Arthur Christopher Schaper
On September 21, Republican gubernatorial primary rivals Ken Block and Allan Fung put aside their deeply politically (and personal) differences, embraced, and the businessman from Barrington endorsed the mayor from Cranston:
I’m here to endorse and express my full-throated endorsement for Allan Fung for Governor.
Paired together on the statehouse steps on Providence, Fung complimented Block, stating that:
He has shown he is a man of his word. Not only has he come forward to stand with me today, for which I am very grateful and thankful, but he has also followed through on his promise to fight for real reform in state government.
It’s not about us individually. It’s about the people of the state of Rhode Island. People are still hurting in this great state, and this is where the focus has to be on.
The Democratic candidates who had lost to General Treasurer Gina Raimondo lined up behind the winner. Block came around one week after losing the primary and presented a united front with the Republican winner.
Block’s comments were particularly noteworthy:
True change for Rhode Island cannot come from a compromised and a conflicted Democratic party. We need a strong party of opposition, a Republican party dedicated to putting Rhode Island on the best economic course to move forward. We won’t change unless we undertake the hard work of actually changing.
A conflicted Democratic Party? Politico.com would agree with this observation, since the online magazine submitted that the Democratic gubernatorial primary represented the future divisions with the National Democratic Party in 2016. Putting aside these differences, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Rhode Island scion Clay Pell attempted to dispel these concerns. Does their on-camera cordially really help Raimondo?
Whatever one’s conclusion about the divisions on the left, at least Republican (and in heavily liberal Rhode Island) is playing offense against the mainstream meme of the divided, defeated, and soon to be dead GOP.
What else can one surmise from this interesting turn of political events?
Despite the hurts he had endured from the campaign (including the effective yet offensive “Blockhead” commercial from the Fung campaign), the former Moderate Party founder and 2010 gubernatorial candidate put the conflicts behind and put Fung’s campaign ahead of him.
Whatever one may think of the man’s motives, this public gesture of solidarity is welcoming as well as forthcoming. The personal cost of swallowing one’s pride is praiseworthy. Republican intra-party primary fights have bordered on political fratricide in prior national races (consider the winnable US Senate races in Delaware in 2010 and Indiana in2012, for example), giving Democrats more opportunity for retention or expansion in Congress.
At least in Rhode Island, feuding Republicans are behaving like family once again.
Could the Block-Fung Reconciliation signal the healing of wounds among National Republicans in the future, too?
The key difference between more liberal Block and Fung depended on their message not just their records. Just as Block had supported Obama twice, so too there are liberal Republicans who believe in free markets and free enterprise at the state level , who voted for Obama in 2008 or 2012 as a protest vote against Bush, and who will shift toward a better party unity for 2016.
Block’s record of reforms for Rhode Island residents cannot be ignored, either, and the same civic activism populates the Republican Party to this day, specifically in the Tea Party movement. Fung represents a more conservative Republican, a member of the traditional fold, less of an outsider to some, but with experience and a record of accomplishment which depends on grassroots outreach to make its case and win the race.
A war of personal ambition gave way to pragmatic reconciliation. Do Fung’s chances improve of winning the governor’s seat? In a few ways, yes. Block supporters have another reason to hold their collective noses and support the mayor. Those who had feared a “Block cult of personality” can take into account that the leader has supported his rival. Block’s “full-throated” endorsement marginalizes Bob Healey, who is running under the banner of the Party Ken Block had started. Interestingly enough, the eccentric Cool Moose Party founder had run for statewide office on a platform of abolishing the same office. How does he reconcile his current bid with his penchant of odd claims and chronically low polling results?
Ironically enough, the founder of Healey’s party does not endorse Healey. What a reversal.
Rhode Island politics was already getting interesting this year, and the Republican bonhomie between Block and Fung has smoothed out one crease in Mayor Fung’s rocky campaign for governor. With a recent poll showing Fung neck-and-neck with Raimondo, plus a higher likability index, the embattled mayor from Cranston may have more than a chance of winning this November.
Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance.
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