Re: Nothing Egregious About This Picket Line
Without coming down on either side of the particular issue on the table (which, whatever else its effects, has helped to highlight the multiple dumbnesses of Rhode Island politics), I have to express an objection to something that Andrew wrote earlier today:
… Vice-President of the United States of America is not a union job. Vice-President Biden’s decision not to attend the conference is a purely political one and it is ludicrous to assert that people should self-curtail their rights of free expression and assembly, because the VP of the US needs to be protected from having to make political decisions.
The consideration that’s missing from this analysis is that the Providence firefighters should and do have a more direct and more substantial interest in the well-being of Providence and of Rhode Island. It costs Biden next to nothing — and lesser federal functionaries even closer to nothing — to skip the convention. He’s in office; he’s just started in office. Indeed, bowing out arguably helps him to burnish union bona fides and illustrate independence from political leaders who happen to share the Democrat brand.
He’s a politician, and he’ll behave politically. Saying that the firefighters’ union should not consider the consequences of its actions because they are filtered through the proxy of a politician’s decisions is like saying that a dog owner shouldn’t seek to protect his pet from having to resist biting guests. In the context of a dinner party, teaching the dog is not the focus; protecting one’s associates is. In the context of rallies and national conventions hosted in Rhode Island, the Vice President’s development and stagecraft shouldn’t be the focus of those whose actions might repercuss in the state; the local community should be.
One could argue that the union’s stunt will not have substantial consequences. It would also be reasonable to argue that things played out in a way that the union couldn’t have foreseen, and its own political considerations required it to persist. But the general principle that a person or group’s responsibility does not extend to anticipating the likely actions of others is not a notion that it is wise to promote.