East Providence as Emblem of Rhode Island
Ed Achorn laments the political reality of East Providence. Noting that voters supported a local tax cap, he points out that they removed from office the very people who would strive to meet it.
The unions, in short, outhustled, outspent, out-deceived and out-organized the public-spirited incumbents in East Providence, making sure that they won’t be an impediment for the next two years.
I know, I know. That’s democracy, and there is no way to constrain special interests from swamping elections in that manner without undermining the whole system. If people are ill-informed or apathetic enough to let them get away with it, they deserve everything they get — good and hard.
Personally, I think Achorn’s a bit too bleak and cynical. It’s true, as he writes, that special interests have larger individual financial stakes in each election than the average voter, but it’s also true that their political opposition has a better, more salable message. It ought to take fewer dollars and less repetitive action (advertising, stumping, and so on) to mount a defense.
Other than hoping that voters might someday become better informed and take their duty a little more seriously, or that good-government groups might somehow find the resources to fight fire with fire, I don’t really have an answer for all of this. Wish I did.
It wouldn’t take a “fire with fire” match of investment for good-government groups — and Web sites (ahem) — to compete. A relatively small, sustained investment with motivated individuals and organizations, even outside of election season, could create an atmosphere in which voters are better informed, not only about the minutia of local government, but also about the players and principles involved.