Theodore Vecchio: Finding a Definition for Rhode Island Governance


In less than a fortnight, the newest version of the RhodeWorks plan has been debated, passed both finance committees in the General Assembly, been voted on both chamber floors, and signed into law.  Supporters claim the process has been going on for eight months or longer, indicating that there were (and still are) some major issues with earlier versions.  Yet apparently, according to the majority of both chambers, the adjusted plan has answered and satisfied them enough to pass in overwhelming fashion.

Now, I would ask you to set aside the actual proposal for a brief moment.  Forget about all of its flaws, its lies, and most importantly its promises.  Let us just look at the injustice that is our government.  It is billed as a representative democracy.  There are varying definitions to that term, but all of them can be represented by the below definition as found via Wikipedia:

Representative democracy (also indirect democracy or psephocracy) is a variety of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.

The key to this form of democracy is representation. Several elected officials have stated, on the record, that they have received emails numbering the hundreds in addition to phone calls, letters, and social communications in opposition to this issue.  We have had peaceful protests along the State House roads regarding the issue.  We have had small and large business community members stand up against the issue.  National groups have voiced their disapproval of it.  Yet, all of us have been ignored.  Laughed at.  Proverbially spat on.

Elected officials have actually claimed that the people who speak up know little about the issue.  That a hardworking Rhode Islander who tunes in to the radio on his way to and from his 60 hour a week job can’t possibly have any true knowledge.  They’ve displayed arrogance such as proclaiming huge victories in previous elections with no fear of opposition.  Intimidation.  Ignorance.  I could go on and on.

It is convenient for elected officials to call individuals and agencies that oppose their views a “vocal minority.” It is just as convenient for them to cite the same individuals and agencies as supporters when beneficial to their view.  Vocal Minority … the idea itself is preposterous, and the language is not representative of the people in this state; it’s only representative of the official who rationalizes his/her decision making. This is a failure of the system no matter what the issue is.

It is also well known that the “show” that is the Senate and House floor debates is just simply that.  We have seen during this particular process that no matter what opposing officials say, they will be silenced, literally and figuratively.  There is no respect for proper debate.  There is no respect for opposing views.  As a result, there is no respect for the people of the state.  Deals are made; votes are secured outside of the floor, which itself goes against the idea of transparent government and representative democracy.  We have witnessed many disrespectful, intimidating acts over the past two weeks.  Imagine what we do not see.

I am disgusted and embarrassed that when the people unite on an issue, no matter what the issue is, we would be ignored.  This is not representative democracy; it isn’t a variety of democracy, it’s more like:

arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.

Also known as tyranny.