Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo: a Case Study in Democratic Perfidy in the Current Rebellion

By now the mainstream press is polluted with the noxious lie that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, styled as a beatific mediatrix, bound up the wounds of racism on June 5, 2020, interceding on behalf of those poor misguided protesters to avert a calamity nearly perpetrated by the police and National Guard.

This is symptomatic of a wider trend in the neoliberal discourse and policy labs. Five years ago, upon confrontation by activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter, Democratic Party presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were both visibly flummoxed by their respective public zaps. The Vermont Senator made an ass of himself in Seattle while Clinton engaged in a finger-wagging scold of empty rhetoric. Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report wrote “#BLM’s leadership is either confused as to the nature of political demands, or has decided to reject the most fundamental lessons of mass movement politics – indeed, of human social dynamics. Political movements are defined by their core demands. The video of #BLM’s closed-door encounter with Clinton in New Hampshire, August 11 – after the five activists had been prevented from attending and, presumably, disrupting her campaign event – should become a staple for future political education classes on what happens when would-be movement operatives enter the lion’s den unarmed with political demands: they are humiliated and eaten alive.” [1]

Now in 2020 the Democrats have wrapped their heads around how to turn the slogan into a branding tool, a rhetorical device in service of the 2020 campaign slate. We can now expect for Dems of all political stripes to proclaim that Black Lives Matter so we must vote for Joe Biden. A banner lofted above a polity with radical aspirations is being transformed before our eyes into a Madison Avenue-endorsed slogan, including none other than titanic Wall Street criminal Jamie Dimon and maniacal austerity monger Sen. Mitt Romney, who quite literally says one week that Black Lives Matter and then in the next rolls out legislation to gut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, three lackluster and already-deficient pillars for upholding low-income BIPOC quality of living standards. [2]

Raimondo’s behavior on June 5 demonstrated the moral absurdity of such a posture. It was a multimedia display suitable for a Classical Hollywood Cinema epic (perhaps the most fitting equation is with Gone With the Wind?)

Never mind that her cynical photo op after the BIPOC-led youth rally actually caused a dispersing crowd to re-assemble, thereby leading to the arrest of several activists later that night.

Never mind that she was the one who put armed-to-the-teeth troops and police in full SWAT gear onto the streets, a striking contrast with several weeks prior when xenophobic Trumpkins howling for her to reopen the economy showed up with no armed guards in the wings (even though we all know the Ocean State Trumpkins are gun fanatics).

Never mind that the protest was authorized by her to be dispersed with tear gas, long range acoustic devices (LRADS), and troops who looked like they were ready to blitz into Fallujah, including armored Humvees and other accouterments.

And certainly pay no mind to how she allowed the South Providence hurricane barriers to be opened, thereby flooding with sludge Waterplace Park’s walkways beside the Providence River that otherwise would have granted adequate allowance for the crowd to disperse in reduced concentration more rapidly.

During the week leading up to this event, it was announced that the state takeover of the Providence school district was continuing with a further round of layoffs, including clerks, secretaries, and school culture coordinators, BIPOC educators dedicated to alleviating the tensions between the majority-white faculty of schools and the majority-BIPOC student body. For Gina Raimondo, Black Lives Matter but Black jobs don’t.

We are seeing this farcical development nationwide. Did I espy Nancy Pelosi in kente cloth taking a knee in mock memorial of George Floyd? She instead should be on her knees begging forgiveness of Black homeowners, who saw the greatest loss of property ownership in 2007-09 since Reconstruction while the banks responsible for this larceny got bailed out by her.

Certain conspiracist elements of the media ecosphere see this all as one big Eastern European Color Revolution, intending to oust Trump in something of a coup and return a Democrat to the Oval Office.

It is not my place to engage in a critique of Black elected officials, one can simply read Black Agenda Report for that brilliant explication. However, it certainly is undeniable that the Democratic burlesque we bear witness to these days will be one for the record books. The neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party is trying to turn Black Lives Matter from a slogan into a platform plank that will have no accountable enforcement.

Perhaps the finest metric of how neoliberalism is seeking to co-opt this political moment is borne out by the following photo essay. It clearly demonstrates the adaptive capacities of capital outlined in The Communist Manifesto as well as the supremacy of private property within the matrix of neoliberal economics, the so-called FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) sector described by Michael Hudson.

Broadway, once a major thoroughfare of the BIPOC-majority West End in Providence, has been successfully gentrified over the past two decades into a majority-white middle class hipster locale. The blacktop is fresh, includes a spacious bike lane, and rents are on the upswing.

The Grange, at the corner of Broadway and Dean Street, is a newer vegetarian restaurant, known for attracting a diverse, swanky clientele. In the lead-up to the June 5 rally, businesses across town boarded up their windows and essentially went into a lockdown mode appropriate for the London blitz of 1940-41. Days later, when the boards were taken down, businesses that blockaded themselves against the rebellion were sporting BLACK LIVES MATTER signage in their windows, including The Grange.

The hypocritical, blatant liberal racism is manifest. For these small businesses, Black lives are tokenized, worthy of alienated adulation and sanctification but not up-close-and-personal trust. Black protesters are beautiful until they head in the direction of your storefront, at which point they become hordes of faceless rioting marauders.

Capital doesn’t actually believe Black Lives Matter, they just know a great slogan when they see one, something Gina Raimondo has clued into. Now she is embracing the removal of the word “Plantations” from the state name [3], much as other Democrats nationwide are latching on to other causes for their own cynical gains.

One can only imagine the way Trump will utilize this one on the campaign trail, articulating a grand conspiracy wherein Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, DSA, AntiFa, Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, Cultural Marxism, and gender pronouns are coming to pillage the land.

The stage productions in the wings from both political parties we shall be subject to over the coming 130 days prior to Election Day will rival the wildest dreams of Walt Disney. Furthermore, they shall both reflect, in their own way, politics quite approximate to that union-busting racist cartoonist.

And all the while, both parties will make this ongoing rebellion into a caricature to serve their cynical ends while perpetuating conditions that systemically dictate that BIPOC lives don’t matter.





Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.