The Crapola of Simple Math
Ken Block comments in response to my post suggesting that the state government that has him considering a move out of state is one that he helped bring about:
Enough of this unsubstantiated crapola about me costing Robitaille the election. He lost on his own accord by doing nothing to appeal to the centrist voter.
I have both anecdotal and polling data that show that my support came from across the political spectrum. Can you show me data that says otherwise?
If anything, Caprio really took the victory away from John by locking up a lot of the business vote early on in the cycle.
You run for election – you do not run away from election.
I ran to keep a fledgling party qualified in one of the toughest states to do so. Along the way, a lot of voters thought I was a pretty good choice.
You propose that Robitaille should have won as the ‘lesser of two evils’ candidate.
I propose that centrist voters desperately need a better choice than a bleeding heart liberal or a raging core conservative.
Your image of the ideal candidate does not translate to the vast majority of RI voters.
Sorry, Ken, we don’t quite have the resources to conduct polls, but we can do some basic math related to the election results. Lincoln Chafee won the election by 8,660 votes. Block earned 22,146. That means that if Block’s support “came from across the political spectrum” such that 40% of his vote would otherwise have gone to Robitaille, we might have a different governor. (That’s a minimum, of course, which assumes that none of his other votes would have gone to Chafee, but it illustrates that Block’s results were significant enough to make a difference.)
That doesn’t mean Block didn’t have a right to run. It’s just the way politics and elections work, and as much fun as Ken might have had building his new party, such are the consequences that people must consider when making their political decisions.
Look, I don’t think Block is wholly to blame. Frank Caprio’s implosion toward the end of the race surely helped. I’d also argue that the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition’s endorsement of the Democrat — while certainly proving the stubborn mantra about being nonpartisan and while providing evidence for Block’s note about Caprio and the business vote — was also a factor, perhaps most significantly in giving liberal Democrats a reason to look for another candidate. That is, RISC needs to accept some of the blame, too.
But it isn’t a relevant assessment to place a “lesser of two evils” position on one side of the ledger and a plea for “a better choice” on the other. For one thing, everything that I read during the campaign indicated to me that Block is, himself, a bleeding heart liberal, just one who thinks he can better manage the left-wing dream government. For another, the positions are different in kind; an activist can want a better choice and work toward that end in a way that doesn’t ultimately lead to an outcome that would subsequently drive the very same activist out of the state in protection of his wallet.
It’s cute of Ken to paint me as the purist, here. If his comment is to have any logical coherence, his conclusion must be that it is worth risking the collapse of the state (to the extent that he’s seriously considering escaping it) in order for him to play the role of pure “centrist” candidate for an election cycle. That’s just irresponsible. On election day, only one candidate can win. In a binary race, voters can pick one of two visions. In a broader race than that, their choice must include the degree to which a pure candidate who cannot win is worth a vote.
Moreover, as somebody who lacks the resources simply to up and leave, it illustrates to me the degree to which Rhode Island’s problems are a consequence of the games of the rich. It is entirely reasonable to suggest that Ken Block and his Moderate pals chose a chance for same-sex marriage, an easing of immigration law, and other liberal social issue preferences over a fiscally conservative executive who would counterbalance the special interests who dominate the rest of state government.
That’s a position that they’re certainly empowered to take, but maturity requires that they admit it… or at least the possibility of it. I’d speculate that they cannot because at bottom there is very little room to be fiscally conservative, in a governmental sense, and still hold socially liberal positions in a coherent way. Either government must increase revenue to the extent that it suffocates the economy, or it must limit its activities, and if it limits activities, the culture must do the heavy lifting to create a proper order to society. Merely complaining that corruption and waste seem to go hand in hand with unitary power is like complaining that high expenditures require high revenue.