August 13, 2014. A dark gray sky foreshadows a grim day ahead. Air conditioners hum, but people are still sweating in the heavy humid air. A storm is coming Those who can stay indoors, or home are doing so. The skies open and it begins to pour. Vehicles are caught in intersections under feet of water. The state is disrupted. And all the while people are becoming sick. A virus has emerged. People on their desktops, laptops, phones are affected first. Blockheads, are overtaken by rage and soon the airwaves of talk radio are filled with one more outbreak of political rage virus. Many are not affected. Exposed to the agent, they nevertheless shrug it off with an eye roll or a “who cares?”, but others, many of them, tank goodness, this rage virus is not Ebola. It’s not fatal, and it can be stopped but the rage and the confusion is frightening.
The “vector”of the disease is a GoLocalProv story. The claim? That Mayor Allen Fung’s “Rhode Island is open for business” ad shows him sitting in a diner that is not physically located in Rhode Island. Some poor Rhode Island diner business has been deprived of the opportunity to be used as anonymous iconic location by an ad agency film crew. Fung is sitting in a diner in Ohio, of all places, albeit a location that has leant itself to political ads on other occasions, and not far from where Fung has raised money from Republican Donors, and met with a Nationally focused Republican group that’s helping him out. The stories’ offending comment is not as potent as a “your Momma joke” but to the Blockheads its enough to make them snap.
Measures are taken to contain the outbreak. I’m no physician, but I do what I can, posting insightful counter-agent commentary in social media. But I am opposed and harried first by ordinary cult members, who “ like” the GoLocal article. In the but In the end I am challenged by the Block campaign Coordinator. Catching his flak I know I am over the target. Bombs away.
Some respond positively too my prophylactic comments, but as GoLocalProv struggles to re-post the virus delivering story in social media without my deflating commentary, others are exposed and are clearly being overtaken by the rage virus’ illogic. They are mouthing off, electronically and on talk radio. Suddenly there is a new rule in the land of make believe: you aren’t supposed to spend any campaign money outside of Rhode Island. Who knew? They even dig up a diner owner who’s a little upset his diner wasn’t in the ad. That coulda sold a few wieners, never mind the drinks. You don’t know that?
Not all are affected. Mercifully, very few, really, very few, were affected. Very young children and infants were completely unaffected. While reading or hearing the story exposed one and made contraction of the virus possible, most adults are effectively inoculated or immunized by as little as a fourth grade education. But to those affected, the rage virus strikes fast
The afflicted Blockheads erupt in In Teretz like outbursts of “What? “ That’s not right” and “ I can’t believe it” and some Fung supporters were addled enough to offer grave Monday morning quarterbacking “ bad move..”
Principally the rage was manifest in confused logic, and odd resentments. Mayors collect a few adversaries, and the virus overstimulated them. Otherwise fine Americans, some Republicans even, experienced a sudden unexplained dislike of interstate commerce and revulsion at a rather mundane exercise of economic choice and freedom by a paying customer. It was as if VI Lenin himself had roused a mob to kill a prospering one acre peasant farmer for buying another mule instead of a state produced tractor. How dare the Fung Campaign use non-Rhode Island resources? How dare they not consult Ken Block’s new rules from the land of make them up?
The outbreak of rage virus built throughout the day. Contact with an infected computer, tablet or phone was compounded by confirmed aerosol transmission-over talk radio. Unconfirmed reports suggested that the greatest danger of infection was via exchange of bodily fluids with a Blockhead. Worse still, as if needing to be enraged about something, some Blockheads appeared to infect themselves willingly and to resist treatment.
By the end of the day, the outbreak had waned among those who had been only modestly affected, but were able to literally think through the illness.” Many realized that it was a stupid story to begin with. This is the United States., Our state boundaries and measure of economic measure of performance within those boundaries is to help us set goals, to see how we are doing. Our boundaries aren’t intended to stop us from doing business with our fellow Americans. We are Americans united for the very purpose of uniform laws in commerce and interstate commerce because it increases the prosperity that sustains a free society. If we don’t believe that free choice and merit based action in a free economy creates better goods and services and outcomes for everybody who the hell are we? If people keep thinking, they can in fact cure themselves of this latest strain of Blockhead virus.
The mechanism of the virus is as usual, an allegation without any real substance. Fung is essentially accused of ..nothing. But once implanted in the host, the virus replicates a made up rule, elevates it into a made up principle, and causes the host to become “crucially” annoyed or experience full blown spitting indignation, albeit about nothing. But why would Block and his team bother creating, weaponizing and deploying such a short lived virus? Could it be they have a plan for Rhode Island involving One Billion dollars?
Fungs campaign is annoying to Block. They aren’t that different on issues. But Block feels he’s the only guy smart enough. Block feels he is entitled to the title shot, because…I guess he doesn’t think much of actual experience in political office. I suspect he thinks a ton of experience in the software and traffic controls business.He may sincerely think he is the sort of guy who can win the seat in the final, even though a recent poll matchup with a hypothetical Tavares in the final has Block losing by a a large margin. Maybe experience in office IS a major difference. Advantage: Fung. He is arguably more experienced than anyone else in the race.
Block has more money to put into his campaign, so he probably feels that should be given weight. And, Block has now made such drastic moves that if he loses, he may always be seen as the political opportunist chameleon “back again”.
Block abandoned his Moderate party and embraced a whole bunch of conservatives he mocked in 2010. While supporter John Loughlin was in Arizona in support of the “ Arizona law,” Block called the law idiotic and xenophobic. But Block amazingly grabbed a bunch of conservative personalities in the party and co-opted them. He has more money to work with, constant support from at least two WPRO talk show hosts and yet Fung tasks him. Fung vexes him. Robitaille did not run, no doubt intimidated by Ken Block’s wallet, but Fung will not get out of the way. Somehow, Fung’s campaign was on TV first with a good positive ad. That was bad enough but then, Fung’s Blockheads ad reminded Republican primary voters that he voted for President Obama twice.
Moderate Republicans realize that Fung has actually affected conservative results with steady moderate professional insistence that put Cranston policemen into 401ks. Cranston hasn’t had a tax increase in three years. But Block simply hates Allen Fung. Otherwise, why bully Fung over the Fung’ campaigns need to get value for his donors money as efficiently as it can? Trust me, when I lay out $30.00 for two hours of unlimited bowling and some pizza, I expect maximum effort from the campaign committee. I don’t want any compromises or complications. Maybe Ken Block thinks he can demand other political campaigns pretend they are an economic development program, but in the Fung campaign a campaign is a campaign.
How far Ken Block has come from the man who claimed the mantle of “Moderate.” His campaign is at least 50% unrestrained attack on Mayor Fung who he has called a liar and accused of “collusion.” He throws the term “ political insider” at Fung with contempt and in order to incite distrust while Block himself has played a Machiavellian inside game in the Republican party, courting people he does not even admire as figurehead supporters. Now, despite his advantage of personal wealth and ability to “loan” his campaign, money, money to be paid back by a grand fundraiser in December no doubt where he to win, before appointments are made, he is in fact shown up by Fung’s adept use of the limited pool of Republican money in the state.
Fung, somehow, with a relatively small budget has like a successful small businessman, like a working son of a restaurant family, made smart investments of time and money to produce a very good looking media presence on his web page and on television. So how do you fight that? Attack Fung, a lifelong Rhode Islander, a kid who made good from Providence, a hard working kid from Providence, and tell people he doesn’t care about Rhode Island business. Really?
Maybe Fung’s production company knew the diner was accommodating and knews how to be ready for a production crew. Or, perhaps the Republican organization helping Fung was carrying the load of planning and organizing the production and they made the choices and told Ken when it was his part. Whatever. What business is that of Ken Block?
A leader cannot be a carrier or sponsor of rage virus. Real issues require a moderated voice. People don’t need provocation on fake issues. Personal ambition is not good cause.
The 28 days-before virus affected few and isn’t likely to make a difference. The ad itself is a good ad. Fung has put on a campaign that will encourage other Republicans. They will see what is possible if they can only come up with a couple of hundred thousand dollars in a state race. Fung’s campaign is really, so far, an affirmation of the little guy, and what a kid from Providence can do even though he only makes a Mayor’s pay. There’s more bona fide Rhode Island “ Hope “ in Allan Fung’s campaign than any other. Gina Raimondo and Angel Tavares have the added advantage of being Democrats in a blue state with access to lots of money Rhode Island Republicans generally don’t. They can go to one agenda forums and promise the moon while Republicans have to wonder, in front of an audience that wants to be at least “ stroked’” with some policy language,” is there nothing these folks won’t throw a bureaucracy and spending at?”
The whole faux outrage story appears to be a weaponized nervous snit using the GoLocalProv delivery system. The motivation for this story is not piety or Rhode Island’s economic welfare, it’s that the Block Campaign is worried. Fung, by all objective indicators known to date, is ahead. The likelihood that lots of independent voters are on their way to the GOP primary seems slim. If they came, the party will vote to close the primary, with reluctant keep it open types like myself really reconsidering my vote.
Fundraising looks good for Fung too. Both candidates finance information shows today a “28 days before the primary” report. Fung’s fundraising has been effective enough to keep him the frontrunner despite Bock’s personal wealth. Ken Block has about $488,000 on hand, but loans of $1,168,439.00 and the campaign as an investment shows a hole of ($680,018.83). Allan Fung’s campaign has only half of that on hand but enough to win the small RIGOP primary and then get substantial state matching funds to help with the pre November election campaign.
28 Days before the primary, Fung has $220,651.00 on hand but no liabilities. Fungs balance of $220,018 is much better than Block’s negative balance, ($680,018). Assuming Fung wins the primary and will receive state matching funds,if Fung doesn’t win he didn’t lose a lot of money, he’s still Mayor of Cranston and a credible contender for the next office he runs for. If Ken Block loses the primary, he may not do so well at the post-election fundraiser, leaving a big hole, and he’ll have to mend some fences with an RI Republican party that didn’t appreciate the level of attacks on a solid Republican Mayor.
The virus itself may have run its course. Ken Block, first Republican to join the boycott of WPRO “for our girls” was, go figure, on WPRO for the roughly estimated 121st time ( something like that, I think) since joining the boycott first, and stoking that bit of contrived rage. But, during the interview, it came out that Ken Block’s campaign has also done out of state business. The next day, WPRO was running the clip from the Tara Granahan show, and after Block admits the use of an out of state company, she asks” So what’s the big deal with Ohio?” The effect on Block’s campaign of that clip, cannot be good. It showed up the fact the story was just empty troublemaking.
All in all,like the movie 28 Days Later, when the girls escape to England in the helicopter for safety on the continent, it seems like a happy ending. The virus ran it’s course. But, join me as the lights darken. Keep you hands out of my popcorn. In our Rhode Island version, on screen, there it is the virus passes, Tara Granahans sound bite kills the outbreak, fade to black, and then again on the screen in ominous text..…28 days later. The sounds of chaotic raging return and build. Screen change. It’s primary night in Rhode Island and the election results are coming in and suddenly you are looking at some crazed angry bloody ragers like you haven’t heard since the election of Governor Lincoln Chafee. Who’ll be raging? I have a theory, but we should wait for the results.
Mike Gardiner is an attorney based in Providence, former Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, and host of the Mic Gardiner Show, Tuesdays at 6 PM.