Politicians Among The People

Like many communities, North Kingstown offers a summer series of children’s concerts or shows for families to get together and enjoy whilst enjoying a picnic. North Kingstown’s are at the Town Beach on Thursday evenings and my family has been going for three years now. It is especially convenient as I work in NK and the proximity to the Town Beach allows some bonus family time for me that would otherwise be spent in my commute back to Warwick.
This past Thursday, the act was the Little Red Wagon troup out of the University of New Hampshire. The five college kids that comprised the troup did a decent job of keeping the younger audience members interested for 45 minutes, despite an inadequate sound system and the periodic rumblings and grumblings of the older audience members. (“We can’t hear you!”) But the performance itself was secondary to the impression made upon me by a couple random political sightings that evening.
Before the performance, the campaign car (an old, 3-cylinder Suzuki) of Rod Driver greeted those entering the Beach grounds. He was trying to get people to sign a petition so that he could run as an Independent in the 2nd Congressional District against, he presumes, Rep. Jim Langevin (D). However, not content with a passive approach, Mr. Driver also walked through the crowd prior to the show and actively asked for signatures. Always one who believes that someone should be able to run if they want to, I signed. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll support or vote for Rod Driver!
Driver is certainly an interesting character and has run for more offices, more times than I can count. If I recall correctly, he first started out running as a sort of libertarian/moderate a few years ago. In fact, he can probably still claim to be that now, with plans for healthcare, education and campaign finance that would probably appeal to many moderate/mainstream voters. He’s also a little quirky in his approach to environmental policy–he touts both his old, 50 MPG car and his solar powered house–but his personal practices lend credence to the policies he preaches.
However, he is most defininely skittering along the fringe when it comes to the Iraq War:

The Iraq War based on lies dominate all issues. The cost in money, lost liberties and especially human suffering is inexcusable. Unless Congress says “no more” and starts impeachment proceedings we can forget the Constitution. [Emphasis mine. Taken from Rod Driver’s campaign brochure.]

This stance allows him to tout that “Langevin backs George Bush” based on Langevin’s past support for the Iraq War and refusal to vote for a pullout. It’s an interesting tactic (I doubt it’ll work), but it reveals that Langevin may be more vulnerable from the Left than the Right. In the end, Driver struck me as a nice man, but if he gets it wrong on the big issue, his stances on the little issues don’t matter much to me.
That brings me to my second political sighting of the evening. During the performance, and with no fanfare, Governor and Mrs Carcieri quietly skirted the fringe of the audience and made their way to some of their family who were enjoying the show. The Carcieri’s seemed to relish the stolen moment with their kin. Eventually, and just as unobtrusively, they left before the show was over. It seemed obvious that they didn’t want to distract from the family time of others. In short, they didn’t want to make a fuss.
In the abstract, we often let our impressions of politicians be shaped by their ideology or their stance on certain issues. This brief, public glimpse of some private moments shared by the Carcieri family reminded me that politicians are people, too. In particular, it also confirmed to me that the Governor has his priorities straight.
A cynic would say that such a subtle presentation ended up serving the Governor’s purpose as proven by the impression it left on someone like me. However, when the Governor’s appearance is contrasted with Rod Driver’s obvious, if understandable, reason for attending the show, I don’t think that politics was Carcieri’s motive. The motive was simply family time. In a situation ripe for political exploitation, he made no overt attempt to gladhand and kiss babies. Except, of course, his own grandkids!
So there you have it: two politicians spotted at the same unexpected place within an hour of each other. Both are nice men, regardless of where they stand on the issues. They, like many politicians, are made up of much more than their politics. And aren’t we all?

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Tim
Tim
15 years ago

Marc,
Heard a similar story about the Carcieri’s several days after the station fire. They were spotted praying at the site of the fire and spent a considerable amount of time reading all the notes and remembrances friends and loved ones had left at the site. What made such an impression on the person who saw them was the time of day. It’s was 11:30 at night and the Carcieri’s showed up only after all the TV trucks and reporters had left that terribly sad scene for the night.
Dignity and Class!

Rhody
Rhody
15 years ago

We like our politicians understated when they journey amongst common folks in non-political mode. I’m no Carcieri fan, but it sounds like he was demonstrating the kind of political skills that have served him well and kept his approval above 50 percent. The political capital he built with his handling of the Station fire has enabled him to weather problems that have felled others – he looked the leader while Lynch looked the idiot.

Paul D. Meehan
Paul D. Meehan
15 years ago

Rod Driver is a stand up guy, totally honest and full of integrity. Your description of Rod as “skittering along the fringe” is false. One day when the zonked out masses wake up from the propaganda coma, Rod will be hailed as a prophet.

Marc Comtois
15 years ago

Paul,
First, thanks for using (what I presume) to be your real name. It’s always refreshing when someone does that here in the pseudonym-ridden blog-commenting sphere.
Second, I only think that Driver is “skittering along the fringe” with regards to his belief that the Iraq War is illegal and all the rest of the worn out, leftist mantra. In truth, I believe that many would consider calling for the impeachment of President Bush is hardly skittering on the fringe, but I was trying to be kind. (BTW, at this point we’ve all made up our minds about Iraq and a “Comments” section debate would be worthless. I doubt I can change your mind and you won’t change mine.)
That issue aside, I thought that I was pretty clear that I found Driver interesting. I believe I conveyed an admiration for his willingness to back up his environmental stance with by his own example. Thus, for you to so wantonly take my acute point about one issue as representative of my opinion of Driver in total–even with evidence to the contrary right in front of you in black and white–betrays a hyper-sensitivity on your part.

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