Friday, July 1, 2016

Bring on the new faces - and voices

The white-hot Red Sox have cooled a bit in recent weeks. With their pitching continuing to be a bit suspect, it is widely believed that the team will use the trade deadline to get some pitching. Gosh I hope so because it’s been tough to watch our starters blow games so badly that even a high scoring offense can’t save them. It’s time for some new blood on the pitching staff.

We’re also seeing some new faces on the Rhode Island political scene. The deadline for declaring one’s candidacy has just passed and in the coming days, candidates will be gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot. While many General Assembly seats will go uncontested, there were fewer “free passes” than in years past. In the wake of the legislative grant scandal, many political watchers anticipated that there would be a wave of reformers lining up to run for office. This year’s candidates might only constitute a ripple and with some wins, we’ll have a few new faces at the State House.

What we really need is to hear from some new voices. The shock of the Brexit vote — and the rise of Donald Trump on this side of the pond — has shown that some voices in politics might be quiet in polling data or in every day conversation, but they show up on election day. While some like to believe that Trump voters are angry or unbalanced and that the “leave” voters were uninformed, I think it’s more constructive to consider alternative explanations. One thought: a democracy does not punish people for thinking differently than the media or their elected officials. Sometimes being part of a democracy means that you don’t get what you want. Hard to swallow — particularly for millennials who have learned that pitching a tantrum at college can get you “safe space” and anything else you demand — but something that the more aged among us can probably absorb. Sing it with me Mick … “you can’t always get what you want.”

So how do the not-like-minded co-exist? We need to build some middle ground. Back in the days before Twitter wars and 24/7 media, people used to talk to one another. Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch were pals off the Senate floor and President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill enjoyed a deep friendship that transcended their ideological differences. As our country becomes more polarized and the candidates we have to choose from come from opposite ends of the spectrum, it more important than ever that we add different voices to the conversation so we can understand — and perhaps ameliorate — the sharpest differences. I can’t imagine how the passionate “remain” folks felt on the morning after the Brexit vote, but if we don’t recreate some kind of middle ground and invite others to join us there, we’re going to get a taste of their disappointment too.

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