Progressives have always had a complicated relationship with House Speaker Gordon Fox. Though deeply concerned that Fox’s very conservative economic policies are destroying our state, we have always supported the House leadership team because Fox’s likely successors, Helio Melo and Nick Mattiello, are even more conservative than he is.
When Speaker Fox faced the progressive voters of the East Side in November, they were angry—angry at the bevy of red-state legislation Fox had actively pushed for. Fox promised to change. He promised to sunset the ALEC-backed voter ID law he supported, a law he passed even though the chairwoman of the national Democratic Party called him to beg him to reconsider. He promised to consider not bailing out Wall Street on the 38 Studios deal he helped orchestrate. He promised to work with progressives on scaling back the tax cuts for the rich, tax cuts he had once promised would create jobs. He promised, in essence, to govern like the Democrat he once was. It has now become clear that he does not intend to honor those pledges. Jolting sharply to the right, Fox has launched a campaign against Democratic values. Here is a sample of his recent right-wing moves:
- He is handing Newport Grand a million-dollar bailout.
- He is forcing through a much, much larger bailout of the 38 Studios bondholders.
- He is throwing 6,500 Rhode Islanders off Medicaid.
- He is skipping a pension fund payment, in a gratuitous middle finger to labor.
- He is refusing to roll back some of the tax cuts for the rich and instead raising taxes on the middle class through steep tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.
- He is paring back Chafee’s already minuscule municipal aid package, forcing the City of Woonsocket into receivership.
- He is blocking the family planning expansion under ObamaCare.
- Like the US Senate’s filibustering Republicans, he is refusing to let an assault weapons ban or background checks reporting get a vote.
- Finally, not only did he break his promise to sunset the voter ID law, he snuck in a provision to tighten voting restrictions even further. Telling the members of the Judiciary Committee that they were voting to freeze the current law to prevent the harsher 2014 restrictions from coming into effect, they refused to release the actual bill in time for everyone to read it. A violation of the trust the statehouse runs on, this move tricked many pro-voting committee members to vote for this red-state-style assault on our democracy.
When she was the Executive Director of the Rhode Island GOP, Ann Clanton famously admitted, “We have a lot of Democrats who we know are Republican but run as a Democrat — basically so they can win.” Progressives cannot help but look at Gordon Fox’s recent record and conclude that he is indeed one of those Republicans hiding in the Democratic Party. We urge the General Assembly to stand up for Rhode Island values and stop this conservative onslaught.
We are not the only ones who are angry. We have heard from a large and growing body of furious Representatives that there will be a serious effort to vote down the budget to stop the 38 Studios bailout. If the progressive bloc in the House breaks away from leadership on this issue, we can block this right-wing budget and force something a little more reasonable.
So we call on progressives to vote this budget down. We understand the power of leadership and all the practicalities that entails, but if any progressives are forced to vote against their conscience, we sincerely hope that it is in exchange for a more moderate budget. And we call on Gordon Fox to return to the principles he ran on.