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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Right-wing meltdown

Rhode Island political groups on the far-right-wing fringe seem to be undergoing a kind of traumatic breakdown.

Some signs of that breakdown from just the past month:

All social movements, right or left, go through periods of trouble and confusion. But in the generally well-financed world of right-wing politics, such periods seem to happen less frequently than on the left, where we’re used to fighting with each other and screwing up. Right-wingers tend to be more corporatist.

In a year when right-wing candidates are declaring early and coming on strong, the best the right can come up with in Rhode Island so far is a nutcase like Barry Hinckley to run against Senator Whitehouse and a confused field to run against potentially vulnerable First District Democrat Rep. David Cicilline.

When the Tea Party and the RI Statewide Coalition aren’t busy having fits, the best they can do is scream about “union thugs,” casting one of the teachers’ union, NEARI, as the epitome of evil.

As in Harriet Lloyd’s recently debunked claim that the NEARI exploded a bomb outside her Shelter Harbor house – an event that left no evidence for the Westerly Police, Dunn’s Corner Fire District, or the federal ATF to find.

Various Tea Party groups took a time-out from their in-fighting and schism to demand the General Assembly DO SOMETHING about union goons – like whoever set off the non-existent bomb outside Harriet’s house or that evil NEARI goon John Leidecker who allegedly sent a few prank e-mails to former state rep Douglas Gablinske of Bristol.

While Tea Party founder Colleen Conley was off somewhere for two months shooting a video on “Fixing America” with former Cranston Mayor/failed Senate candidate/full-time Colorado cow and horse rancher Steve Laffey, her organization split into two large pieces and who knows how many tiny fragments.

Naturally, Conley claims that “we’re getting stronger” and despite the public divorce, the two now divided camps still love each other and will stand shoulder to shoulder. That’s even though most of the RI Tea Party board members left to form the new Ocean State Tea Party in Action. Says Conley, “nothing to see here, folks, so just move along.”

The Ocean State Research Policy Institute crack-up was one that gave me a certain amount of personal satisfaction. My research on OSPRI’s completely false claims about wasteful federal spending in Charlestown led to a ProJo Politifacts investigation that found many more fatal flaws in OSPRI’s most recent (and last) study.

For the second time this year, Politifacts branded an OSPRI study as “False.” The first was OSPRI’s much-heralded study that estate taxes were causing a mass exodus of rich people when census data actually showed the opposite.

Shortly after that, the OSPRI board fired founder and executive director Bill Felkner of Hopkinton and announced the Institute would close.

Speaking of false statements, Rep. Doreen Costa earned herself a nice “False” rating by ProJo Politifacts for her wacky claim that requiring drug testing for welfare recipients will save a lot of money. It won’t. According to Politifacts, Costa claimed "The studies have shown us that it will be saving us money, but we don't have the exact amount," Costa said on WHJJ's Helen Glover Show. "If we could save the state $10,000, I'll take it. If we could save them a million, I'll take it. We have to start somewhere."

The problem for Doreen is that the studies DON’T show any such savings at all. In fact, the studies consistently show such programs would cost far more than any potential savings. We’ve featured Costa in Progressive Charlestown reports before, mainly because she’s both consistently wrong and unintentionally funny. But enough is enough already. She’s a freshman House member and we sure hope North Kingstown voters don’t allow her to become a sophomore.

Two important media outlets for right-wing groups are the blog, Anchor Rising, and GoLocalProv news editor Stephen Beale. Anchor Rising has been the only exclusively right-wing blog of note in the state. But recently its founder Justin Katz noted that the money just isn’t coming in, so Anchor Rising will have to scale back a lot of its content. Funny thing is, at Progressive Charlestown, we didn’t know a local political blog was supposed to make money.

And Stephen Beale has been Rhode Island’s top scribe on the doings within right-wing groups. But lately, he’s gone way overboard and perhaps his Steve Laffey for President “exclusive” may have been over the top for his editors. Ian Donnis at WRNI reported on Beale’s departure and on GoLocalProv’s statement that Beale was going off to graduate school and would still contribute from time to time. We’ll see.

In sum, it’s not just the screw-ups and mistakes that would worry me if I was a Rhode Island right-winger, it’s the structural problems.

Author: Will Collette