Playing Politics in the State’s Center of Politics
The in-boxes of Rhode Island’s state senators have been the battleground, of late, for a political spat between Sen. Leonidas Raptakis (D, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) and Sen. Daniel DaPonte (D., East Providence, Pawtucket):
- Raptakis wrote to Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed to suggest that the legislature should reconvene (PDF).
- DaPonte wrote a snippy response, apparently on Paiva Weed’s behalf (PDF).
- And Raptakis came back (PDF).
- To which DaPonte gave the old “this’ll be my last letter” (PDF).
What I find especially peculiar in these exchanges — and we saw the same sort of retort from House Speaker Bill Murphy (D, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) to Rep. Greg Schadone (D, North Providence), when the latter suggested reconvening the House — is the leadership’s quick resort to the accusation that the legislator is merely playing politics, as DaPonte opens his first reply:
I’m writing in response to your letter to Senate President Paiva Weed this date regarding the state’s fiscal crisis. I would point out to you that the press was in receipt of the letter before Senator Paiva Weed received it. Thus, it must be admitted that the suspicion that your letter is motivated more by politics than public policy, is not easily dismissed.
What a mind-numbingly stupid attitude. Apparently, Senate Finance Committee Chairman DaPonte is not sufficiently well versed in American political philosophy to understand that our system is designed to spur government officials to behave according to political incentives. We don’t have a governing hierarchy of policy wonks. We have a system in which politicians stake out the ground likely to gain them the most public support, in keeping with their own beliefs and priorities, and pursue policies accordingly, within the bounds of checks, balances, and federalist procedures.
One can’t help but wonder whether DaPonte’s (and Murphy’s) failure to comprehend such a basic principle has something to do with their sense of permanence — of being an unimpeachable class of Public Servants.