Well, that didn’t take long.
Apparently, the Republican candidates for governor who promised to stay away from WPRO’s talk shows only were going to keep that pledge as long as John DePetro was off the air; making as principled a stand as they dared during the holiday season when few voters are paying attention. Now that the news has turned back to politics with parole offices and the start of the General Assembly’s 2014 session, and DePetro is back on the air… well… Let’s remember what they promised:
Clearly, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung gave himself far more leeway by only promising to stay off DePetro’s show. Former Moderate Party leader Ken Block issued a firm statement expressing his refusal to appear on WPRO until such time as DePetro ceased to be unemployed.
But that was when the boycott was Big News, DePetro was on indefinite vacation, and everyone was about to shut down for Christmas and New Year’s. Block ended his boycott after 3 weeks and six days. Fung waited the extra day, and then appeared on DePetro’s show (although, maybe you could argue that Fung has so far kept his promise never to appear on “John DiPetro’s” show).
For the Republicans, strategically, joining the boycott never made sense. WPRO is perhaps the beating heart of conservatism in Rhode Island (or at least the rebel yell). If you are trying to win a primary of conservatives, refusing to gain access to that audience is a bad move. Which is why Fung’s restriction of his boycott to merely DePetro’s show was smarter than Block’s decision. For one thing, the boycott has been portrayed as union-driven. Fung walked a fine line between being seen to bend to union interests (a big no-no in a Republican primary) or failing to condemn outright misogyny (something you don’t want to do in a Rhode Island general election). Unfortunately, when it comes down to it, Fung appears to have no qualms about the misogyny.
Now, in my cynical nature, I’d say that plenty of political observers will tell you it’s bad form to break a campaign promise before the election has happened. Usually, politicians like to wait until after elections, when they can talk about mitigating factors like “the facts on the ground” and other such inanity. Frankly, I don’t foresee this having much of an effect on the Republican race. Both candidates broke their promises, both candidates made the promise, and thus they really can’t hit each other with it.
But I think it’s a poor sign of things to come that both Republicans chose to begin the election year by refusing to commit to a principle stand they were perfectly willing to make four weeks before. Both these men are going to make statements to effect that we can’t trust the politicians of the Democratic Party to be in the governor’s office, and the lack of accountability that our political class displays. But both these men have just demonstrated that they’re perfectly willing to break a promise when it suits them. And that’s bad, because the whole purpose of a promise is that you won’t break it when it benefits you. As for accountability, well, it’s a value only when it’s other people being held accountable.
The question now is whether Democratic politicians, who are continuing to join the boycott, will continue to stand for their principles.
P.S. I don’t often say this, but if you’re interested in learning more about the Republican primary for governor, Andrew Morse over the Current-Anchor(?) has pretty good transcripts of their talks with the Cranston Republican City Committee, starting with Fung.