At the most recent gubernatorial debate held at The University of Rhode Island Kingston campus, presented by The Providence Journal and The Public’s Radio, Moderate Party candidate Bill Gilbert made his first prominent appearance before a statewide audience. Appealing to be recognized as “the only adult in the room,” Gilbert received applause from the diverse audience following many of his remarks, positioning himself as a fresh voice with certain defined principles and a willingness to engage in extra-partisan conversation on most issues.
The Moderate Party is the only non-major political party to have statewide ballot access in Rhode Island’s 2018 general election, brought to fruition by the 2014 performance of Moderate gubernatorial candidate Bob Healey, who racked up 22% of the statewide vote. Gilbert, who is also chairman of the party, must achieve a minimum of 5% of the vote in the upcoming 2018 election to ensure his party will retain statewide ballot access in the following election.
I recently sat down with Gilbert for an in-depth episode of The Bartholomewtown Podcast, touching on his background, where he and the Moderate Party stand on critical issues, and his perspectives on running for statewide office without major party affiliation (you can hear the entire episode here).
Bill Bartholomew: How were you able to get onto the debate stage at URI and the upcoming channel 10 debate? [Gilbert was not included in previously held gubernatorial debates].
Bill Gilbert: I meet the tests of most legitimate candidates. I’m also chairman of a legitimate party. We actually have three parties in Rhode Island. There’s only a handful of states that actually have legitimate ballot access parties. And, you know, we’re one of them. But I also think more than that, if you look at my positions and my platform, I’m a candidate that wants to talk about issues. And that’s been seriously lacking in the gubernatorial race today.
BB: There’s been a lack of coverage of many of the ‘alternative’ gubernatorial candidates by mainstream media.
BG: One of the reasons why I’m running is that I’m trying to smash the two-party system. I really believe that in today’s age of technology and how much memory costs on a computer, I don’t know why we don’t have one spot that’s made by the government where all candidates that are legitimate, have made ballot access, have received their signatures, can post videos and post their positions, and where the voters can go to one central spot. They shouldn’t have to go to all over the place. I think if everything was in one centralized location, which we could do on the state server today, I think more people might be involved in the election process because it would be easier to access that information. If you make something hard, people don’t do it. If you make it easy, people will do it a lot.
BB: What sort of coalition has the Moderate Party built besides just the obvious people who are dissatisfied members of the Democrat or Republican Parties who live in the middle politically? Have you made allies with progressives or with hard right people who also are looking to sort of break the system?
BG: I think we’re stronger than ever at this point. We’ve actually sat down with some of the current elected officials. Some of the top Democrats and Republicans have actually toyed around with the idea of switching parties to become Moderates, but you can imagine how hard that is. But I’ve had broken bread with many of the top leaders in the state talking about the future of the state.
BB: At the state office level?
BG: Yes, state office, at the highest levels. That’s ongoing.
You know Bob Plain, a very progressive journalist in Rhode Island. Bob and I, while we don’t see eye to eye, we have a pretty interesting relationship. We have each other’s cell phone number. We talk a lot. And at the same time, some of the very hardcore right wing people, we also have that kind of dialogue and relationship because I think what the Moderate Party is trying to do is show that there are certain universals that I think we all hold as humans on Earth. You know, I think of myself as just a human on Earth. I’m going around the sun with everybody else on this planet. And we all want to wake up 30 days from now, 60 days from now to a better life and a better planet.
We don’t want to pollute our waters. We don’t want to have bad drinking water. We don’t want global warming. The question is, how do we get there? But then there are those issues that do divide us. There are those issues that are those social issues. Should people be allowed to smoke pot or not smoke pot? You know, the abortion question, the old litmus tests, but the Moderate Party has tried to create a safe place where we all have universals. For when it comes to those litmus tests, those personal issues, we allow people to have differences of opinion. You don’t have to be not a moderate. You don’t have to get drummed out of the party. Why can’t we believe the debate itself is what brings people to a righteous answer? We have to have the debate. We have to be able to talk about politics over dinner, or at the water cooler. So, our party really believes that those social causes, those social issues and those litmus tests, we leave those to the individual.