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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Occam’s razor

Sam Howard has accomplished some of the best quantitative analysis of local elections that you will ever see produced by an unpaid journalist in his ongoing series about why mixed-member proportional voting would alter Rhode Island politics and power structures

WPRI’s Ted Nesi touched on the same subject in a piece about why the Ocean State would benefit from more competitive elections. Meanwhile, it turns out Ken Block is considering running for governor as Republican rather than a Moderate.

All three events point to a similar conclusion: that a more influential GOP would improve political discourse in the Ocean State. Well … making political discourse less one-sided is a good thing only if it ALSO makes it more representational of the people the politics purports to represent.


As Nesi points out, mainstream party labels do little to describe local politicians:

“…Rhode Island Republicans have a good point – local officeholders deal with a whole range of issues that don’t easily fit into the national parties’ widely recognized platforms. If you tell me what position someone takes on Obamacare or climate change, I could probably tell you which party he or she belongs to – but I still couldn’t tell you what he thinks about mandatory parking minimums or actuarial standards for pension plans.”

I’m sure both Block and Howard would agree – though Block may feel this “good point” belongs to Moderates and Howard progressives. All three actually make the same good point – but it’s most applicable to progressives who, electorally at least, far outnumber both Republicans and Moderates in Rhode Island.

Remember Occam’s razor, the notion that the explanation with the fewest assumptions is most likely right. In other words, why assume our elections and or party structure is broken when it’s much more likely that a state with a strong blue collar, union tradition and a pristine, well-protected environment would attract anything other than a bunch of liberal-minded voters?

So why then are we seeking ways to make our politics more inclusive of of a party system that doesn’t represent our community’s political ethos?

A simpler and more holistic solution would be to make local elections nonpartisan. Of course, this has the same snowball’s chance in hell of happening as does doing away with the master lever or instituting mixed-member proportional voting…

Hopefully this would address the real disconnect between Rhode Islanders and the people we elect to public office instead of artificially giving conservatives more influence than they deserve.

Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.