Anybody else wondering how many Rhode Island journalists are grateful to the Moderate Party for letting slip their list of candidates in advance of tomorrow’s kickoff party? Some of them may take time out of their Sunday relaxation plans to attend, but the pressure is surely off.
I’ll probably go — if only to see whether I can confirm a creeping suspicion that the choice of Sunday for the event represents a subconscious declaration of separation from social, religious conservatives who still strive for a habitual distinction between the two weekend days. In other words, I’m still not sure what the purpose of a “moderate” party might be except as a home for economically literate liberals.
An op-ed in yesterday’s Providence Journal by the party’s new chairman, Robert Corrente, doesn’t give any reason for me to suspect my gut impression of being wrong:
… The Democratic Party in Rhode Island has become a self-perpetuating monolith, which must (but won’t) take responsibility for our “last place in everything” distinction, even as its members revel in celebration of their achievements. They have no shame, but that’s okay, because they also have no opposition.
So why not just be Republicans? There are two reasons. First, and most fundamentally, we do not define ourselves, nor do we delineate our positions, by party affiliation. If there is one clear thing in contemporary politics, at the national, state, and local level, it is this: People are sick of elected officials who define their success by whether they are being good Democrats or good Republicans.
Second, and we needn’t dwell on this, but let’s be honest. The Republican Party in Rhode Island is, and has historically been, spectacularly dysfunctional, devoid of structure, and wracked by internal discord.
Inasmuch as the way to battle a monolith is manifestly not to set its opposition against itself, the first paragraph rebuts the second. How should we defeat entrenched Democrats with bought-and-paid votes among its public sector, welfare state, and loony left constituents — a “self-perpetuating” combination, in Corrente’s words? If you’re a Moderate Party supporter, you might answer: By giving Republican-leaning voters two opposition choices.
The third paragraph offers no help on this count. Are we to believe that the Moderates were competent to build an entirely new party structure out of the contents of Ken Block’s brain and wallet but not competent to rebuild from the hollow shell of the RIGOP? Corrente’s next sentence gives away the real thinking (emphasis added):
On a related point, why not just be independents, like Lincoln Chafee, who is rightly respected for his principled stands in the U.S. Senate?
The Moderate Party’s audience is now — although it probably was not upon its inception — a bastion for those whom the state’s Republicans have rightly squeezed from their leadership ranks. It is a choice for non-Democrats who can’t stand to be counted within the same political movement as people like, well, like Anchor Rising contributors or, for another example, the Rhode Island Republican Assembly.
The Moderate Party’s problem will likely prove to be that its potential for growth is limited to those narrow bounds. Where there is no Republican in the race, it will attract anti-Democrat votes. But where the race offers three or more party options, the Moderates will not attract those who wish to live in a pro-government economic fantasy land and neither will it attract those who refuse to be governed by the privileged fantasies of social liberals.