Here in Rhode Island, where the people lean far to the left, we don’t have to worry too much about Republicans screwing up our state. Instead, we’ve got Democrats who screw up our state by acting like Republicans. RI Future has a long tradition of identifying these covert conservatives as DINOs – Democrats in Name Only.
2012 saw two such Democrats who identified with the party for strategic rather than ideological reasons and did considerable damage to the brand with their reckless and/or regressive ways: former Woonsocket state Rep. Jon Brien and former congressional candidate Anthony Gemma.
Gemma, perhaps the most disingenuous actor I have ever come across in politics and truly a tragic character in Rhode Island’s political narrative, was a Carcieri supporter until he decided to run for Congress. That’s when he became a Democrat. At one point this year he even ridiculously claimed to be more progressive than David Cicilline, even though there was zero evidence to back up this assertion.
He’d already proven himself to be liar, but it was then that I realized Gemma would say or do just about anything to curry electoral favor. Little did I expect that it would get worse. Much worse.
Gemma went on to accuse his competition, David Cicilline, of a crime – voter fraud, to be exact – with no actual evidence to back it up. It was a text book trap for ‘did-you-beat-your-wife journalism’ and the local right-wing propaganda machine – the ProJo editorial page, John DePetro, Dan Yorke, et al – used him and his lies like a tool to bash David Cicilline and by extension the liberal cause. It was one an low moment for honesty in Rhode Island as well as a vexing conundrum for Democrats – with friends like Gemma, who needed enemies like Brendan Doherty…
Jon Brien was a DINO of a different caliber. Disingenuous he was not, but neither was there anything ideological that endeared him to the Democratic Party. In fact, he was far more conservative than most of his Republican colleagues at the State House. He championed voter ID legislation, despised public sector labor unions, loved education deform efforts. Most notably, he was a staunch supporter and board member of the right-wing, corporate-backed bill mill ALEC. None-the-less, the local media was happy to refer to him as a “Woonsocket Democrat,” which was both true and misleading at the same time!!
Brien, like Gemma, was rejected by the voters.
Maybe these two electoral victories indicate that the era of the DINO is ending in Rhode Island? That would be nice, from a progressive point of view, because then we wouldn’t need to be constantly explaining that the stuff that is negatively affecting Rhode Island are actually conservative notions – think tax breaks for the affluent, starving struggling cities into bankruptcy court, marriage inequality and more.
Here’s hoping that 2013 is the year of the DINPID: Democrat In Name, Progressive In Deed.