On Laffey and Movement Building
I imagine that even people who’ve had reservations about Steve Laffey have a feeling of “what now” upon hearing of his intention not to run for governor. For my part, I wanted to listen to his entire conversation with Dan Yorke before commenting, as well as Dan’s interview of Harry Staley and Jim Beale from the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition.
Laffey sounded relaxed and comfortable, contemplative, and to be honest, I found my comfort level with him rising. My experience with the man isn’t sufficiently broad for me to know whether this represents a change or just a face that I hadn’t previously seen, but given the context, I felt a sadness that it hadn’t been more prominent earlier.
But the real shame of his announcement is that Laffey’s message seems to be, “Rhode Island isn’t ready for me yet.” There’s no movement for him to grab hold of, and that being the case, it’s probably a shrewd move to avoid the expense in money and effort of a high-profile political race. I did not get the sense, however, that he intends to help such a movement to germinate. Oh, Laffey has donated to and promoted candidates for office, and he may continue the practice going forward, but that’s not the same as the slow, tedious work of motivating people and changing a civic culture.
Each person has his or her own interests, corresponding with unique talents, and in a functioning system, they’ll fill different roles in the machinery of progress. That is to say that it doesn’t necessarily indicate selfishness when a particular person declines to take up a particular task. Quite apart from Mr. Laffey, though, we should all hope that the process of putting together a reformist machine brings forward leaders from whom he’d have difficulty wresting the wheel when he feels that the state is ripe for harvest.
In the meantime, we’re in for a number of painful, discouraging years. Shoulder to the stone!