Progressives in Rhode Island Strive to Take Over the Democratic Party


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Rhode Island isWith President Joe Biden’s approval ratings declining, progressive groups have launched challenges to the control of the state-level Democratic Party. Biden has failed to implement his agenda and Republicans have stripped basic rights from citizens across the nation. Rhode Island progressive candidates are trying to create a majority capable of governing at both the state and local levels. Similar slates are running progressive candidates in 11 other states this cycle, part of recent attempts among organizers to find smaller-scale wins despite the party’s national-scale failures.

The Rhode Island Political Cooperative seeks to profit from the moment of weakness for conservative Democrats by supporting 50 candidates in this cycle’s state for office ranging from governor to legislators. The group supports candidates who are eligible. committedTo support a Green New Deal. A $15 minimum wage, single payer health care and no money taken from lobbyists, fossil fuel corporations or corporate PACs.

“The left has been losing in states for 50 years.”

“The left has been losing in states for 50 years,” organizer and Rhode Island Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Brown, of the cooperative, told The Intercept. “There are a lot of people on the left who have been resigned to that state for a while and are so used to the role of the left being pushing and pulling and pleading and pressuring bad governments to throw some crumbs to the people.”

The Co-op, as it is known, was formed in 2019 by state Senate candidate Jennifer Rourke — whose Republican opponent Punched her last month at a protest following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — along with Brown and state Sen. Jeanine Calkin; the goal was to oust the state’s conservative Democratic leaders. In 2020, the group elected Ten of its candidatesIt has gained momentum since the attack against Rourke, as well as several high-profile resignations within state Democratic Party.

The Co-op was created out of the work of Renew U.S., a progressive organization that aims to create local multiracial and working-class coalitions, scale them, and establish governing majorities across the country in near future. “One or two cycles, not 20 years,” Brown told The Intercept.

Brown is among five candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nominating nomination, which also includes incumbent Gov. Dan McKee. Brown Candidate for the nomination 2018 against then-governor and now-Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and got just under 40,000 votes to Raimondo’s 67,370. Brown launched Renew two more years later. This group supported over 200 candidates in six states. Since then, the 129 Renew candidates that won across the country have helped to pass legislation like a Bill passed last month in Massachusetts that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license and a modest Rhode Island climate justice bill that was signed into law last April.

This year, Brown is running again for the governor’s seat. Renew is also supporting 400 candidates from Arizona, Connecticut and Georgia.

The Co-op of Rhode Island has taken on the challenge in a moment when the state Democratic Party is also experiencing major upheaval. Top officials, including the Democratic state Senate president and state Senate Judiciary Committee chair, have announced their RetirementThese are the most recent weeks. The party’s chief strategist, whom the Providence Journal has described as its de factoExecutive director, quit late last month, just three months before September 13th primaries. Elections for governor and the state legislature could dramatically change the political balance in an election cycle where issues like abortion, guns, and the climate crisis are at their most urgent, and some of the party’s most conservative Democrats are being pushed to clarify their positions.

Democrat Matt Brown (a former Rhode Island secretary-of-state and a gubernatorial candidate) speaks to a group at a North Kingstown, R.I. event on July 3, 2018.

Photo: Steven Senne/AP

Democrats have been around for a long time struggled to overcome the stranglehold that Republicans have on the majority of the country’s state legislatures. Republicans hold more than 54 percent of the country’s state legislative seats and fully control state government in 23 states, whereas Democrats have trifectas in 14.

While Democrats now control the White House as well as Congress, Biden has forgotten many of his campaign promises. Oil and gas drilling, student debtAnd gun control, with conservative Democrats occupying the Senate BlockingHis agenda comprises the majority of his efforts. Republicans stand to gain significant support in the next midterm elections.

Co-op organizers see these issues as interconnected. Democrats lose state-level elections because they lack a compelling local message. Then with no powerbase or bench in the states, they are unable to win in national elections — or unable to get things done when they do win.

“This will build the pipeline for federal power. The way I put it is, members of Congress don’t go home and run for the state legislature, it’s the other way around,” Brown said. “So if we build multiracial, progressive power in 25, 30, 40 states over the course of this decade, we’re gonna have a pipeline of federal candidates for decades to come.”

Rhode Island, where conservative Democrats dominate the party’s majority and block popular legislation, is a microcosm of the problem — and it isn’t unique, said Dálida Rocha, the executive director of Renew. “We see that that is the case in a lot of states, where the Democrats are the majority and we’re still not getting the legislation that we need to get done to meet this urgent moment.”

Recent elections have been reshaped by grassroots slates insurgent in other states. A progressive slate The Nevada Democratic Party was taken over last March, ousting acolytes of the machine built there by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Progressives in New Jersey are seeking to expel establishment Democrats from every part of the state. organized challenge in recent memory to the state’s notoriously corrupt Democratic Party. In West Virginia, there is a new slate this year after six years. YearsOf organizingTook over the control of state Democratic Party Its leadership should be removedIt will also weaken the hold that conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin holds on politics in the state.

Like Manchin, conservative Democrats of Rhode Island face stronger opposition. Rourke had twice challenged the incumbent in her election and gradually eroded at his lead. He lost by 31 percent in 2018 and 16 in 2018.

This year, unexpected events cleared Rourke’s path to a victory. Rourke’s Republican opponent, Jeann Lugo, a Providence police officer, dropped out of the race after video surfaced of him punching Rourke during a protest against the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Two days later, Rourke’s Democratic opponent, Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey,AnnouncementAfter 28 years in office, McCaffrey decided not to seek reelection. McCaffrey and other Democratic leaders in the state, which has been solidly blue since 2014 but is home to some of the country’s most staunchlyConservativeand anti-abortion Democrats, faced criticism in the past for failing to codify Roe and again more recently by their opponents in the wake of the decision to end protections for abortions.

Rourke will be facing Michael Carreiro (president of the Warwick firefighters local union) in the September Democratic primaries. Carreiro filed paperwork with the state board for elections on Tuesday after he announced his candidacy late last month. His Facebook page had a photo of Carreiro in blackface and dressed as James Brown until recently. The photo was no longer visible publicly on his Facebook page after last month. (Carreiro didn’t respond to a request for comments. Rourke, who was unopposed before Carreiro joined, will face Lugo in November, the former Republican candidate.

The Co-op is hopefulThis year will build on its successLast cycleWhen it won eight seats at the state legislature, two on the city council and several other top Democrats, it swept aside many of its opponents, including William Conley Jr. (former chair of the state Senate Finance Committee), and many other powerful Democrats. Since then, the legislature has passed bills that have raised the taxes.Minimum wageGet as Low As $19LegalizedRecreational marijuana can be used with the automatic exclusion of all past convictions.

“They immediately had to cave on things that they had been white-knuckling for a while,” said state Sen. Cynthia Mendes, who ousted Conley Jr. in 2020 by 23 points as part of the Co-op’s slate. “If this can happen with 10 people on the first try, [who] never did this before, what can happen now?”

“We have to do federal politics, and we finally have to do what we should have done a long time ago, which is deep state politics.”

Last Friday, Co-op revealed that three new candidates joined its slate. These were Jenny Bui, a senatorial candidate and mother of a first-generation Vietnamese American, Jackie Anderson, House candidate and nurse, and Nicole LeBoeuf (pawtucket City Council candidate) and Nicole LeBoeuf (homeless outreach worker). Bui will challenge an anti-abortion Republican. Anderson will challenge the Democratic State House Speaker. LeBoeuf, who is running for one the three at-large seats in the city council alongside two incumbents as well as at least one other candidate, is running.

The model slates aren’t just concerned about winning seats in local and state elections; they’re testing theories of change that could help rebuild a Democratic Party that has struggled to define itself for the last seven years. They are trying to find a way forward for the left.

“Democrats, the left are kind of in a panic death spiral, politically,” Brown said, remarking on the party’s failure to field an adequate response to the rise of Donald Trump and the rightward lurch of the Republican Party.

“People are just panicked. And so, in that panic, are just consumed only with Washington,” he said. “What we’re saying is, yes, we have to fight it out as best we can to win power in Washington. Given the current crisis, given that democracy is in danger, given that the world is at threat, and the suffering people are experiencing, it is impossible to do both. We have to do federal politics, and we finally have to do what we should have done a long time ago, which is deep state politics.”


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