On his own blog, frequent commenter Dan has the novel idea that Providence should elect Buddy Cianci as mayor again in order “to follow the uber-successful sex-tape stars of reality television by leveraging its source of embarrassment into a cause celebre and tourism boon.” I’d be interested in details about how a city could monetize such a thing… at least if the broader society is the reference point, not just insiders and a filmmaker or two.
It’s the basis for Dan’s suggestion, though, that merits serious conversation:
Reputations are fragile things, to the extent where a single bad act can overshadow a lifetime of otherwise laudable behavior. Like the perpetually struggling economies of former Soviet-bloc states, Providence has, for all practical purposes, passed the point of no return. It has missed the mark so consistently and in so many respects, that it could take generations to fill in the hole it has dug before building something positive in the space would even be possible. In the face of such an intractable position, the only rational course of action is to keep digging in the hope of striking oil.
As I’ve been saying, the possibility of a Cianci comeback is nothing so much as an indictment of Rhode Island’s political class and broader civic society, and their inability to produce leaders who don’t make voters feel as if they’re rolling the dice. Partly, that’s a consequence of the speed at which politicians feel like they should climb the ladder: From the current mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, to every Republican candidate for Congress, Rhode Islanders run for the highest office that doesn’t threaten laughter, not the one in which they have the most knowledge and likelihood of accomplishing good things.
Perhaps more, however, it’s yet another indication of the state’s decline. Most of the people who would run for office with the intention of setting things right have given up. Either they leave, or they calculate that they’re better off staying out of the political fight.
In that regard, members of the local establishment and media who lament Cianci’s history of corruption should look in the mirror. The state wouldn’t be in this condition if they weren’t in on it.