As former Secretary of State Matt Brown enters the gubernatorial race I have begun to watch the primary debate more closely.

Matt’s argument is simple: He is campaigning on the issues – of which most American voters consider to be the core message of the Democratic Party. His strong opposition to Medicaid cuts, his call for repealing the tax cuts for the rich, and his passion for the environment mirrors the spirit of politicians like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Barack Obama. They also draw a clear contrast with the incumbent, Governor Gina Raimondo. A policy-based argument may seem unusual to Rhode Islanders but it is standard for Democrats in states with a less broken Democratic Party.

The incumbent’s argument is not so clear. The usual arguments for establishment candidates in Democratic primaries do not work for Raimondo. What is the argument for Raimondo?

First, there is the electability argument, the core argument of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential primary campaign. At this time in 2016, Clinton had a 6-point lead nationally over Donald Trump, while Raimondo currently has a 2.5-point lead over Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Raimondo is trailing Fung by a whopping 12 percent in one critical area: independents. Unaffiliated voters make up half of the state’s registered voters, so it is no surprise that the Republican Governor’s Association is targeting Rhode Island. Winning with a mere 40 percent plurality in 2014, and standing in a statistical dead-heat with scandal-tarred Fung, Raimondo is an extremely weak Democratic nominee. In a state as blue, and as progressive, as Rhode Island, Raimondo’s conservative policies do not attract unaffiliated voters. And those same conservative policies have caused so much harm to some families that a handful of loyal Democrats are looking for anyone other than Raimondo. Electability is surely in favor of challenger Matt Brown.

The argument I am most partial to is getting more women elected. Feminists agree that political representation is crucial in achieving equity, and most feminists also agree that gender identity is not a magical key that unlocks total feminist enlightenment, or the right to every woman’s vote. The woman argument falls short for Raimondo, who enacted abortion restrictions in Rhode Island after only 6 months in elected office and is listed as “mixed-choice” by NARAL. When a woman falls short on choice, the candidate who is strongest on choice is the better candidate for feminists, even if they happen to be a man. Simply put, Matt Brown is a man who is more pro-choice than Raimondo.

Regarding the argument that Democrats, progressives in particular, should embrace incrementalism and support moderate but well-meaning establishment candidates, Raimondo fails to deliver even moderate incremental change. Enacting abortion restrictions, repeatedly gutting Medicaid, aggressively funding corporate welfare projects, decimating hard-earned pensions, and pushing dirty fossil fuel power plants in Burrillville and South Providence are undeniably right-wing initiatives, not groundwork for incrementalist Democratic change. Hillary Clinton’s slow but positive progressive achievement is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a meaningful expansion of Medicaid. Raimondo’s legacy will be devastating Medicaid cuts. Matt Brown is to the left of Raimondo because of her extreme conservative agenda, not because he is shooting too high.

The argument that establishment Democrats are superior managers with a greater likelihood of policy success is laughable if applied to Raimondo. UHIP, DCYF, pensions, and I-195 have become buzz words signaling catastrophic administrative failures on Raimondo’s watch. Matt Brown’s track record as Secretary of State is credible and impressive.

The last, and perhaps the most important, argument is that establishment Democrats evolve, adopting progressive agendas as they become popular. In most cases, this argument can protect a candidate from their political past by claiming they grew from those teachable experiences. In 2014, Raimondo ran in support of granting drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants. Taking it a step further, she signed a poster board-sized pledge promising to issue licenses by executive order within a year, yet never followed through. Put simply, no one trusts her. And why would they? Raimondo explicitly broke the promise on licenses and back-stepped on her promise to both raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. Voters have little reason to trust new progressive promises put forward by Raimondo. As Rhode Island’s political climate grows more progressive by the minute, Matt Brown’s proven record on progressive issues and his trustworthiness make him poised for high favorability among the majority of Rhode Island voters.

What arguments have been made against Matt? It starts with a handful of shallow personal attacks on the projects Matt has been working on since 2006. Rather than commending Matt’s effort to eliminate nuclear weapons globally, Raimondo’s first comment on her primary challenger to Patrick Anderson of the Providence Journal was, “If he cared about Rhode Island I think he would have been here the last 10 years working in Rhode Island.” Coming from a governor who moved her venture capital firm out of the state in 2012 and routinely fundraises from corporate interests in big cities like Chicago, this attack is not only shallow but also tone-deaf as the President comes closer to starting a nuclear world war over Twitter each day.

Next came criticisms on Matt’s salary. Talk on personal finances should be an obvious weakness for Raimondo, hardly a smart platform to spar on. Any critique on Matt’s salary while working for a pro-peace charity is hypocritical and hollow considering Raimondo earned far more while working for a controversial private equity firm.

Again and again, the arguments for Raimondo are either baseless or rooted in personal attacks. After nearly 4 years of waging a war on the social safety net Democrats have spent years building, her extreme right-wing policies have pushed her so far to the right of the Democratic primary electorate that the usual arguments for an establishment candidate simply do not work for Raimondo in 2018.

So I have a challenge for my fellow Democrats (and unaffiliated voters) planning to cast a ballot for Raimondo over Matt Brown in the September primary: Say why.

Newest Oldest Best
Notify of
Arnie McConnell
Guest
Arnie McConnell

As a public school teacher who was pushed into retirement two years prior to the Deluge of 2009, I find myself in the ironic position of supporting Gina. Not because she’s a consultant of markets, which, of course, she is; but because of her leadership ability.

She can compose her thoughts and speak her mind decisively in real time.

Bad things are happening among people that she probably understands well. Maybe she can surf the contradictions, as a moral voice, with an attorney general in the bag. Shopping for groceries.

Maybe not.

At any rate, she thinks fast, with demonstrated capacity for deliberation.

Who has the mind and the wit to actually take her on?

Throw down, then. Let’s see.

John Burns
Guest
John Burns

How can Gov. Raymond propose cutting 18 million dollars from the handicapped in her proposed???? budget and call herself a Democrat?

retro
Member

Late to the discussion, but I just wanted to point out this error from the article: “Matt Brown is to the left of Raimondo because of her extreme conservative agenda…”

Extreme conservative? No, Capri. Under no rational analysis in Governor Raimondo an extreme conservative. Anyone who thinks Raimondo is an extreme conservative ignores the reality of what extreme conservatism is. Look at the governors of Texas or Oklahoma for examples. Or, closer to home, look at Trillo or Nardolillo. Anti-choice? See: Barth Bracy and compare against Raimondo.

One of the hallmarks of being a progressive is that we’re able to embrace the nuance in issues and reach rational conclusions.

I’m not saying Raimondo is progressive. But, you forgo all sense of proportion (and credibility) when you paint the world of politicians in black and white terms, conflating not being a progressive with being an extreme conservative.

Barry Schiller
Member

Nice to see a broad discussion of the Governor’s race, I thank all 5 of the previous commenters who all made interesting points. I hope others join in, on this and other posts. My view on the Governor’s race is mixed. I agree with Tina that Matt Brown was a problem as Secretary of State, as a volunteer lobbyist I saw services from that office decline then, he didn’t seem interested in that job. I disagree with Randall on two points. The “no-fare” policy during peak hours gets in the way of trying to attract commuters to transit so that RIPTA can really help to fight climate change, revive cities, and attract progressive employers. Even seniors should recognize there are other interests. And that the Governor agreed the state won’t do business with companies that support those who intend destroying Israel seems quite reasonable. On the other hand I agree… Read more »

trackback

[…] What is the argument for supporting Raimondo in the primary? Matt Brown, the Anti-Progressive? […]

Greta Mello
Guest
Greta Mello

Why do Democrats in R.I. feel they are the only party here? We also have a Republican Association which I feel should be listened to and given the consideration they deserve.This State needs to be noticed and respected by Washington. Our present Governor has never even attended the inauguration or any Governor’s meetings in Washington. We need to be represented and respected. A change is badly needed. I had been a Democrat all my voting life but I am so glad that I changed my party as our country is getting back to having the respect it once had!

retro
Member
Tina Wood

Matt Brown did a terrible job as Secretary of State because he focused on issues that had nothing to do with the office but got him a lot of press (like prescription drugs for seniors) while neglecting the actual duties of the office. Specifically, one of the most useful parts of the SOS website is the ability to look up your legislators. This feature is crucial for grassroots organizations that want to mobilize people to contact their legislators. He took that feature offline and kept it offline for months during the legislative season until finally the ProJo had to call him out in an editorial (and I’m no fan of the ProJo.) As someone who was involved with grassroots organizations at the time, I can tell you that it caused us significant hardship. He also tried to essentially launder money during his abortive run for Senate by having donors donate… Read more »

Alicia Ann Kelley
Guest
Alicia Ann Kelley

I respectfully disagree with your counterpoints, Nick. Our current governor has harmed the progressive movement in this state by encouraging companies such as Invenergy and organizations such as the PawSox into the fray. Cutting Medicaid (something you did not retort in your counter argument) is counter productive and will cause more harm than good when patients decide to wait it out until their medical conditions fester to seek medical care. And that’s from an economic standpoint, not a moral one, even though the moral argument still exists. Patients who allow their disease states to get worse and do not seek treatment will ultimately strain the already bare bones system we have today. Our governor also has a $3.5mil warchest, but I question how much of that money actually is from the average middle class Democratic or unaffiliated voter. If you look at her 2018 Q1 Campaign Finance report, it is… Read more »

nickinglis
Guest
nickinglis

No disrespect intended Capri, but you’ve focused solely on the negatives of the argument for Rhode Island while completely ignoring the positives, and ignoring the one primary argument that wins nearly every election: the economy. First, let’s discuss the Rhode Island economy – for years our economy had languished and that is no longer the case, in large part because of Governor Raimondo’s economic policies. While I’m not a huge fan of business incentives, we cannot as a state unilaterally disengage from leveraging them when all of our neighboring states are using them. Our state economy should matter as a point of significance to us as progressives. In the past, passage of progressive legislation was challenging because of our faltering finances – it’s tough to make the case for expansion of economic programs to help our poor when we can’t balance our state budget supporting the programs we already have.… Read more »

Randall Rose
Member

Nick is more or less saying that corporate welfare is the foundation for progressive policy. If that’s how you think, then fine, Raimondo’s your candidate, even though she’s not particularly progressive. You’re not going to get anyone particularly good anyway, as long as you think that way. What Nick euphemistically calls “business incentives” (even though they don’t deserve that free-market name) amount to paying a price to unscrupulous businesses in hopes that they’ll treat RI fairly, but the price that these unscrupulous businesses demand just keeps on rising. So you pay an ever-increasing amount in corporate welfare without really gaining any substantially greater amount of business than our fellow states do, which leaves less and less for the middle class and other working people. The corporate-welfare sector of the economy is growing — I mean people like the lobbyists and lawyers (who donate to Raimondo), the media commentators who keep… Read more »

edith pilkington
Member
edith pilkington

Re: business incentives”:

“Brian Bishop spoke on behalf of the Providence Apartment Association. “Apartment owners are concerned because we’re essentially being asked, through these TSAs… to subsidize our competitors,” said Bishop. “We pay one of the highest tax rates in the country for small apartment buildings, and essentially we are expected to cover whatever additional revenues needed for police and fire protection…”

Truer words are seldom spoken.

edith pilkington
Member
edith pilkington

Sorry, I forgot the attribution:

https://upriseri.com/news/taxes/2018-01-09-tsas/