Tuesday’s paper offered an interesting side-by-side comparison of two worldviews on facing pages of the commentary section. All the way to the right of the two-page spread, Edward Achorn argues that Sen. Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio’s arrest is part of an unhealthy pattern among RI legislators:
In recent years, one lawmaker after another has been charged with crimes, some sent to prison. Voters, long conditioned to accept bad behavior, seem to shrug and accept it. Last week, I heard many Rhode Islanders laugh and say nothing will happen here. Leaders seem utterly unconcerned about the message they send by accepting lawlessness and corruption as mere “distractions.”…
Under such a system, those who are not members of the insiders’ club see little point in participating in government. They watch good people here get savagely attacked, by well-funded special interests and others, for promoting better government.
On the left-hand page an embarrassing unsigned editorial preaches to Rhode Islanders about the worldview of people in the “South and Southwest.” The essay gives the impression of having been inspired by a couple of clips shown on Bill Maher’s latest show, and it strains to drag conservative presidential candidate Rick Santorum into the mix. Here’s the part that’s relevant to my purposes, with this post:
… those people tend to be more economically and socially anxious than people in the rest of the country, and thus more likely to lash out at someone; and it’s always easier to lash out against “the government” than anything else. They also are good targets for political demagogues, who themselves or whose backers benefit from current public policies that favor the rich. They would, of course, like those policies to favor them even more and so they use rhetoric against “the government” to get their taxes cut even further.
So, we have Achorn citing a specific instance of a government official’s bad behavior with minimal consequences, breeding cynicism and apathy. And we have an anonymous editorialist broadly maligning an entire segment of the population as manipulated by demagogues, presumably to support particular candidates for office.
What, one wonders, keeps the Rhode Island crew in their government seats? (In Ruggerio’s case, he’s a powerful senator with a deep, occupational relationship with labor unions.) And is the unsigned editorial a sort of preemptive example of the “savage attacks” that Achorn describe facing “good people” who push back against the government “insider’s club”?