While the issue of same-sex marriage has garnered the most attention during the first few weeks of the new General Assembly legislative session, another issue of particular import has also picked up steam as the idea of removing the so-called “master lever” from the voting booth gained wide-ranging support.
From East Bay resident and Moderate Party leader Ken Block to state Democratic Party chairman Edwin Pacheco to Governor Lincoln Chafee, voices across the spectrum have seemingly coalesced around the notion of ending the practice of allowing voters to cast their ballots down straight party lines with one pull of a lever or in modern times the drawing of one line to connect the dots.
The minority parties in Rhode Island, like Mr. Block’s Moderate group, believe the practice has a negative effect on their ability to compete for votes on election day and that it ultimately harms our democracy. In the Ocean State, however, that’s a bit of a stretch. This is so due in part because Rhode Island actually has quite a variety of political views, despite what critics may claim.
We have plenty of “DINOs” here, as in “Democrats in Name Only.” Ironically, the sister acronym “RINOs” has become part of the political vernacular nationally to describe Republicans who aren’t true to supposed party doctrain. Gov. Chafee is familiar with the phrase, hearing it often during his time in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Chafee, of course, ran as a third-party Independent when he sought the governorship.
Locally, the same could be said of Rhode Island Democrats. Liberal observers can point to recent decisions made here on pension and tax reform as well as the likely drawn out fight over same-sex marriage as examples of core Democratic issues that haven’t been legislated in the Ocean State along the lines of perceived party principals.
We live in a “blue” state, where Democrats have historically held a decided advantage in the legislature, but we’ve been very “purple” in electing state-wide officers. Four of our last five governors, including Mr. Chafee, were or had been affiliated with the Republican Party. And Democrat Bruce Sundlun was certainly no “bleeding heart” liberal.
While we’re all for eliminating the master level, let’s not fool ourselves. An archeologist would sure call Rhode Island the land of “DINOs.” Sure, the change it will help, but it’s incumbent upon Republicans, Moderates or any other minority party to improve their brands first, which would make some candidates more comfortable running under their “true” colors.