The system we inherited doesn’t persist of its own accord.

News that the Rhode Island Republican Party is struggling to hit the qualification requirements to place any presidential candidates on the primary ballot points to a deep problem in our state’s political landscape.  This is true even if we put to the side (for now) rumors that some large number of signatures were inexplicably invalidated.

At all levels of government, in Rhode Island, I’ve noticed a general sense that our political system is eternal and self-generating.  Local factions seem to believe that, no matter what they do, the “loyal opposition” will continue to help out and, well, be loyal.  State-level Democrats, including mainstream journalists, evince a belief that the Republican Party exists as a distinct entity that people are inherently motivated to maintain.  This is an error of understanding.

One of the research findings to which (with his college professor habits) Jordan Peterson refers regularly on his podcast concerns young rats at play.  If a large rat does not allow his smaller playmate to win wrestling bouts some percentage of the time, then the smaller rat won’t play anymore.  I offer this not to imply that Democrats ought to permit Republicans to win, but they’ve rigged the game so strongly in their favor as to make it impossible.  We’re beyond plain (and ethical) fairness.  Corrupt insiders and partisans will naturally seek such advantages, but others ought to take note at the consequences of the system that we’ve permitted to develop in the Ocean State.

Rhode Islanders who incline toward Republican policies (if they haven’t already left the state) have little reason to participate.  Likewise, national groups and politicians have little reason to concern themselves with our interests.  Our politics are mindlessly partisan and corrupt.  Ours is a failed state, merely being carried forward by history’s momentum, and one of the signatures of such failure is that nobody has both the ability and willingness to stop the decline.  In this regard, we have reason to fear Rhode apathy has been so amplified because national Democrats — who gave themselves license for a by-any-means-necessary approach to Donald Trump — have set the United States of America on the same course.

Whatever his shortcomings, President Trump played a hugely important role as a finger in the eye of the establishment and a reminder that the people have the power.  Insiders didn’t receive the lesson well and turned our shared government and political institutions into a pure expression of their own power, as if to show Americans who’s boss.

If Rhode Island Republicans do manage to place presidential (or any other) candidates on the November ballot, we should ponder Rhode Island’s example as we choose among them.  Politics isn’t some established competition in which we all agree on the value of the game, as a game, and will therefore maintain the rules and infrastructure of the league.  When one team goes crazy, as the Democrats have, no referee exists to step in.  No commissioner can levy fines to maintain decorum and stability.  The players and the fans have to value sanity more than their partisan advantage.

In a recent article about the presidential preferences of local members of the GOP, none articulated this obvious point, and this omission suggests that their mindset remains politics as usual.  To the contrary, politics as usual is a state of affairs to which we must return, and we can market that intention to the electorate as our platform.  Surely, a large majority of voters fall to the right of leftist insanity, and our decision is to balance our opportunity for extremity against a decisive, message-sending victory in favor of the normal.

Our local political scene is set for an adult to step onto the field and insist that the time for games is over.  We need competence and mutual respect, but with the candid honesty to point to corruption and error.  That not a single presidential candidate has such a champion to collect signatures in our state — from the brawling Trump to the understated Haley — is strong evidence that such a person does not exist, at least with the willingness to enter the political spotlight.


Featured image by Justin Katz using Dall-E 3.

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