The Dogs That Aren’t Barking


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.

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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.

  • Merle The Monster

    “the voters know their masters”- Katz

    Is Speaker Mattiello one of the masters? If so you’d better have a chat with your CEO

  • Joe Smith

    part of the problem is that the people complaining turn on each other, Just part? A pretty big part.

    State has elected GOP governor this century and might have in 2010 if Mr. Block hadn’t put his ego above the greater good. Bob Healy showed an “authentic” candidate can draw votes. Sure, Providence for various reasons is going to be like California is nationally, but the GOP has some solid areas that should translate to more local and GA positions. Don’t blame the people when the opposition can’t give them credible candidates who offer more than just “Incumbent bad” messaging.

    The GOP needs to build a coalition; start with the Libertarians and Moderates – GOP has more in common than not with those folks. GOP needs more “joint” efforts like Hunt in the recent election. Have to think like the opposition parties in a Parliamentary system – alliance building and cooperation.

    Reform the bureaucratic central committee structure. Mayor Fung’s perhaps better messaging (the ads with people from Cranston) got lost in both Gina’s barrage of Trump fan boy and Fung’s own squabbling with Trillo. I’m not going to excuse Morgan’s petulant and childish reaction to losing in the primary, but the state GOP system was stacked for Fung.

    The GOP needs to stop blaming the voters – painting them as irrational or insane only distracts from the real issues with the party itself.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I remain unconvinced that Rhode Islanders, in general, desire any change.