Rhode Island Politics and Government

By Maureen Moakley; Elmer Cornwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER EIGHT
Political Parties

Action on behalf of the underprivileged elements of society is not a common feature of a typical one-party state. More often than not, the dominant political interests of such states are so closely tied in with industrial and business interests that the rank and file of the public gets scant attention from government. This is not the case in Rhode Island.

Duane Lockard, New England State Politics (1959)

We [the Democrats] are not taking money away from poor children.

House Majority Leader George Caroulo,
1996 floor debate on welfare reform

Political parties at the turn of the century present something of a paradox. 1 While the vast majority of American states have become politically competitive, Rhode Island is one of the few states still considered a “modified one-party Democratic state.”This means that along with states like Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Maryland, the Democratic party dominates. 2 Yet, in terms of significance, the role of the parties in Rhode Island's political system has declined dramatically. A majority of the Ocean State's voters no longer identify with the two major parties; party organizations have only limited influence in the political process; and in ideological or political terms, the differences between the Republicans and Democrats at the state level are minor. Yet, absent unusual circumstances, voters continue to reelect Democrats.

The one-party dominance is nothing new. A significant characteristic of politics in the Ocean State since the Civil War has been its one-party status. As noted in other chapters, the Republicans dominated politics until the Green Revolution of 1935 when the Democrats took over state government.

-125-

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Rhode Island Politics and Government
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Series Preface xi
  • Authors' Preface xiii
  • Rhode Island Politics and Government *
  • Chapter One - Rhode Island in Transition 1
  • Chapter Two - Political Culture in the Ocean State 19
  • Chapter Three - Rhode Island and the Federal System 36
  • Chapter Four - The Constitution 50
  • Chapter Five - The General Assembly 65
  • Chapter Six - The Executive and the Administration 84
  • Chapter Seven - The Courts 108
  • Chapter Eight - Political Parties 125
  • Chapter Nine - Interest and Group Representation 144
  • Chapter Ten - Budget Politics and Policy 163
  • Chapter Eleven - The Politics of Education 178
  • Chapter Twelve - Local Government 196
  • Epilogue 213
  • General Resources 219
  • Notes 225
  • Index 241
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