Doherty, the former superintendent of state police, has been relatively mild in his criticism of Cicilline to date. But if he's willing to call out the incumbent for his statements about Providence's finances, he's got the stature — and reputation for integrity — to make a powerful indictment.
The truth-telling would dovetail nicely with Doherty's particular brand of sincerity — a sort of blue-collar, square-jawed, I-know-what's-right mien that stands out in a place known for corruption.
Doherty, of course, is not without sincerity problems of his own; he's voiced admiration for Ryan's austere budget at conservative gatherings, only to rein it in for a more general audience.
But should sincerity be the yardstick for our elected officials anyhow?
R. Jay Magill, Jr., author of Sincerity: How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and the Curious Notion that We All Have Something to Say (No Matter How Dull), argues that the quality plays an outsized role in American politics.
We all know that politics is feint and dodge and artifice. And yet, we demand something different. We demand the straight shooter.
The cost of this obsession, Magill maintains, can be steep: important qualities like intelligence and political savvy can get lost. So, too, can the candidates' positions on the issues — Medicare, taxes, education — that most affect voters' lives.
Cicilline, by any reasonable measure, excels here. He's whip-smart and hard-working. His often cynical politics make for a good match with 21st-century Washington. And he is more representative of Rhode Islanders' views than his opponents.
Hence, Cicilline's implicit message: my false statements about Providence's finances, my contention that I had little to do with redistricting, just don't matter that much in the end.
Indeed, the Congressman is counting on a local electorate clear-eyed about his capacity for manipulation to be clear-eyed about what's at stake in this election, too; to conclude that in an era of post-truth politics, it's OK to go with the truth-challenged candidate — as long as he's on your side.
As long as he's sincere in his partisanship.
Indeed, as much as their politics — and their distortions — may differ, Cicilline is making a pitch not unlike that of a young, blue-eyed vice presidential candidate fresh out of Tampa.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @d_scharfenberg.