May 25, 2010

One Degree of Disconnect

Marc Comtois

You grew up with the guy. Went to school together, played sports on the same teams. Went your separate ways after high school, but still saw each other every once in a while. When he ran for the legislature, you didn't think too hard about voting for him. As you got older and had kids and raised your family, you started paying a little more attention to politics.

Now, when you run into him at the ball field or church or at the kids' school, you exchange pleasantries and maybe bring up a thing or three about the economy or this bill or that issue. You're an unaffiliated, independent voter and your buddy is a Democrat, but you get the sense that he is pretty much on the same page as you: traditional kinda guy, law and order, keep taxes down, kind of live-and-let-live.

You agree, for instance, that this country has to do a better job to protect its borders. But it really wasn't a state issue. Then Arizona decided to take matters in its own hands because the Feds wouldn't. You weren't sure about all the details. We need to protect the borders, but you have some questions-you aren't sure about some of the civil liberties issues, for instance--but you could understand how Arizonans are fed up and you're willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Then you heard that a similar bill was submitted in the Rhode Island house. The other day you talked to your legislator buddy and learned that he was pretty much in favor of the bill, had some of the same questions as you and was looking forward to a good debate and hearing on the issue. Rhode Island ain't Arizona, so there would be differences, no doubt. But the debate would be worthwhile.

Except now we won't get the chance because the Speaker of the House, Gordon Fox, quashed the hearing. That's his prerogative as Speaker, of course, but it sure doesn't seem right that one person can make that kind of decision, does it?

Yet, that's the way the system works in Rhode Island. The truth is, it really wasn't one person who tabled that bill, or who tables any other bill, for that matter. In Rhode Island's political system, one guy really runs the show, and it ain't the Guvnah. It's the Speakah. He's selected and empowered by the members of his own Party who are elected by their neighbors and the people they grew up with, who consider them good guys.

That includes your buddy, who may not agree with the Speaker on more than 30% of the issues. But your buddy ran as a Democrat because that's how you do things around here. And he voted for the heir apparent to ensure that he was in "good standing" down the line, if you know what I mean. And now--not for the first time and surely not for the last--an important issue won't see the light of day because you and your buddy and the rest of Rhode Island continues to follow the same pattern, year after year.

It's only a single degree of separation between us and the Speaker. But that one degree enables us to say our guy is all right, it's the rest of 'em that are the problem. It allows us to keep fooling ourselves into thinking that our buddy ain't the problem, that we aren't the problem. Of course, the truth is we are the problem. We'll continue to help push Rhode Island down the same rutted path until we realize that the only way to shake up the system is to vote out the entrenched powers. Even our old buddies.

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Welcome to the State of Rhode Island and Providence Politburos.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at May 25, 2010 12:57 PM

Fox bent the rules so Palumbo could get a hearing on his bill even though he submitted it after deadline (to curry favor with his lawyer-lobbyist pals?). He only cancels it because he's realized, too late, what a circus he's created.
I'm sure every Speaker before Fox has pocketed bills like this, but by bending over to cut Palumbo a break before he thought wiser of it, both sides of the immigration can agree he looks pretty stupid.

Posted by: rhody at May 25, 2010 12:59 PM

Suggestion to all state Reps and Senators, put in a bill that would require additional studies to be done, with proof, when a bill is held for further study. If you're going to say that you're going to study a bill more, then do it! Don't just say you will and throw it away. When a bill is killed for further study, state what parts of it need to be studied and then study those parts, bring it back and give it a hearing and a vote. Why is that so hard? Wouldn't that be more transparent government? Heck, everyone here, send this idea to your rep and senator. I bet every single one of them has submitted a bill that got killed in this way and probably frustrated them to some degree. This would help.

Posted by: Patrick at May 25, 2010 1:42 PM

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." Will Rogers.

The state budget for 2010-2011 is scheduled for a hearing in House Finance on Thursday at high noon. At 12:05, the committee members will recive their copy of the Sub A version with the expectation that, like all good lemmings, they will vote yea and move it on to the floor for the obligitory march off the cliff and appropriate declarations of victory over ....uh..over....uh, uh, well, they will declare victory in any case!

Posted by: John at May 25, 2010 2:03 PM

Fox wanted to avoid contentious testimony from opposing camps at the hearing.Everyone knows the bill wouldn't pass the committee,but it IS the peoples' house and open debate is healthy.
I've beeen to a few of these hearings and testified and so have those diametrically opposed.What's wrong with that?Suppressing open dialogue can result in bad consequences.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 25, 2010 6:05 PM

Gordon Fox is a white man who's claimed himself black his entire life so he could gain entrance and advantage through minority status.
Is there anything else you really need to know about Gordon Fox and matters of race baiting/race based Democratic party politics?

Posted by: Tim at May 25, 2010 6:55 PM

"the only way to shake up the system is to vote out the entrenched powers. Even our old buddies."

Exactly. Fortunately, the privacy of the voting booth is sacrosanct (unless Dems decide to introduce vote-check) so no one has to know how you vote.

Posted by: Monique at May 26, 2010 7:13 AM

Great post, Marc.

I think that it's safe to say that this legislature doesn't have the cajones to do much of anything. They've seen the budget maelstrom for years and have put bandaids on it. This legislature seems more interested in staying in power than using that power to make change.

I hope we vote out our old buddies this year.

Posted by: Don Roach at May 26, 2010 7:25 AM

"I think that it's safe to say that this legislature doesn't have the cajones to do much of anything. They've seen the budget maelstrom for years and have put bandaids on it. This legislature seems more interested in staying in power than using that power to make change."

That sums it up. I'll have my popcorn out tomorrow to see the horror show.
The smoke, the mirrors, the chewing gum and caulk all plugged in to cover up the fact that 75 years of progressive economics has (inevitably) bankrupted the state.
Don't forget that the state is named after Rhodes.
Rhodes is an island---in Greece!

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at May 26, 2010 7:51 AM

I enjoyed reading Marc Comtois' article. I openly admit that I had no idea that things in R.I. are as they are politically, moreover, procedurally. I am originally from a huge 'Purple' state and now live in the deepest 'Royal/Navy Blue' known.

I quite agree with the person who posted the Will Rodgers comment because the Democrat Party is in complete disarray. At times I feel as though I am living in "Wag the Dog."

Anyway I did have a couple of issues with Marc's article. I don't believe that Arizona was doing anything 'outside' of the Constitution or, anything that would be defeated by the Supreme Court. I'm still applauding their survival tactics.

Rhode Island, of all states, should be the least 'group think' type of state. That is my only other issue...the process of goverance there, could not possibly be in the best interests of all, and that's fact.

Kindest regards,

jon-paul schilling

Posted by: jon-paul at May 31, 2010 1:58 PM

Jon-Paul, thanks for the compliment. Regarding your point on Ariz., I actually agree with you, but I wrote the piece in the "voice" of a generic, non-affiliated but leans conservative RIer (of which there are many).

Posted by: Marc Comtois at May 31, 2010 3:48 PM
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