posted on: Thursday February 18, 2010
Maryclaire Dugre ’10 / Commentary Editor
Following politics has never been my cup of tea. It’s more like my cup of NyQuil—it has a way of making me yawn groggily in people’s faces. Every now and then, however, I encounter an issue that dissipates my political apathy like a dose of NyQuil does a sinus infection. This time, it’s the announcement that Rhode Island lawyer Robert J. Healey, Jr. is running for the office of Lieutenant Governor. And if he wins, he’ll abolish his own position and save the state a million dollars a year. I’m all for it.
I actually live under a rock, so I hadn’t heard much about Healey before last week’s write-up in The Providence Journal. It took only a few paragraphs to realize he’s not your average politician. An eccentric who looks like the spawn of Jesus Christ and Weird Al Yankovik, Healey practices law in Barrington and owns a wine-and-cheese shop in Warren. As the former chairman of the Warren School Committee, he often rolled up (or tip-toed) to meetings barefoot. These days, he’s handing out posters that feature his face on John Lennon’s body and the slogan, “IMAGINE, No Lt. Governor—It’s Easy if You Try.”
Healey is a character—but that’s not why I like him. I admire him because his platform is pure common sense. Let’s face it: The Lieutenant Governor is an unnecessary office. Everyone remembers how useless the vice president of student council was in third grade—the position only existed to ensure the self esteem of one more little rug rat. (OK, somebody had to man the bake sale table.) Even on a national scale, vice presidents are usually figureheads, save of course for the kindly soul in the recent Bush administration.The same goes for lieutenant governors. I don’t know if that dame who’s currently in office has accomplished any grand feats, but it seems Rhode Island could have made better use of her office space.
Even if Healey loses, his campaign itself is a brilliant coup. In one announcement, he’s revealed a major financial inefficiency, exposed the futility of another politician’s career, and painted himself as the portrait of the Good Samaritan.
If elected, Healey won’t hire any staff or take any pay, thereby lightening the load on taxpayers. He’ll be free to contemplate cheddar all day at his cheese shop unless the governor gets a fatal paper cut or something—does NyQuil work for those? He won’t have to lift a finger, but neither did any of his predecessors. At least he’s honest about it. I feel like I should be annoyed; instead I find myself in awe of his genius. Wily Irishmen—be wary of them.
Jokes aside, some praise is due to the benefits of Healey’s plan. This isn’t the first time he’s run on such a platform, but it is perhaps the first time people have considered him seriously. Previously, a million dollars was not a huge sum of money in the scheme of things. But with the economy as it is and Rhode Island’s unemployment rate as one of the highest, every little bit counts. Why waste funds when we can function on less? In a country that harps on efficiency and urges us to “go green” at every opportunity, Rhode Island could stand a greener approach to its governmental infrastructure.
If it takes a free-spirited attorney who seldom wears shoes to suggest a plan so simple it’s nearly comical, so be it. Robert Healey, you’ve certainly stifled my yawn; now you’ve got my vote.