In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, “Silver Blaze,” Sherlock Holmes cracks the case with the observation that a dog didn’t bark during the commission of a crime. From this, he infers that the animal knew the criminal. Perhaps that explains a phenomenon that Rick DeBlois notes in a letter to the editor:
… Rhode Islanders complain about high taxes, incompetent leadership, back-door deals, cronyism, nepotism, and all the mobsters up on Smith Hill. We complain about poor roads, poor schools and a myriad of other issues that are wrong with our state.
But when the time comes to make a change, they reelect the same old gang of incompetent fools who got us here in the first place.
To be sure, part of the problem is that the people complaining turn on each other, a conundrum now personified in the person of Republican gubernatorial candidate Patricia Morgan. She spent years building up an admirable brand as a politician who responds to Rhode Islanders’ complaints and presses for change, but when primary voters didn’t pick her to be their candidate, she targeted the only alternative candidate with a chance to win.
The bigger, more-systematic problem, however, is all the dogs that aren’t barking… the voters who aren’t complaining. These are folks who don’t want anything to change because they’re getting something out of the system as it is, whether it’s a do-nothing government job, a government union perch with inflated compensation, or some kind of handout (from welfare to corporate cronyism). These voters know their masters.
Another layer of voters may sometimes growl a little, but they are easily distracted. The insiders throw them some progressive causes, some bits of identity politics, or some Trump hatred, and they happily gnaw on those meatless bones while the crime against our state persists.
It’s a fascinating state of affairs to investigate, although one needn’t be Sherlock Holmes to figure it out. Rather, where that character’s genius is truly needed is in coming up with a way to unravel the trap, because the complaints (and the bites) will multiply exponentially when necessary reforms begin to clear the fatal excesses away.