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2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform attempts to knit divisions



“It is very clear what the Democratic Party stands for in Rhode Island, and we now have a document that – doesn’t matter what part of the Party you’re from – you can get behind and make the case why Democrats are a better choice than Republicans and Independents, coming up on November 6,” said Rhode Island Democratic Party Executive Director Kevin Olasanoye.

On Sunday evening the Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform Committee held their seventh and last meeting to approve the 2018 Rhode Island Democratic Party Platform. There are several important changes to the document.

  • A section entitled “Historical Perspective” now starts the document.
  • The second part is a “Preamble” to replace the section previously entitled “What we believe in.”
  • In the “Fairness and Economic Opportunity” section: “We added a paragraph about organized labor and our support for organized labor,” said Olasanoye. “That language is something that we heard repeatedly needed to be added to the platform.”
  • Immigration” : “There is now a very robust section talking about the values of the Democratic party with respect to immigration,” noted Olasanoye.
  • The section entitled “Matter of Choice” deals with reproductive rights and access: “We heard from a lot of folks from around the state who said they wanted to see stronger language in that section and we have stronger language in that section.”
  • The section entitled “Reducing Gun Violence” has been added to the platform: “That was the number one issue that we heard going around the state. That section was not in the platform in 2016. It is in the platform now.”
  • “And there’s a lot more on the environment too, added platform committee member Hilary Levey Friedman, President of Rhode Island National Organization for Women (RI NOW).

The new platform has already come under some criticism from the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV). Though gratified that “the Democratic Party of Rhode Island has at last recognized that there is ‘a serious issue with gun violence in our country,’ and has for the first time acknowledged that gun violence is a public health issue,” RICAGV President Linda Finn writes,

“Unfortunately, the party platform… is short on specific steps that can be taken in the state of Rhode Island to reduce gun violence. The Rhode Island Democratic Party shifts much of the responsibility for action to the federal government, calling on the Congress to ‘enact legislation to require unlicensed gun sellers at gun shows and private gun dealers to conduct the same instant background checks that licensed dealers need to conduct,’ and to allow ‘the Centers for Disease Control to study this issue.’

“We support those calls, but also acknowledge that given the current national political climate the federal government is unlikely to take meaningful action in the near future. This makes it all the more essential that action be taken on the state level, and unfortunately the Rhode Island Democratic Party platform does not list steps that the Rhode Island General Assembly could take right now to make the state safer. These steps include:

  1. Passing legislation that would keep guns out of Rhode Island K-12 schools by restricting the concealed carry of firearms to law enforcement in a way that is consistent with current Rhode Island Department of Education policy.
  2. Banning high capacity magazines and military style assault weapons in Rhode Island.
  3. Fighting any steps to weaken our current gun laws, including resisting efforts by the gun lobby to pass concealed carry reciprocity legislation that would force Rhode Island to recognize concealed carry permits from other states.

While it is disappointing that that the Rhode Island Democratic Party did not embrace these specific steps that would make Rhode Island safer right now, the RICAGV will continue to advocate for them in 2019, and will hold politicians of any and all political parties responsible for their votes.

Despite this criticism, Olasanoye was certain that the new document is both robust and an accurate reflection of Rhode Island Democratic Party values.

“I doubt that you will find a candidate for statewide office who does not agree with what we put in the platform,” said Olasanoye. “And I suspect the same is true of members of the House and Senate…”

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“Well,” replied Platform Committee Co-Chair Arthur Corvese, who represents House District 55 in North Providence, “I think there may be some differences in certain places.”

In the video below the committee members present not mentioned in the piece above are Platform Committee Co-Chair and former Representative Lisa Tomasso (Democrat, District 29, Coventry), Representative Marvin Abney (Democrat, District 73, Newport) Lauren Niedel, Democratic candidate for House District 40 (Coventry, Foster Glocester), Stephen Mulcahey Chair of the Burrillville Democratic Party Town Committee and Charon Rose, Director of Outreach and Constituent Relations for Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.


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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.