans as liberals have not to vote for conservative ones — point being that the question of whether conservative Republicans can win is open, even dubious, given our two-term governor, but it’s more clear that liberal Republicans can not win, given the current electorate. There’s no objective reason that conservatives must be the ones to compromise their values.
Whoever’s inconsistency it is, Matt’s reference to it does highlight that “Rhode Island’s ills” aren’t a result of those vague liberal shibboleths about “women’s rights and gay rights” and affinity for “immigrants and the poor.” Leftists are free to lament the state of social affairs, but it’s difficult to link any of those issues to our economic stagnation from a left-wing perspective. (We on the right would argue that policies pertaining to immigrants and the poor are certainly contributors from ours.)
Frankly, the left/right divide is less useful, in assessing our state’s frightening direction, than is the special interest/taxpayer battle, and it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why those special interests would like the electorate to keep their eye on political distractions rather than concentrate on political reform.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

Matt is too intelligent to really believe half the stock phrases he throws out there.I think he feels obigated to say certain things when he knows better,i.e.that the anti-illegal alien movement,or more precisely, the pro-immigration enforcement movement is anti-immigrant or racist.
He isn’t wrong about the the Democratic party in RI.There are a significant number of social conservatives in the GA.They must be Democrats since there are s few Republicans.They are pro-gun rights,willing to vote in E-verify,and not amenable to same sex marriage.
What they are,however,is ls largely pro-labor to the point where they construct a climate that is anti-business.There has to be a better balance,or labor won’t have many jobs left.
Liberal Republicans like Lila Sapinsley and Linc Chafee are like tits on a bull-they belong nowhere and accomplish nothing good when they obtain office.
Matt-newsflash!!-you’re not an SEIU/Jobs with Justice organizer anymore-you’re an establishment attorney.Get used to it.It’s not a crime to make money-you worked to get there after all.Some of the people you champion ought to have the same attitude.

michael
11 years ago

There ought to be a party called “Whatsinitforme” because that is where 95% of Democrats and Republicans belong. Self Interest, also known as “Special Interest” is a natural, honest and imperritive component of the human condition. Anybody who claims they do anything only “for the people,” be they illegal immigrants, labor union members, small business owners or corperate executives is somebody to keep a close eye on.

Mike Cappelli
Mike Cappelli
11 years ago

Jerzyk merely perpetuates the big liberal lie that is the foundation of Democratic success here in RI – that they really care about the downtrodden and want to help them. The truth is he realizes that it is easier to hitch his wagon to the welfare industry than to go out and make an honest living. And for this Jerzyk needs more people in despair – not less. Of course, it’s easier to tell a group that the reason for their despair is mean nasty, racist people who own companies and employ people, rather than tell them the truth – that they are basically lazy and addicted to handouts. In this sense liberal Democrats like Jerzyk are nothing more than pimps using their whores for personal gain – money and a dependable voting block to stay in power. It’s just easier. It’s just so cynical. But then, nothing is beneath a lying pimp.

Tim
Tim
11 years ago

What’s wrong with Rhode Island is that smarmy Democrat lawyers run the place so it’s comic relief having one critique the Republican field for governor. lol What a joke!
Joe, one of Mat’s mentors is kooky Jack McConnell. Of course they love making lots and lots of money and do so by mooching and looting business and industry via the courtroom. She plays the game. She’s just a hypocrite.
Mike, white liberals like Jerzyk are the most racist folk you’ll find. They cry their crocodile tears and mouth their empty words for the poor and minority as they block all attempts at education reform of our horrendous urban schools, as they block any attempts to chase illegals out of our state, illegals whose presence hurt the poor urban minority more than any other group by taking jobs, housing, state resources etc.
Oh how they care!!
Their hypocrisy would be hilarious if it weren’t so destructive to so many lives. Can you imagine fighting to KEEP horrible schools horrible so you can maintain an uneducated unskilled underclass dependent on the government programs and the Democratic party? Don’t know how these libs sleep at night knowing how they promote and encourage hopelessness and helplessness for so many. Guess it is true what they say, liberalism is a mental disorber. That’s how they sleep at night.
Btw aren’t we still waiitng for that list on the number of minorities in union leadership here in RI? Well Mat?

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Justin – “Frankly, the left/right divide is less useful, in assessing our state’s frightening direction, than is the special interest/taxpayer battle” Very well said. I have been saying for years that the Left-Right dichotomy is nonsensical and inconsistent e.g. what does gay marriage have to do with gun rights? Absolutely nothing, but if you feel a certain way on each you’re a “conservative” and the opposite way you’re a “liberal”? How does that make any sense? Your special interests vs taxpayers distinction is a good one, I would make it even more basic – authoritarian/big government vs libertarian/small government. The two comparisons are actually roughly equivalent, since big government always has and always will be a tool for politically powerful special interests to lord over and abuse the every-day man. Mike – “Jerzyk merely perpetuates the big liberal lie that is the foundation of Democratic success here in RI – that they really care about the downtrodden and want to help them. The truth is he realizes that it is easier to hitch his wagon to the welfare industry than to go out and make an honest living. And for this Jerzyk needs more people in despair – not less. Of course, it’s easier to tell a group that the reason for their despair is mean nasty, racist people who own companies and employ people, rather than tell them the truth – that they are basically lazy and addicted to handouts. In this sense liberal Democrats like Jerzyk are nothing more than pimps using their whores for personal gain – money and a dependable voting block to stay in power. It’s just easier. It’s just so cynical. But then, nothing is beneath a lying pimp.” This hypocrisy and self-interested campaigning has been going on as long as there has been… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Here’s where you go wrong:

… authoritarian/big government vs libertarian/small government. The two comparisons are actually roughly equivalent, since big government always has and always will be a tool for politically powerful special interests to lord over and abuse the every-day man.

I think what we each mean by “big government” is subtly, but significantly, different. You draw no distinction between a government made up of a large number of employees offering a large number of “services” and a government with a broad regulatory reach. Both are problematic and tend to grow mass and momentum, but there are important distinctions to be drawn.
Suppose the “powerful special interests” that you decry wish to create a market for an addictive behavior (whether chemically addictive, as with drugs, or emotionally addictive, as with sex) or to redefine in the law the definition of a word associated with traditional social structure. As a mechanism for people to restrict that well-monied assault a government that is big according to its ability to regulate actually serves those who are less powerful.
From this distinction flows a need for tiered government, with less “bigness” in terms of influence as one goes up the geographic hierarchy (from town to state to nation), such that people can relocate and/or change communities to find the mix that most suits their preferences. Contrary to libertarian dogmatism, there is no simple binary rule under which we all can live.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Suppose the “powerful special interests” that you decry wish to create a market for an addictive behavior (whether chemically addictive, as with drugs, or emotionally addictive, as with sex) or to redefine in the law the definition of a word associated with traditional social structure.” As long as the people engaging in these “addictive” behaviors don’t harm anybody else, nobody else has the right to tell them that they cannot engage in it on their own property. Restricting liberty in that way is an illegitimate function of government and turns it into a tool for authoritarian moral tyrants. “As a mechanism for people to restrict that well-monied assault a government that is big according to its ability to regulate actually serves those who are less powerful.” In theory, government is a protector of the weak. In reality, it is always hijacked by those who have the most votes or the most money, depending on which the politicians happen to be in need of at the time. Usually they attempt to have their cake and eat it too, by tricking the voters into voting for them and then dealing behind closed doors with the special interests (see: bailout). “From this distinction flows a need for tiered government, with less “bigness” in terms of influence as one goes up the geographic hierarchy (from town to state to nation), such that people can relocate and/or change communities to find the mix that most suits their preferences. Contrary to libertarian dogmatism, there is no simple binary rule under which we all can live.” Most of the libertarians I know don’t give a crap what form of government or what restrictions other people choose for themselves. We simply want to be given an opt-out and left alone, and we are certainly willing to return the… Read more »

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
11 years ago

Justin – I don’t find my comments on conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to be inconsistent at all. Here’s why. 1. The Rhode Island General Assembly is dominated by moderate to conservative Democrats. For example, both the Senate President and the House Speaker are against marriage equality. If you go issue by issue, the conservative Democrats tend to have more votes: abortion, marriage equality, immigration and taxation. As a result, the legislation that passes the General Assembly tends to be fairly conservative: tax breaks for the rich, e-verify, voter ID, pension reform, etc… 2. Many moderate and conservative Democrats have been in power for a long time and because the Democratic Party in RI is so powerful on the local and the state level, party primaries are discouraged (unfortunately). 3. In addition, there is a mythology in the Catholic and ethnic Ocean State, that a Democrat needs to be conservative or moderate to win election. However, progressives have shown this myth not to be true by winning over East Providence voters with David Segal and Woonsocket voters with Chris Fierro and Warwick voters with Frank Ferri and Portsmouth voters with Amy Rice, etc… 4. Thus, there is substantial evidence that progressives could do much better electorally if more candidates were found to run against moderate and conservative Democrats. And slowly, this difficult process is happening. 5. On the other hand, there is no evidence that conservative Republicans can win elections in RI where 90% of the electorate is either a Democrat or an Independent. And Chafee/Laffey helps make my point. In a “Republican-only” primary, we could all probably agree that Laffey would have won. But, in a general election, if it were Chafee (as a D) versus Laffey (as a R), there would have been zero chance for Laffey. 6.… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Many libertarians are far too strident, Dan, and it impedes them from more thorough examinations of their principles. Just about any means of influencing people can and has been used by despots to impose authoritarian regimes: government, science, religion, and, yes, addiction and moral decay.
You think it opens the door for totalitarianism if the people, through representative democracy, decline to legalize the sale of sex and drugs. I’d suggest that undermining the system of democracy whereby elected officials can enact government regimes that are truly representative of the people’s desires is a much surer way of flinging that door open. Whatever their trappings, dictators tend to be more interested in their own power than in the morality or amorality of their subjects.
The truth is that you don’t merely wish to be free to do things in the privacy of your own home. You want to be able to use public currency to procure items and services on the public market, advertised publicly, and with a denial of stigma proclaiming the vice in public. You have a right to advocate for such things, but everybody else has a right to advocate for their denial.
Government, per se, is neither a protector nor tyrant, and sometimes votes and money can be leveraged in opposition to each other, and neither by its nature is necessarily backing the right position on any given issue.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Matt,
I did say that the contradiction might be with the electorate, not you, meaning that they’ll vote for conservatives if they’re Democrats, but not if they’re Republicans. Arguably, liberal Republicans benefit from the willingness of liberal Democrats to ignore party because of the preexisting imbalance while Republicans don’t wish to back conservative Democrats because it contributes to the party’s domination.
But again, I don’t find this distinction to be the more helpful.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

Matt-how do you explain Governor Carcieri winning two elections?One against a progressive and one against an old style liberal?
I often wonder about it myself.Of course I voted for him,but a few others had to also.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
11 years ago

Joe –
I think the electorate think about Governor and General Assembly candidates differently.
I know of many, many people who voted for a D state rep and a D state senator and a D for US Senator (whitehouse) in 2006, but then voted for Carcieri for governor. a “checks and balances” kind of voter block.
That being said, I think many right-wing Republicans in Rhode Island (laffey-ites in particular) are not so happy with Carcieri.
-Matt

mikeinri
11 years ago

I think it’s all about perspective. Progressives are often so far to the left that the view moderate and mainstream Democrats as conservative. Conversely, Reagan conservatives see Olympia Snowe types as liberal rather than moderate. Fox tilts right while CNN leans left, but both try to argue that their preferred network is fair while the other is biased. RI elects Democrats. Some are moderate, some are liberal, but they are Democrats nonetheless. Republicans occasionally pull off wins as moderates (Almond, Machtley, Carcieri, Chafee), but conservatives don’t win. To call any elected official in RI, Republican or Democrat, a conservative is ridiculous.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
11 years ago

Matt-your explanation actually makes sense-by the way,why do you think conservatives are necessarily that interested in Laffey?I never thought much of him.I do like Carcieri on balance.I also liked Linc Almond,although he brought no energy to the Governor’s job.I guess my positive experiences working with his office when he was US Attorney probably colors my thinking.
In general,RI has become a politicl battleground between two wings of the Democratic party.And you wonder why the surge of conservative populism here.That’s the reason to a large degree.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

Do people even identify strongly with party labels anymore here? I left the Democratic Party because I want the right to support the Republican if he/she is a more appealing candidate. There was a recent election (’06?) where I actually voted for more Republicans than Democrats. I always have to explain to friends from out of state that being a liberal does not necessarily equate with being a Democrat.
In this state, liberals are just as unhappy with the status quo as conservatives are. Sad to say, that’s how the good ‘ol boy Demcorats we all need to get rid of (Murphy, Williamson, Ruggerio, etc.) stay in power.

Tim
Tim
11 years ago

Mike, Don Carcieri is not a moderate by any measure. He’s a conservative who could win elections in Red states based on his conservative ideology and record. Joe I’m with you on Laffey. His appeal with his followers is a cult of personality more than anything else. Problem for Laffey is that his genuine interest and concern isn’t about the condition of the state but about the stoking of his own ego and that’s always been the case. It’s why I, as a genuine conservative, have never bought into Laffey’s act. It also doesn’t help Laffey that he’s burned so many bridges during his brief political stint that he can’t find safe harbor anywhere. This is why Dan Yorke has been pooping in his diaper for 2 weeks over the prospects of Rory Smith running for Gov as a Republican. Laffey needs that safe harbor, a party affiliation with no primary election challenger to face, to have any shot at winning a general election and he’s not going to get it. It should also be noted the Gov. Carcieri, who has a strong dislike for Laffey, could squash any Laffey candidacy by directly answering one simple question – Did Laffey use his Senate run against Chafee as leverage in an attempt to blackmail the Governor into awarding him (Laffey) a plum job in exchange for him dropping out of the Senate race? As soon as Carcieri says “yes he did” Laffey’s viability as a trustworthy candidate is out the window with the voters in RI. Republicans will win back Washington when they rediscover their conservative ideals and stick to those ideals through thick and thin. It won’t work in large numbers here in third world Rhode Island but it really doesn’t matter. Blunt economic realities on the ground will force… Read more »

michael
11 years ago

Since I’ve been of voting age Republicans have been in the White House 20 years, Democrats 10. If “The Buck Stops There,” it would appear the Republican Party is responsible for the disaster that we are now experiencing.
Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, it’s all lies. MONEY is in charge.

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