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Dan Lawlor: Change is Possible

Monday, November 19, 2012


People need a vision - not just of what they're against, but what they're for, and where they're going. They need a mission.

The local RI Republican party will not be successful if it is a party of angry, bitter men - in fact, when it has been that party, it loses. The Green Party and Libertarians will not be successful if they are only a group of core believers. The Democratic Party will not perform at its best without a strong opposition.

Rhode Island ranks 46th in charitable giving (high for New England, low for the country), allows excessive payday loan lending rates, has a lower minimum wage than Massachusetts or Connecticut, and has a higher sales tax than Massachusetts or Connecticut. In Rhode Island, we cut bus transportation for the public while paying public officials to have a personal driver and a state car. 484 more Rhode Islanders were documented as experiencing homeless from 2007 to 2011, for a total of 4,410, and over 10% of people in Rhode Island are officially jobless. College tuition is up, and mill buildings from Warwick to Woonsocket sit empty and for sale. The stresses caused by living pay check to pay check are real, and are very familiar to many Rhode Islanders. Our political culture does not appear to be solving these problems.

We need to do so much better for our neighbors, friends, and family.

For Rhode Island's well being, we need more voices in politics - both elected and in policy circles. We need new ideas.

In Connecticut, several towns are governed by local parties. Portland, Maine, has a recent tradition of Green Party elected officials on the City Council. Libertarians have achieved some success in New Hampshire. The Progressive Party of Vermont has claimed victories in the Assembly in Montpellier. To our North, Maine just elected Angus King as Independent for US Senate. Heck, in the last decade, even the Prohibition Party elected someone as a tax assessor in a Pennsylvania township

There was a period of competitive Republicanism in the state in the 1980s and early 1990s- connected to successful moderates like Claudine Schneider, Arlene Violet, Susan Farmer, Lincoln Almond, and Nancy Mayer. In this past cycle, the face of (defeated) RI Republicanism was Brendan Doherty, Barry Hinckley, and Michael Riley (interesting gender changes?).

In her 1988 book, "Convictions," Arlene Violet wrote, "I usually met pretty nice people on the campaign trail.They were a tonic, a piece of the real world. They had legitimate problems and concerns and they told me about them. I felt their pain and it spurred me to work even harder to win the election."

Contrast Violet's statement with some coming from local GOP supporters today. For instance, Travis Rowley, of Young Republicans fame, recently wrote on Go Local, "Women and Hispanics will have to – and should have to – shed themselves of their corrupting liberalism before adorning a Republican badge. A simple matter of principle."

With GOP friends like that, who needs enemies?

Recently, the face of the Green Party was, sort of, Independent Abel Collins, who did not win in his quest to unseat Congressman Langevin. The last successful Green candidate was David Segal, formerly on the Providence City Council. While engaging, Collins would likely have been more successful to run for a local office.

The Moderates won a School Committee seat in Burrillville (Congrats to Michael Brizard!), lost their candidate in Central Falls, and were defeated in elections in East Providence and East Greenwich.

I tip my hat to all the candidates who ran. Not everyone has a job or life that makes running for office easy or realistic (the time commitments are ridiculous, can be damaging to personal relationships, and fundraising is exhausting!). However, as people in parties across our great state are brainstorming what to do next, let's work our best to connect with each other.

Win or lose an election, the reality is stark. More connecting with each other to problem solve is a great way to start improving this place.


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