Being Balanced Means Being Relevant
The central topic of Ed Fitzpatrick’s Sunday column is the perceived potential snub of Democrat gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio by President Obama. As I said on WRNI’s Political Roundtable, to the extent that Obama is seen as favoring Lincoln Chafee, he may help Republican John Robitaille by highlighting Linc’s liberalism, and if Obama endorses Caprio, he may help Robitaille by repelling some of those right-of-center Rhode Islanders who still see Caprio as a Republican in Democrat clothing.
But there’s a more fundamental point about Rhode Island politics to be made based on Fitzpatrick’s essay:
On Monday, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele will be in Rhode Island in the morning.
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., will be here at lunchtime.
And President Obama will arrive in the afternoon.
“That’s the trifecta,” said former Brown University political science Prof. Darrell M. West, who now works at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “The only person missing is Sarah Palin.” …
West said he can’t recall the last time so many national political figures were in Rhode Island on a single day. “It’s hard to attract national leaders to Rhode Island,” he said. “To get three major people in one day is extraordinary.” …
In any case, one thing is for certain: Rhode Island is about to become the focus of national political attention. “This is a once-in-a-decade happening,” West said. “This is prime time in Rhode Island.”
The only reason Rhode Island is typically treated as politically irrelevant is that our votes are so predictable. If our public offices were more broadly contested, then the political machine would turn the spotlight on us more often. More importantly, though, office holders would govern better were they under constant threat of being replaced — as politicians are supposed to be, under our system.
The same goes for identity groups and other reliable constituencies. Inner city blacks, for instance, would benefit more from their votes were they not so reliably for Democrats, across the country. Policy-based voting blocs — such as pro-lifers — should also be included, although they’ve arguably got the advantage that theirs is a specific issue and ideology that can be measured against voting records.