The Mysterious Activities of Our Betters
An exchange that Ed Fitzpatrick reports from the floor of the General Assembly speaks volumes about legislators’ view of their role in this state:
When the funding-formula bill came up Thursday, [Rod Driver, D-Richmond] asked, “Why do we have to do this right away, the moment we see it?”
House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, D-Providence, replied, “Today’s the last day. If you hold it over, you effectively kill it, and I don’t think you want to do it.”
Driver said, “I’m wondering why today is the last day. Is it in the Constitution?”
Fox said, “There comes a time, you just know it’s time. It’s time.”
Mr. Fox, it would seem, views legislators less as a body of officials elected by residents of Rhode Island to represent their interests and conduct their business in the course of governing themselves than as an almost priestly class of aristocrats interpreting the will of some political deity. As history proves, a secular emphasis amplifies, rather than mitigates, such classes’ tendency to insert their own will as the divine.
In other words, they wish to get on with their summer breaks, and furthermore, they find it politically expedient to rush important legislation into law (or direct it into the grave) in a massive push that prevents public involvement in the debate, gives legislators’ an excuse to suspend all rules, and makes it more difficult for voters to determine who took what position when. If the voters weren’t so complicit in electing their representatives out of corrupt self-interest and dogmatic habit, one might question whether democracy exists in Rhode Island.
As it is, the real question is whether democracy can be made to serve the general interests. As long as the likes of Fox run the show, the answer can only be negative.