Rhode Island seems like it would be the nation’s bluest state. While an former Republican holds the governor’s office, Democrats dominate the legislature by a 6-1 margin.
But it doesn’t work out that way in reality. Two major factors create some schizophrenic politics in Rhode Island. First, because Rhode Island is a one-party state, it means the Democratic Party holds almost no control over its members and that without that control, it tolerates any number of beliefs under the Democratic tent. Related, it means that any politician with ambition has to be a Democrat. Second, the nation’s most Catholic state means that culturally conservative Catholics can win elections.
My 9 months in Rhode Island has witnessed all sorts of disturbing events from a state this dominated by Democrats. Not only has the state declared war on public workers, slashing pensions and balancing the budget on the back of its employees, but it also passed a draconian voter ID law of the type you would expect from Arizona or Mississippi. Maybe the state’s biggest story in 2012 has been a young woman forcing her high school to take down the Christian prayer located on the wall of Cranston High School West; the powerful Democratic Rep from Cranston, Peter Palumbo called her “an evil little thing” on a local radio talk show.
Now you have Democratic Rep. Karen MacBeth calling for a forced ultrasound bill before a woman can have an abortion, citing her own anger that Planned Parenthood didn’t help her more when she was a single mother.
I don’t think this is going to pass. The chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee, Edith Ajello, has also introduced a bill prohibiting the state to interfere in decisions regarding a woman’s pregnancy. I don’t believe Gov. Lincoln Chaffee has said anything publicly about this, but he is known to be pro-choice.
I highlight this story for a few reasons. First, to note that the war on women isn’t only a Republican war. Second, to question the “more Democrats” mantra of the netroots, something that should work in principle, but hasn’t always proven so successful in reality. And third, because politics in Rhode Island are a fascinating labyrinth of weirdness. It should be a progressive place, but I haven’t seen too much evidence of it.