Is it me, or does it seem as if Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo and her collection of well-paid communications and public relations personnel have been sticking with the “stay positive and move forward” line a bit too much? Whether the subject of controversy is tolls or a botched marketing campaign roll-out, it seems the line is, “We’re excited to be doing what our talking points say we’re doing, and we’re not going to hold back the state by responding to people with legitimate concerns now that we’ve won the political fight.” In this case, spokeswoman Marie Aberger put it this way:
The Governor is excited we are moving forward with a coordinated, statewide, marketing effort to get our state in the game, drive tourism, attract business, and grow our economy.
She then goes on to suggest that all of the attention the mess-ups have brought to Rhode Island is a “bright side.” After a year of having this face turned to it, the Rhode Island public would be justified in feeling as if the governor doesn’t quite subscribe to the “the people are the bosses” philosophy of representative democracy.
In fact, the public’s impression should go a bit farther. Addressing the marketing controversy with Dan Jaehnig, Raimondo’s response about the outright error of using Icelandic video in the Rhode Island advertisement was inadvertently telling:
Look, [the production firm] made a mistake. People make mistakes. We’re going to hold them accountable. It was a local firm.
As if it would be unreasonable to expect a local Rhode Island firm to do its job. That’s the sort of redirection of blame one would give to investment bigwigs outside of the state, who might be sympathetic that the governor had to use some small local businesses for political reasons, and that some sacrifice of quality was to be expected.
That’s not leadership. Leadership is not blaming the firm for failing to follow “explicit instructions.” Leadership would be stating that mistakes happen and acknowledging that the bigger responsibility falls on the managers within the governor’s administration who didn’t check that their “explicit instructions” were followed by requiring the production company to explain from where in the state each and every clip originated.
But that sort of leadership might draw even more attention to Raimondo’s out-of-state hires, and it’s beginning to appear that Rhode Island’s governor is more invested in the competence of the national and international elite that puts her on a top-50 world leaders list than the competence of the people of her state.
This perspective permeates not only her public relations approach, but also her attitude toward policy. The economic development vision of the Brookings Institution/RhodeMap central planners, for example, is for state, national, and international “experts” to design our communities for us and then push us toward careers that suit their peers in the private sector. It starts with them, their beliefs, and their visions, forcing us to fit as best we can rather than starting with our dreams and capabilities.