The gubernatorial race in Rhode Island between state treasurer Gina Raimondo (D) and Cranston mayor Allan Fung (R) is surprisingly close.
One candidate has been heralded by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page for pension reforms, including slashing retirement income for public employees and directing pension investments toward the hedge fund industry without consulting the public employee unions.
The other candidate, while introducing a different pension overhaul, promised to hear out the unions and said, “under my administration, they’ll always have a seat across the table.”
Can you match the descriptions to the correct candidate?
Raimondo, who is supposed to be a Democrat, is the one responsible for the ridiculously unpopular restructuring of the state employees’ pension plans, and Fung, the Republican, is the candidate who says he’ll work with labor unions.
A Brown University poll has the two candidates “statistically tied.” And as Luke Brinker, Salon’s deputy politics editor, pointed out, “Raimondo’s vulnerability heading into tomorrow’s election underscores the political pitfalls for Democrats of pursuing policies that please plutocrats and other Very Serious People at the expense of the common good.”
“…we know that the center-right’s economic agenda is bad policy,” wrote Brinker. “But Democratic centrists insist that it makes for smart politics; you don’t want to open yourself up to attacks that you’re a dirty pinko liberal, after all.”
The problem is that populist economic policies appeal to more people right now: people don’t want Social Security cut, they think income inequality is a real problem, and they want tougher regulations on banks and Wall Street.
And the GOP has realized that Democratic candidates across the country are alienating their base by moving to the Right on the economy, and they’ve wasted no time capitalizing on the voters’ frustration.
“Republicans … are hammering Democratic incumbents over their support for changes to Social Security and Medicare,” said Brinker.
“Democrats on the receiving end of such attacks include North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, California Rep. Scott Peters, Georgia Rep. John Barrow, and Arizona Rep. Ron Barber. In Barber’s district, the Arizona GOP distributed a flier last week that asked, ‘What makes Ron Barber so scary?’ The answer? ‘His vote for the terrifying Paul Ryan budget.’ The flier described the plan Barber voted for … as a ‘bone-chilling’ proposal to ‘cut vital assistance programs.’”
Granted, none of the Republican candidates are “champions of economic populism” and would likely try and push through even more cuts, but they are using the Democratic shift away from populist policies to their advantage.
Today’s results will show just how fed up voters on the Left have gotten with candidates who continue to push policies that go against the party’s core values. Brinker summed it up perfectly in his column: “…laudatory editorials from the Wall Street Journal don’t win elections. Abandoning core principles and essential programs can help lose them, however.”