Analysis Without Analysis When It Comes to RI Democrats

Russ Moore has an already mercilessly shredded column up at GoLocalProv, attacking all progressives via the actions (or non-actions) of the RI Progressive Democrats – and to a certain extent, just their state coordinator. Moore claims his screed is an indictment of progressives, but it’s mainly just attacking Myrth York who may be leaving the Brett Smiley campaign for mayor of Providence to head up an independent expenditure group. True to form for GoLocalProv, the piece lacks the nuance necessary to really grapple with the situation, and brings joy to the site’s generally right-wing commentariat.

Over at RI Future, Bob Plain contends (thinly) that the race for Democratic nominee for governor is a battle between two factions in the Democratic Party, that he neatly labels the “Wall Street Democrats”  and “progressives”. With scant evidence, he suggests that Clay Pell will either win or spoil Angel Taveras’ chances, and that should Gina Raimondo win, liberals may bolt for the Republican nominee. It’s a simple narrative for the anti-Raimondo crowd, but so far it’s had little

It’s worth thinking about the difference spheres Plain and Moore inhabit. Plain is from the left-wing side of things; he’s left-wing on economic issues and liberal on social issues. Moore is from the more centrist side of things; while he’s claims to be liberal on social issues, he’s usually pushing right-wing inspired economic arguments. Both are unclear in their loyalty to the Democratic Party – Plain making the jump to Green never seems that far off, while Moore is the kind of former journalist and Caprio campaign staffer at home using the misnomer “Democrat Party” without a shred of irony.

Remember Democrats, don’t take advice from people who can’t correctly say the name of your 186-year-old political party.

Neither Moore nor Plain, both of whom have training as journalists, are providing any real insight into Democratic politics in Rhode Island right now. Both are leaping on chances to attack; Plain at Raimondo and Moore at progressives. Both have nothing more than anecdotal evidence about what’s going on and how large groups of people might align.

The shameful thing is that we have actual data that can back us up, that disproves what they’re saying. For one thing, Plain trots out a Republican voter who plans to vote in the Democratic primary to vote for Raimondo. Leaving aside that this can’t be done unless the voter disaffiliates or is already disaffiliated, primary voters tend to be negligibly different from general election or “party followers” — meaning this Republican voter is unlikely to change much in the way of  the results of the primary.

Moore gets upset that the RI Progressive Democrats of America dare to label those they endorsed “real Democrats” but this is just rhetoric. Beyond which, in calling out the more conservative credentials of the General Assembly’s leadership, RIPDA is slightly backed up by evidence. Compared to their peers in other states, RI’s Democratic caucuses are on the right wing of state Democratic Parties. RIPDA’s wrong that this means the Democratic Party is filled with Democrats-In-Name-Only, but Moore’s wrong to suggest that RIPDA or its state coordinator are somehow representative of all Rhode Island progressives.

What we do have evidence for is that state legislative candidates tend to overestimate the conservatism of their districts — often by staggering amounts. We also If I was forced to provide a hypothesis for the results of the Democratic primary, I’d suggest this: the Democratic primary will return candidates who exist in the narrow center-left range of political thought in RI that is typical of the status quo, even though there’s likely support for a left alternative.

And the next mayor of Providence? Regardless of who they are, they’re likely to be one of the most responsive politicians to voters’ views.

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