Joy in Mudville: Red Sox win World Series

But, despite the impending celebrations and duck boat parade, the political realities of the 2018 election season in Rhode Island still loom on the larger playing field

Image courtesy of Jeff Levy Twitter post

A sticker ad for the grand opening of new shooting shop and indoor gun range appeared over the headline in the Sunday, Oct. 28, edition of The Providence Journal, "Shooter kills 11 in synagogue rampage.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 10/29/18
Women voters may play a decisive role in the 2018 elections, particularly in terms of concern about health care, an under-reported trend.
When will the pending announcement of the $20 million investment in a new Innovation Campus, in partnership with URI, take place? When will The Providence Journal cover the emergence of health equity zones in Rhode Island? Where can younger voices find a place to express their views in publications in Rhode Island? Is it possible that in addition to the Red Sox winning the World Series, the New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl, the Boston Celtics will win the NBA championship, and the Boston Bruins will win the Stanley Cup? How does a community heal after gun violence?
The first phase of the Integrated Care Initiative, once known as Rhody Health Options, launched in the fall of 2013 with Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island as the sole contractor, targeting dually eligible residents of Rhode Island who received both Medicare and Medicaid, has apparently reverted back to control by the State of Rhode Island, following the decision by the R.I. General Assembly to cut funding for the program because of a lack of projected outcomes.
Lost in the coverage around UHIP and the reinvention of Medicaid has been the story of an initiative that failed. Attempts by ConvergenceRI to interview Peter Marino, the president and CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan, have been repeatedly declined. Stay tuned.

PROVIDENCE – Chris Sale struck out the side in the ninth inning as the Boston Red Sox won the World Series Sunday night, four games to one, blowing past the Los Angeles Dodgers in convincing fashion.

That is the news story that will cast a shadow larger than the proposed Fane high-rise in downtown Providence, at least for 48 hours.

But, the drunken elation of another World Series win will soon fade, as Rhode Island heads into the final daze of the 2018 election season and the competing visions for the state’s future collide, big time.

Despite the Red Sox win, it remains a somber time in the nation following the most recent mass shooting – the murders of 11 members of a Jewish congregation in Pittsburgh by a hate-spewing gunman armed with an AR 15 assault rifle, telling police after his capture how he wanted to “kill all the Jews.”

In the aftermath of the hate crime, the only thing more inexplicable, perhaps, was the decision by The Providence Journal to put a sticker advertisement for the grand opening of an exclusive shooting store, The Preserve Sporting Shoppe, on the front page above the headline of its Sunday, Oct. 28, edition: “Shooter kills 11 in shooting rampage at synagogue.”

Question: Didn’t anyone on the executive team at the GateHouse-owned newspaper proof the print edition when it came off the press? Or, were they like many Rhode Islanders, who no longer read the paper? Was there a way to alter the advertising contract?

The bottom line: the Red Sox victory celebration will brighten the spirits of many in the New England region. But the election of a lifetime awaits us, a moment of reckoning.

And, women voters, energized by health issues around the right to make personal decisions about their own health care, by the threats of gun violence, by the common experience of sexual assault, may prove to be the difference, upsetting the status quo of political patriarchy.

An unsettled, disturbing time
The week leading up to the latest mass shooting by a white man with an AR 15 assault rifle was filled with disturbing news about a terrorist attack by a bomber, who sent explosive devices to two former Presidents, one former Vice President, two sitting U.S. Senators, two current members of the U.S. House of Representatives, among others – all of which had one thing in common: they were Democrats who had been called out publicly and mocked by President Donald Trump at his campaign rallies in recent weeks. Words matter.

The alleged suspect in the attack, who was arrested last week on Friday morning, Oct. 26, had a van covered with stickers with targets over the faces of many of targets of the planned bombings.

The hate murders in Pittsburgh and the planned bombings have clearly disrupted the closing arguments that the Trump administration hoped to use to sway voters in the run up to Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, with a major focus on the existential threat of the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico, heading toward the U.S. border.

In a tweet on Friday morning, Oct. 26, Trump expressed his frustration about the changing narrative: “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on.” Bomb stuff? Really?

Even more explicit were the comments made by Rep. Martha McSally, the Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona, in response to reporters questioning her about the validity of her ad claiming that she had supported protections against pre-existing conditions, when her record told a different story. [In May of 2017, McSally reportedly stood up in a Republican conference and said, in reference to the repeal of Obamacare and with it, removal of protections for pre-existing conditions: “Let’s get this f***ing thing done.”]

“Honestly,” McSally said last week, in response to reporters’ questions wanting to talk about her health care policies, “Do you have anything [else] to talk about, like the caravan or job opportunities?”

Health care policy was apparently not the top priority of what McSally wanted to talk about, but it was on the minds of many Americans and Rhode Islanders.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch
Health care may be the hot button issue that voters care most about in the 2018 elections, particularly for women voters, nationally and in Rhode Island, but there has yet to be any substantive political reporting about the connection between health care, women voters, and turnout in the Ocean State. As best as I can determine, the topic has not made it into Nesi’s Notes or Ian Donnis’s weekly wrap on politics – or become part of the discussion on “A Lively Experiment.” Why not?

Instead, the news media, sometimes with the attention span of a flea, driven by deadline pressures, appeared to be diligently hopping from story to story to story, in the manic run up to Nov. 6.

The gubernatorial campaigns by incumbent Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, Republican Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, and Independent Joe Trillo were seemingly pulling out all the stops last week to bring their closing arguments home. [Will any of them look as good as ace Red Sox hurler Chris Sale striking out the side in the ninth inning?]

Last week, for example, Raimondo held a news conference at the groundbreaking of a new Hammetts Wharf Hotel in Newport; Fung was endorsed by Rhode Island pension fund critic Ted Siedle; and Trillo, standing in front of the ACI in Cranston, charged that the state was not cooperating with ICE, making Rhode Island “basically a sanctuary state.”

In turn, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza unveiled the Woonasquatucket Vision Plan, a proposed vision for the rehabilitation of 560 acres along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, extending from the Providence Place Mall to Olneyville Square, as part of an Urban Innovation Strategy. Elorza is facing a spirited challenge from independent Dee Dee Witman, including an ad campaign underwritten in part by a $50,000 donation from Alan Hassenfeld.

But, under reported and, for the most part, not discussed as part of the campaign, were the big policy issues around the future of health and health care delivery in Rhode Island – hospital consolidation, health equity zones, neighborhood health stations, access to mental health services, accountable entities under Medicaid managed care, and harm reduction strategies as part of the new strategic plan to combat drug ODs.

Also under reported and not discussed as part of the campaign were the strategies behind investments in the innovation economy and its regional nature, the future growth strategies for investments in the academic research enterprise, the pending investment of $20 million in a new Innovation Campus in partnership with URI, the dire need by the state to invest in more affordable housing, and challenges to the state’s policies to ramp up investments in climate change resilience and to reduce investments in fossil fuel driven power plants and facilities.

What voters care most about
ConvergenceRI has no crystal ball; I do not engage in soothsaying. But whatever the election outcomes, political pundits would do well to look more deeply into the decisive nature in the role that women voters played in the 2018 elections, particularly around issues of health care, and their connection to voter turnout.

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