R.I. economic advance and anxiety

"Anxiety" (1894), by Edvard Munch.

"Anxiety" (1894), by Edvard Munch.

From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com:

Given that Rhode Island’s economy is generally doing better than it has for years (of course the booming global economy explains much of this), that her administration has not been touched by  major scandal (yet) and that she is a very articulate and personable person (more apparent in small groups than in big ones or on TV), Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s lack of popularity surprises me.

Some of this is probably Rhode Islanders’ traditional cynicism and distrust of politicians, fueled by past scandals and tribalism. Some of it may be due to the fact that her administration has run a program to attract businesses with tax and other incentives to move to the state, causing some resentment/envy among the businesses already here. I, too, have skepticism about “bribing’’ companies to move to Rhode Island with special deals, preferring to entirely recruit on the basis of the location, quality of the physical and educational infrastructure and that vague but important thing “quality of life.’’

But in the real world, all states wave goodies to lure companies. Maybe if the six New England states agreed not to get into bidding wars with each other it would cut down on tax-incentive brandishing: Promote the region as a whole.

(To read about Vermont’s controversial business incentive program, which may have negative lessons for other New England states, please hit this link.


And of course she also has to deal with the fallout from the UHIP/Deloitte benefits-payments system disaster, variants of which happened in some other states, too.

But maybe her biggest problem is simply that many see her as a cool technocrat who doesn’t connect with them

Former Sen. and Gov. Lincoln Chafee may run against Ms. Raimondo in the Democratic primary from the left, whose members are, as with the Tea Partiers on the right of the GOP, the most enthusiastic voters. As Richard Nixon, who tended to run from the right but govern in the center  or sometimes even center-left, famously put it in a conversation with John Whitaker, an aide:

“The trouble with far-right conservatives … is that they really don’t give a damn about people and the voters sense that. Yet any Republican presidential candidate can’t stray too far from the right-wingers because they can dominate a primary and are even more important in close general elections.”

“The far-right kooks are just like the nuts on the left. They’re door-bell ringers and balloon blowers and they turn out to vote.’’