Dan Lawlor: Rhode Island Needs More than 1 Political Party
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Recruiting angry candidates inspired by and fears of liberal fascism and/or Marxist conspiracy and/or union thuggery and/or secular humanism does not seem to be working to engage voters in West Warwick, Woonsocket, Providence, and Newport.
This state desperately needs more successful multi-party competition. After this past election, here are the stats (courtesy of Ted Nesi) on General Assembly membership, both House and Senate:
Democrats: 101 out of 113 seats
Republicans: 11 out of 113 seats
Moderates: 0 out of 113 seats
Greens: 0 out of 113 seats
Libertarians: 0 out of 113 seats
Independents: 1 out of 113 seats
Any basic economic theory says that diverse assets is a good thing. The old fashioned way of expressing this is, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." We don't follow that idea here.
I think I know why we don't.
For example, how many Green, Libertarian, Moderate, Independent and Republican City Councilors do you know in Providence? Not even counting elected officials, how many members of those parties sponsor little league teams (the great work of Republican David Talan in the Reservoir neighborhood very notably excepted)? Advertise regularly in community newspapers? Host neighborhood barbecues? Are active on local boards, neighborhood groups, environmental clubs, with local libraries (here I recognize Greg Gerritt)? Sponsor Christmas, Valentine dinners, or guest musicians at high-rises?
If members of the third parties in this state (and I'm including the Republicans) want to win elections, they need to regularly interact with regular people. You might call it slimy, you might call it politics, you might also call it showing up, listening, and interacting with the public.
I know the criticism against the old-fashioned style of politics - many folks can be very considerate at the door or the community room with voters, and less so when voting in the Assembly. I know that. I also have seen many local races rise and fall based on the candidate's connections in the community.
I recently read that, in Massachusetts, Scott Brown opened up an office in Dorchester just weeks before the November election. Weeks. That's not real community engagement.
The absolute - absolute - worst response of any political party to losing the election is that the "the voters just don't get it." That is a cheap response, it requires no self-reflection, and requires no work.
When the Republicans last were successful in Providence's Southside, in the 1990s, their candidate was Mary Ross, a founder of the West End Community Center. People with connections can win elections. Isolated people with a lot of individual anger and self-righteousness don't.