Thought I’d link to an interesting analysis of the political situation behind the Rhode Island State Senate vote on gay marriage this week. It is interesting because, our neighbors ‘down south’ have a unique debate that parallels the political landscape in Massachusetts in the 1950s.
The Senate has always been the biggest challenge in Rhode Island; the leadership opposes the measure, and two years ago, a similar bill died when it became clear it couldn’t get through the upper chamber. But this year, advocates expect a very different outcome. As if to highlight the shift, on Tuesday, in advance of the bill, the minority caucus in the Senate came out with a unanimous show of support.
It’s the first time any caucus in any state has shown such a united front. More surprising? It’s the Republican caucus. Meanwhile it’s been Democratic Senate leadership that’s posed the largest threat to marriage equality in the state.
Read on and we see the parallels. WASP moderate Republicans with names like Hodgson and Newberry are opposing socially conservative white ethnic Catholic Democrats with names like Teresa Paiva. Tip O’Neil recounted in his memoir that his best political triumph came at the expense of his principles. In the 1952 elections Tip was trying to help get Jack Kennedy elected to the Senate over Henry Cabot Lodge as well as get the State House to flip to Democratic control after 35 years of Republican dominance. He slipped a birth control legalization amendment on the ballot knowing Planned Parenthood (recently co-founded by Sen. Prescott Bush) would endorse it and force their Republican allies to back it while ginning up the Archdiocese and every member of every parish to go to the polls and vote out WASPs and vote Tip and Jackie in. It worked. Apparently our neighbor down south is stuck in a time warp.