Inside Scoop On How Rhode Island Democratic Party Made National News (For Worst Reasons)


I have lived in Rhode Island for over three decades now and am well acquainted with its demented Democratic Party. So when Slate magazine ran a column titled Why Did the Rhode Island Democratic Party Endorse an Alt-Right Supporter Over a Progressive Incumbent?, my ears perked up, especially as I have known many of the principals for multiple decades.

The skinny on this is quite simple. The leadership of the Democrats, the dominant party on all levels of government, endorsed a slew of white men over women candidates, some of them incumbents, in an obvious bid to stem the state’s ongoing upsurge in progressive-left political activism. (Seen since Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary by a landslide and street protests within 24 hours of Donald Trump’s victory).

In a state where it is not uncommon to encounter Dems who oppose abortion, call undocumented workers “illegals”, and dragged out the fight over same sex marriage for far too long, this came as no surprise.

Bob Plain at Rhode Island Future (full disclosure: I used to write for him) succinctly summed up the situation: “Reps. Moira Walsh and Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, both Providence House members, and Sen. Jeanine Calkin, of Warwick, aren’t the endorsed candidates in their races. They are the only incumbents who didn’t win the endorsement of the state Democratic Party.” Along with these incumbents they also skipped over Bridget Geraci Valverde and Belen Florez, who were running to the left of two other male candidates.

The Slate story referred to the Rhode Island Democratic Party’s endorsement of a challenger Michael Earnheart — see more below — over incumbent Walsh. The latter is a working class single mom who was a waitress and organizer around the Providence restaurant industry prior to running for office in 2016.

Ranglin-Vassell immigrated from Jamaica and holds a M.Ed in Special Education from Providence College. Calkin came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign as an insurgent who beat her incumbent opponent by 75 votes.

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Now here’s the inside scoop based on all my years living here:

Chairman Mac and Nicky Walnuts

The gruesome twosome in the lead of the fracas are Democratic Party chair Joe McNamara and Speaker of the House Nick Mattiello, who is designated by the Rhode Island Constitution as the most powerful politician in the entire state, able to overrule even the governor. Mattiello ascended to his current leadership position at the end of March 2014 following a State Police raid on the offices of his predecessor, Gordon Fox. The successor was selected at a closed-door Dems-exclusive conclave so Chairman Mac was directly involved in the process. As someone whose mother is both Irish and Italian, I understand these two personalities very well.

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McNamara has been my State Representative for decades, as well as a neighbor. His son and I were in the same classes at school, we were in the same Boy Scouts troop together, and our families went to the same Catholic parish. He is your typical Irish machine Democrat, an amicable personality who is inclined to avoid open conflict while asserting control.

The Progressive caucus has long been a thorn in his side and called out Democratic leadership and politicians for bad behavior, McNamara has responded by saying he is chair of a “big tent” party.

Mattiello, whose district is within walking distance of McNamara’s, is another story. He projects a macho Italian persona that is shamelessly white supremacist and obnoxiously misogynist. In November 2016, in the midst of a hotly-contested race that he nearly lost, Mattiello’s campaign distributed xenophobic mailers throughout his district to shore up votes. Before that, he’s been adamant about social safety net cuts and other bail-outs for the rich. He’s the worst sort of thug imaginable and has a striking resemblance to Paulie Walnuts on The Sopranos, hence this video I made several years ago.

To further elaborate on the situation, I sat down for a telephone interview with Bruce “Rudy Cheeks” McCrae, longtime political humor columnist and local legend in the music and radio world. As co-author with Chip Young of Phillipe and Jorge’s Cool Cool World, he has poked fun at the state’s awful lawmakers for decades.

Bruce “Rudy Cheeks” McCrae

The Case of Mike Earnheart 

Earnheart. Image from Facebook campaign site.

I first met Mike Earnheart, a typical privileged brat, in 2005 at the school newspaper in my freshman year at Rhode Island College. His meddling alienated many, to the point the organization voted to oust him from the membership.

As I encountered him on and off around Providence over the years, mostly in coffee shops and other locations where hipster pseudo-intellectuals congregate, he very obviously had worked to make himself over with a chic wardrobe from Abercrombie and hats one usually finds on old golfers.

As Slate wrote of Earnheart: “An archived version of Earnheart’s Twitter page accessible on the Wayback Machine and surfaced by the group Organize Rhode Island also features retweets of posts by Roseanne Barr, Donald Trump Jr., Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich, and alt-right journalist Laura Loomer. Earnheart also made Islamophobic comments over a retweet of a post by alt-right figure Gavin McInnes about ‘Muslim pedophiles.’ ‘We are normalizing grooming gangs and creating and lending legitimacy to rape culture by allowing these garbage human beings to live in civilized society’,” he wrote. “Is the UK government actually stupid?”

Last year, a third-rate talk radio hack named John DePetro, in a blatant bid to rescue his floundering career, decided to hold a ‘Make America Great Again Rally’ at the State House in Providence, an event which brought out everyone from Tea Partying soccer moms to shameless neo-Nazis.

In response, the activist community held an in-your-face counter-protest that made it impossible for a single word spoken by the MAGA hatters to be heard. In the midst of all this Earnheart was to be found antagonizing and mocking his opponents.

Photo by Steve Ahlquist,

As the news of his endorsement spread across social media, progressives throughout the state posted screenshots from his previous two years of alt-right trolling behavior online.

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Update July 5:

Stay classy, Male Democrats!

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