Letter: Of, By, and For the People

Posted 2/10/20

To the editor:

Only 3 of 10 Americans felt witnesses weren’t necessary in the Impeachment Trial, yet 51 Senators voted to block witness testimony. Our country is being ruled under a new type …

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Letter: Of, By, and For the People


To the editor:

Only 3 of 10 Americans felt witnesses weren’t necessary in the Impeachment Trial, yet 51 Senators voted to block witness testimony. Our country is being ruled under a new type of government. The Executive Branch is no longer accountable to Congress. In parallel, local politics have been changing.

During the 2018 election cycle, many RI conservatives distanced their messaging from the rhetoric that got us here. However, since then, the Barrington Republican Town Committee has promoted events to support the impeached president, held a fundraiser with his former press secretary billed as the keynote, and posted a poll suggesting an unconstitutional prohibition on free speech. How do we avoid letting this trickle-down of national politics alter the stability of our town?

My decision to enter politics in 2018 was born of a desire to fan the flames of bipartisanism, before the fire goes out. I’d been serving on a bipartisan leadership program committee and wanted to foster inclusive public discourse in our community. With a diverse group working through policy challenges together, I believe we can achieve lasting shared objectives.

Then Democrats swept Barrington’s 2018 elections, limiting the diversity of perspectives on the board. To encourage balance, I sought perspectives from the whole spectrum. While our neighbors share many common priorities for the town: public safety, stewarding natural resources, sea level rise, the local business community, etc., approaching people outside my electorate is not always comfortable. For example, when I reach out to public detractors critical of me or of the council, I seek direct conversations so we can talk through our differences. In some cases, this proves successful. In others, it gets my social media accounts blocked by other Barrington elected officials. My inquisitive approach has even created tension within the council itself, despite being largely aligned politically.

I accept the price I pay for maintaining this unbiased approach: public rejection of my opinions or criticism of my political ideas and even occasional attacks on my personal character. To represent everyone, sometimes uncomfortable conversations and humility are necessary. It advances us toward something more important; a government that represents all people and holds itself accountable to them. 

A range of community voices in public discourse better informs policies and ordinances, and shapes our priorities as we tackle the economic and environmental challenges of the coming decades. At the same time, we must remain wary of the intent of extremists and ideologues who could thwart these efforts by condoning and enabling lies or corruption; whether in Washington, DC, or at home.

Traditional conservatism is an important balance to progressive initiatives. In the past, many progressive and conservative initiatives saw bipartisan support because the final legislation was good for the country as a whole. The GOP is currently being dominated by voices for whom initiatives that bridge party lines to strengthen and prepare our society are not a priority.

In service to our community, I encourage everyone, including local Republicans and independent conservatives who would like to be part of shaping a positive future, to separate themselves from the national divisiveness. Become meaningfully engaged at the town level, and be aware of alignment with politics that are un-American. Let’s work together in good faith to advance our community’s future for us and our children. I appreciate how hard it is to put yourself out there. If this is going to stay the land of the free, it’s time to prove it’s the home of the brave.

Jacob Brier


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.