Political Outsiders

You can make a long (and reasonably humorous) list of things that surveys say that people prefer more than Congress. People prefer traffic jams, root canals, and colonoscopies to Congress. I haven’t seen a survey of how people feel about Rhode Island government, but anecdotal evidence suggests that in general terms people have a low opinion of government and politicians in general.

Politicians know this. They are quick to claim the mantle of outsider, no matter what their political history. And those that can’t get away with that title they at least claim to be independent and able to “reach across the aisle.”

Even though this is frequently an attempt by a candidate to avoid being blamed for being part of the problem, there’s a good reason to be the outsider.

You can’t see your problems from the inside.

Certainly you know people whose choices and behaviors have caused them more problems than necessary in their lives. If they could see the harm that they are causing themselves and the way that they are contributing to their problems, they’d fix it. It’s impossible for them to see how the choices that they make continues the pattern and makes things worse instead of better.

You can see it. They can’t. And if somehow they do see it, they will deny it. They will swear that the problem doesn’t exist, its cause is elsewhere, that their choices are what keep it from getting worse.

The same concept applies to problems in any organization, the Rhode Island government included.

Choose a problem related to the RI government — the condition of our bridges, for instance. Talk to an insider and you’ll hear — “We don’t have a problem. It’s not as bad as you say it is. Okay it’s a problem but it’s not my fault. And and imagine how much worse it would be if I hadn’t been in government for the last 40 years.”

It takes an outsider can see the problem, how bad it is, and how the insider has contributed to it.

If we are ever going to make Rhode Island’s government more efficient and more responsive to the voters, we need as many true outsiders as we can find.

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