Imagine my shock when I came back from lunch yesterday and read the following headline on the Internet:



My goodness!


For those of you not fortunate enough to live in southern New England, here’s a primer on Rhode Island politics:


This is a small crowded state, and you get to know all kinds of people here. You even get used to seeing your elected officials on the street. (A former state attorney general used to wink at me every morning in the street as we passed on our way to work. What do you suppose that was all about?)


Given the friends-neighbors-and-relations atmosphere, political mini-dynasties are everywhere. Everybody is somebody’s son, or sister, or mother, or uncle.


The two main contenders for governor at the moment are Frank Caprio (Democrat) and Lincoln Chafee (Independent). There’s a Republican too, John Robitaille, but he’s way behind in the polls, so we will disregard him for the moment. (Some other time I will explain how the governor of a heavily Democratic state can time and again be a Republican. But I digress.)


Caprio is the son of the chief judge of the Providence Municipal Court. His brother is a state representative. Caprio himself has been a state rep, a state senator, and (most recently) state treasurer. He’s earnest and very sure of himself.


Chafee is the son of former US Senator John Chafee. He was mayor of the city of Warwick, and served one term as US Senator. He’s intelligent and rather passive. He was a Rhode Island Republican – relatively liberal, especially compared to the hoot ‘n holler Republicans out in the rest of the country. Chafee is now running for governor as an independent. His campaign signs (which are the size of bedsheets) say TRUST CHAFEE. When I saw the signs, my first reaction was: “Trust Chafee to do what?”


We’re a week away from the election, and – whoo-ee! The mud is fairly flying!


Chafee has suggested an additional 1% sales tax on certain goods, to make up part of the state’s budget shortfall. Caprio has fastened on this as The Sin Against The Holy Ghost. (There’s another long story about Chafee’s father and the state income tax bound up in here, but I’m trying to keep this short.)


Then we learned a few weeks ago that Chafee’s campaign manager may have received some unemployment benefits unfairly, around the time he began working for Chafee’s campaign. This looked not so good for Chafee. Then it was pointed out the only way this information could have been leaked was by the man’s former employer, who was – surprise! – Judge Frank Caprio, the other candidate’s father. Oops!


Then the Caprio campaign started showing (and showing, and showing) a campaign commercial in which Bill Clinton gives Frank his full-throated endorsement during a public appearance. Unfortunately, Clinton lays it on so thick in his speech that it becomes uncomfortably apparent that he’s never heard of Caprio before, and is just endorsing him because he’s the Democratic candidate.


Now Obama’s in town for a political fundraiser. And Obama does not endorse Caprio.


So Caprio tells a local journalist that Obama can “take his endorsement and shove it.”


Caprio appears to be furious that he’s being painted as an insider, and seems to think that this will give him some credibility as a “maverick.” (My god, that word sticks in my throat.) He’s also very evidently furious that he’s being snubbed by Obama.


The election could go either way; it’s neck and neck, last I heard. But really: all this acrimony!


And such language!


Ladies and gentlemen, you mustn’t think that all Rhode Islanders are like that. We are a peaceful people, drinking coffee and eating donuts. We are known for giving incomprehensible directions, using landmarks that no longer exist. We are the birthplace of George M. Cohan and Nelson Eddy.


Above all, we are tactful.


Or at least we normally don’t tell the President of the United States to take his endorsement and shove it.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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