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Today in the Rhode Island Democratic Party Dumpster Fire



Above: The Rhode Island Democratic Party

I’ve talked before about how the Rhode Island Democratic Party is an out of control dumpster fire. In a 1-party state, being a Democratic politician means nothing more than “I want power.” That’s how you have the Rhode Island Democratic Party borrowing legislation from Oklahoma banning municipalities from setting their own minimum wages. It’s also how you have an open racist as the Speaker of the House.

One of Rhode Island’s most powerful Democrats doesn’t believe that “white privilege” exists. In a recent interview with the Providence Journal, Nicholas Mattiello, the state’s speaker of the House, said that that racial disparities are simply due to African-Americans’ and other minority groups’ failure to “take advantage” of the opportunities available to them.

Mattiello was invited to discuss racial issues with a panel from The Providence Journal, which is producing an extensive series on race in Rhode Island. He told the panel that, before he was asked that question, he had never thought of the phrase “white privilege.”

Mattiello was responding to an op-ed previously published in The Providence Journal by David R. Carlin, the former Democratic Senate Majority Leader, which argued that racial disparities were the result of “appallingly dysfunctional subculture that is pervasive among the black lower classes.”

This subculture fosters attitudes that lead to astronomical rates of out-of-wedlock births, millions of fathers who give little or no support to their children, high rates of crime and violence, high levels of drug abuse, a poor work ethic and very poor academic achievement. Unless this subculture is eradicated, we may expect that great numbers of blacks will live in misery.

Mattiello said he wasn’t sure about the phrase “subculture,” but seemed to agree with the overall point — namely, that “white privilege” doesn’t exist and that there is a “breakdown” within minority communities that explains racial disparities.

“You have to find ways to get the community to access and to take advantage of [opportunity]. Some people do, but not enough do. And there’s a reason why they don’t, and that’s something that I quite frankly don’t understand, and I need help with that,” Mattiello said.

Mattiello said that education was “the great equalizer” but dismissed criticisms that Rhode Island schools were effectively segregated. “I would say that it’s not segregated, it’s just that it reflects the population that it serves… I don’t know that you start busing people and so forth.”

“I don’t see racism because that’s not how I live my life… But I’ve never seen it because it’s not the way I live. And I’ve never been the victim of it,” Mattiello added.

Well, I guess he at least admits that racism might exist. But of course he’s not racist because no one is racist in 2015 except for people who believe that white privilege might exist or people who voted for Obama and therefore support the war on whites. Meanwhile those black people are just lazy and the state’s significant segregation just happens because white people like to live next to white people and black people choose to live that way.

My disdain for third parties is well-known, but really it’s a different beast on the state level. In Rhode Island, with the Republican Party a non-entity at the local level in most districts and the Democrats who do get elected (not all, but a sizable number including Mattiello) essentially Republicans themselves in Democratic clothing, there really isn’t any reason not to at least try to primary these people. While I remain skeptical that building a state-level third party is a good use of resources because, like on the federal level, the energy that goes into the party-building could be better spent on issue-based campaigning, one can certainly make a much better case for it in Rhode Island than nationally.

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  • joe from Lowell

    And yet Senator Reed is a solid liberal, and Senator Whitehouse is a real champion on the left.

    Maybe the Rhode Island Democrats send all the actual liberals to Washington, like Chicago used to do.

    • Yeah, it’s strange. And the two Congresscritters, Langevin and Cicilline are both totally fine as well. But the state level is disastrous. I think part of it might be that these state legislators actually don’t really have ambition to higher office and so have their fiefdom they lord over.

      • Lee Rudolph

        I think part of it might be that these state legislators actually don’t really have ambition to higher office and so have their fiefdom they lord over.

        Actually I think that’s all of it.

        • joe from Lowell

          Oh, yeah.

          There are people who, told by the political machine that they’re getting the Water Department gig instead of the Congressional seat, conclude they’ve got the better end of the deal.

          A Congressional office can hire, what, 9-10 cronies for the home office? That’s chicken feed.

  • DrDick

    Pretty much true. When one party dominates, most politicians gravitate to that party, which is what you saw in the South before 1968 and even now in Chicago. In both Oklahoma, where I grew up, and in Chicago, where I lived for over a decade, the only Republicans were extremist whackaloons.

    • Woodrowfan

      the only Republicans were extremist whackaloons.

      and it’s changed how???? ;)

      • DrDick

        Everyone has become an extremist whackaloon. It was not that way in my youth. While there were a lot of conservative Democrats then, they were not the modern Republicans.

        • efgoldman

          While there were a lot of conservative Democrats then, they were not the modern Republicans.

          That’s true. I made a list of the Republicans for whom I voted at the state level (in MA) up through the mid-70s or so; most would be at home in today’s Democratic party.
          But I think that was a geographical thing. The now reliably blue states in the Northeast and Midwest (and somewhat on the West coast) are where most of the sane liberal and moderate Republicans were.

    • Bruce Vail

      Or Brooklyn, NY, in the 1980s when I lived there.

    • Matt McIrvin

      Is Massachusetts a counterexample? Our state-level Republicans tend to be these types who try to sound moderate to get the totebaggers to reach across the aisle. Maybe the Democratic Party isn’t dominant enough.

      • efgoldman

        Maybe the Democratic Party isn’t dominant enough.

        You’re kidding, right? Don’t the Dems have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the legislature?
        Of course MA has it’s own problems: being elected Speaker of the House is apparently an official step leading to indictment.

        • joe from Lowell

          He means, a counterexample in the sense that our Republicans aren’t whackaloons.

    • Right. So rather than a third party, what Prof. Loomis really seems to mean is something like the Non-Partisan League. It’s organized like a party, with a platform and convention and what not, but it doesn’t have a ballot line. It runs candidates in primaries. In principal, it can primary in both parties, although in RI we’d mostly be talking the Dem line.

  • los

    and then the extreme whackaloons to often successfully sell themselves as ‘alternative’ to the plainly corrupt.

    • joe from Lowell

      But enough about the House of Saud…

  • Bruce Vail

    I’m not sure that issue-based campaigning and Third Party Building are mutually exclusive.

    Some of the same problems you see in the RI state Dem party org are similar to the Dem Party org problems here in Baltimore city. Working Families party is here and looks like a damn good alternative to me.

  • los

    the media refers to chamber of commerce’s shills as, “moderate democrats”, “pragmatic democrats”, or “centrist democrats”

  • Peter VE

    The success of Robert Healey (22%) in his third party run for Governor should have been a sign that some voters are starting to get fed up. Some, not enough.

    • UserGoogol

      Also Lincoln Chafee was an independent when he ran for governor, although a former member of the Republican Party isn’t the same as the former member of the Cool Moose Party.

  • CrunchyFrog

    I must say that I’m surprised that some Broder type hasn’t identified a Rhode Island politician as someone the Democrats should nominate for President. Now that they don’t have Lieberman any more.

    • Lincoln Chafee!!!!!

      • Rob in CT

        “America for Lincoln”

  • wengler

    It’s not just Rhode Island. Most of this country doesn’t have truly competitive two-party races.

  • witlesschum

    One thing this makes me wonder, does RI have open primaries? Seems like that would be an excellent solution to all areas where one party predominates.

    • Rob in CT

      What type of Primary election does the state of Rhode Island conduct?

      Rhode Island has a ‘semi-closed’ party primary system. This means that you may only vote in your party’s primary, but if you are registered as “Unaffiliated” you may vote in the primary of any party you choose. Once you vote in a primary, however, you are considered a member of that party until and unless you “disaffiliate”. You may do this by signing a “Change of Party Designation” form at the polling place after you vote or by submitting a new voter registration form at any time. The disaffiliation takes effect in 90 days. If you indicated a party preference when you registered to vote, you may only vote in that party’s primary. If you wish to vote in another party’s primary, you must disaffiliate at least 90 days before the primary date.


  • rea

    I’m not sure where Erik got that picture, but it’s been used for the Tigers bullpen all summer

    • Brett

      I was wondering about that, too. Is there actually a Dumpster Fire stock photo? Because that would be awesome.

  • Jackov

    Perhaps, Mattiello is confused about white privilege because he rightly knows that the Irish and Italians of RI are not white. Someone should ask him about how clan/tribal solidarity restricts opportunities in the state to find out for sure.

  • efgoldman

    That’s how you have the Rhode Island Democratic Party borrowing legislation from Oklahoma banning municipalities from setting their own minimum wages.

    It’s not discussed very much, but I believe we’re also the only Northeast state that has a voter ID law.
    I emailed my state rep (with whom I had previously met about a local issue) and got back… crickets. Not even a pro forma “I value all of my constituents’ opinions, thank you for writing.”

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Unfortunately, Kentucky seems to be moving to a one-party state.
    I think conservative columnists concern-trolling the Kentucky Democratic Party is a sure sign.
    I am a little surprised that running against Obama is so successful at this point. I know a lot of people who truly hate him. But with a year of a lame-duck presidency remaining, you would not think Obama would matter that much on a state level. But, Conway was not a good campaigner and depended too much on attack ads. I suppose that a sleazy right-wing Republican was more appealing than a sleazy moderate Democrat. At least in Kentucky, at this point in time.

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