Fresh in the email inbox is the latest statement from Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D, Jamestown, Newport) regarding the DUI arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio (D, Providence, North Providence) and the “do you know who we are” remarks of his passenger Sen. Frank Ciccone (D, Providence, North Providence):
I would like to say that I am pleased to see that Senator Ruggerio has accepted responsibility for his actions. No one is above the law and everyone — including elected officials — should be respectful of individuals in the law enforcement community, particularly when they are doing their jobs. Although there seems to be a difference of opinion on the details of that night, Senator Ciccone has expressed regret for his actions that evening as well.
For a while, members of the RI press will continue to follow the story and dig up relevant details for all involved. Local talk-radio hosts will continue to express consternation at the minimal outrage and reaction that the incident sparks. And from the moment we all reprint the above statement, the story will begin to pretty much go away. As we approach the General Assembly’s budget vote, the incident will fade as if it were no more significant than the unexpected death of a woman who accused a state representative of sexual assault.
Well, the reason has a great deal to do with what is so wrong-headed about legislators’ looking to the National Popular Vote movement to increase the state’s heft during presidential campaign season. (Which, by the way, may be before the House Judiciary Committee as I type.)
There is simply no opposition in Rhode Island. The deliberate friction of a two-party system does not exist, here, and even the factional battle within the Democrat Party is largely neutralized by the alliances that bolster the state’s ruling class.
In other words, there is no group or individual who stands to gain by the errors of our political elite. If voters want more attention from national candidates, they need only vote as if a little attention might determine the allocation of our electoral votes. (As it is, it isn’t difficult to imagine a Republican presidential nominee spending his entire national war chest on RI and still failing to clinch the local victory.)
If voters want the likes of Ciccone, Ruggerio, and Paiva Weed to pay a political price for making light of drunk driving and political bullying, they need only create the possibility — or even the illusion — that some other candidates are close enough on their heels to take advantage of incumbents’ callous attitudes.
Until that day, all of the coverage in the world will amount to having a headline and something to talk about.