Catching a Constituency Before They Flee
Among the more disconcerting inevitabilities of Rhode Island’s method of self-destruction is that the policies that are destroying the state drive away what I’ve called “the productive class,” so as the situation gets worse, the proportion of the electorate that would be inclined to change things for the better shrinks. By productive class, I mean those Rhode Islanders in the working to middle classes who are smart, skilled, and driven — the sort of people whom a civic mentality that despises success harms.
I’m encouraged, however, to see an increasing effort among the politically active on the right side to harness the clout of this group before its attrition tips the scales irreversibly toward decline. RI Senator Ed O’Neill (I, Lincoln) puts it thus:
In addition to providing financial support, Rhode Island business should bring its vitality and intellectual horsepower into our state government. We need candidates with business experience and skills to run for office. We cannot expect positive and proficient movement in the legislature without fully involving the people resources of our business community. There are thousands of skilled business people and 55-plus retirees or semi-retirees in Rhode Island who could make a tremendous difference in our state government.
There is a fight going on. It’s time for Rhode Island’s businesses and taxpayers to show up.
As a vessel for such action, the Rhode Island Statewide Coalition (RISC) is developing a Business Network for which it encouragse political donations and support across district lines, diminishing the state’s “my guy’s alright” problem. The idea is that businesses pledge a donation amount, give RISC a percentage to cover administrative costs, and then follow the organization’s advice as to where to donate the rest, in whatever town it might do the most good. After all, residents of every municipality are affected by a General Assembly in which most of the senators and representatives are elected elsewhere.
As Dan Yorke’s interview with General Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio (D) at RISC’s introductory event illustrates, even just the existence of such a group can give politicians cover to move in the only direction that can pull the state out of its free fall. Personally, I’m concerned that it may be too late — that those with special deals to protect already outnumber those who simply want a better living and working environment for everybody — but one needn’t be as hyper-involved as I am to test the theory, and it’s most definitely worth testing.