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Apple '21: Rhode Island Democrats are no true Democrats at all

With Democrats in control of all three branches of the Rhode Island state government, Rhode Island appears to be a true blue state and a progressive model to the rest of America. Yet Rhode Island is in crisis: it has the worst infrastructure in the country, and its 2019 Fiscal Year budget called for roughly $300 million in cuts to Medicaid. So how is it that a blue state could have utterly failed its citizens? Rhode Island’s problems may seem at first glance to cast doubt on the efficacy of left-wing government, but we must recognize that this government is not really left-wing.

While Democrats may run Rhode Island, they are actually old-school conservatives, who could run as Republicans if they did not have to run as Democrats to win over Rhode Island’s liberal constituency. These conservative Democrats, prevalent in many blue cities, have stifled the true potential of Rhode Island as a progressive blueprint for the rest of the country.

Perhaps the greatest example of Rhode Island Democrats’ faux-liberalism is so-called Democrats’ abortion platforms. With a conservative majority in the Supreme Court, the future of Roe v. Wade is on the line. Yet it took until June 2019 for a Rhode Island bill — the Reproductive Privacy Act — to protect a woman’s right to choose, a bulwark against the repercussions of a potential repeal to Roe v. Wade. The conservative Democrats in Rhode Island mainly took on a common refrain — that Roe v. Wade was not in danger — and therefore claimed it was unnecessary to codify it into state law. But Harold Metts of the Rhode Island Senate, a Baptist minister and former educator, betrayed another underlying motive for failing to protect abortion rights for so long. On the Senate floor, Metts asked, “Who favors abortion more, God or Satan?” before claiming that only God should have control over our bodies. After the bill passed the House, it took two tries before passing the Senate in a close vote, where over one third of Senate Democrats voted against protecting a woman’s right to choose. It was then finally signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo. The members of this conservative machine are no more liberal on other issues. In 2011, Metts sponsored a bill that would require people to bring identification in order to vote. Metts argued that he sponsored the bill upon request from his Hispanic and Black constituents, who make up the majority of his district. When confronted with studies showing that only one out of 30 million votes is fraudulent, and that Latinx and Black voters are deeply disenfranchised by voter identification laws, Metts responded: “While I’m sensitive to the concerns raised, at this point I am more interested in doing the right thing and stopping voter fraud.” In essence, Metts decided that it was worth it to disenfranchise some of his constituents in order to prevent a statistically neglible number of voter fraud cases in all of Rhode Island.

But it is not all doom and gloom for Rhode Island’s future. The Rhode Island Political Cooperative is a group of over 15 candidates challenging conservative Democrats and Republicans to push for a more progressive Rhode Island. One member of this group, Tiara Mack ’16, is running against the aforementioned Harold Metts for state senate. I understand the need for the Democratic Party to be a big tent party, one which can reel in former Republicans like presumptive Kansas Senate nominee Barbara Bollier, or can support John Bel Edwards, the pro-gun, pro-life Governor, as he wins reelection in ruby red Louisiana. But Rhode Island is not Louisiana. Its constituents are mostly liberal, which is why Gina Raimondo, whose approval rating is 20 points underwater in the state, coasted to a 15 point win in 2018 against her Republican opponent.

While the Rhode Island Republicans advocate for horrible policies, they at least have the guts to admit their party affiliation. On the other hand, the pseudo-Democrats who advocate for conservative policies while hiding behind the party label epitomize the worst of politics. In their self-seeking opportunism, they are the antithesis of what representatives of our country should be. With redistricting coming up, and another chance for conservative Democrats to draw the lines in their favor, 2020 is perhaps the last chance to elect a legislature whose Democrats actually supports liberal policies — one that truly represents Rhode Island’s progressive values. For those who support true representative democracy and the actual ideals of the Democratic party, there is only one choice: mobilize now in support of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative.

Caleb Apple ’21, a worker for the Tiara Mack campaign, can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and op-eds to



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