Toward a Non-Pixelated Movement
Believe me that I tried, as the comments on the Laffey Photoshop controversy trickled in yesterday, to convince myself that I was making a flaw out of a quirk. Believe me, too, that I’m not altogether happy about the contrast between these posts and the more substantive ones that others are publishing around them. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something just, well, off about doctoring those photos. Perhaps not doctoring them so much as keeping them available on a campaign Web site after having done so.
I’m far from tepid in my desire to unseat the faction of Rhode Island Republicans who hold on to what power they have in part through convenient definition of what a Senator — specifically, a Senator for Rhode Island — “needs to be.” But there are certain qualities that a prominent representative must project in order to be effective. Maturity and a modicum of magnanimity are among them; such representatives must have the ability to coat their barbs with an intelligence and cleverness that ups the rhetorical ante, rather than lowering the political dialogue.
The two times that I’ve heard him speak, Mayor Laffey evinced a fondness for comparing himself to Ronald Reagan. It’s a comparison that many of his supporters long to be accurate, and I worry that, in our desire for a conservative stalwart to succeed by making the case for policies that we believe to be just, effective, and even compassionate, we may be marrying our cause to the first candidate to successfully identify that political opportunity. In local races, the flirtation was enough. When it comes to the U.S. Senate, we should husband our growing political capital until the real thing comes along.
Rhode Island conservatives aren’t there yet. I happen to believe that allowing Linc Chafee to lose his seat will bring us closer to our goal, but I’m not so sure that attempting to give it to Steve Laffey isn’t setting us back.
After Mayor Laffey had given his speech at a gathering of Portsmouth Republicans back in February, event organizer Deborah Mitchell Young introduced him to the two bloggers whom she’d invited: me and Rocco DiPippo. After a minute or two of observing Rocco being his magnificently exuberant self, Laffey grabbed Deborah’s arm and pulled her a few steps away as if to discuss some minor scheduling detail that would be of no interest to the rest of us. A moment later, the transitionary move having been made, he simply slipped away.
He was enough of a politician to know to step away from those who offer only gusto in a room full of the influential. But he was not enough of a politician — and not genuinely interested enough in his potential base of supporters — to find a way to leave behind a sense of having been acknowledged, rather than left hanging.
As a movement, Rhode Island conservatives aren’t yet sufficiently corporeal that we can afford to be pixelated.