Saturday’s gubernatorial debate was a big moment for Dan Feliciano, Libertarian candidate for Governor and presumptive usurper of Scott Milne’s mantle as the real conservative challenger to Governor Shumlin.
So, how’d Dan the Libertarian Man do? About as well as he could have done. Which is, as you might imagine, a two-edged sword.
Feliciano presented himself as the conservative candidate with ideas. And yes, he has ideas. But to judge from his debate performance, he has precisely three of them: Cut taxes and spending, cut regulation, and institute school choice.
He repeated them over and over during the debate because, well, that’s about all he has to say. It was a good performance but, at the same time, it defined his limit as a gubernatorial candidate. His ideas are simply out of the mainstream.
And, worse still, lacking on specifics.
Let’s take, first, his call for lower spending. What’s his big idea on how to cut the cost of state government?
Challenges for Change.
Stop laughing. I’m serious.
Dan Feliciano wants to reintroduce Challenges for Change, the discredited Douglas Administration plan. This… is our Libertarian’s call to arms? A years-old, formerly bipartisan initiative that was abandoned in 2010 because both parties agreed it just wasn’t working?
Until now, I thought that Tom Pelham was the only True Believer left. But no: it’s him and Dan Feliciano. Sheesh.
I suspect that this is one of Feliciano’s attempts to make himself look less scary to mainstream voters. Don’t start with Libertarian ideas for privatizing schools, prisons, police, fire, and snowplowing; start with a mainstream reform plan. A failed plan, but a mainstream one.
On health care reform, he’s dead against single-payer. His “idea,” though, is weak: cut health insurance regulation to foster competition. We’ve already seen how that works: the competition turns into a race to the bottom, with affordable insurance available only to the healthiest, all kinds of exclusions to minimize claims, and a maze of complicated legalese designed to frustrate consumers.
And Feliciano tried to have it both ways when it comes to community rating, Vermont’s rule that prevents price discrimination against the elderly, the sick, and others with high risk factors. He claimed to support community rating, but he also called for Vermont to scrap its own exchange and adopt the federal one, as New Hampshire has done. Well, Dan, New Hampshire and other states operating in the federal system don’t have community rating. Which is it?
On schools, he wants spending cuts but doesn’t provide any examples. His Big Idea is school choice, which is going to reduce costs in a way he doesn’t explain. I wonder why. Could it be because the savings are based entirely on free-market dogma? Could it be that, in a system already short of students, spreading them around to more institutions will make the situation worse, not better?
When asked about problems in the Agency for Human Services, he said “We need a wholistic approach to families and children.” Without explaining what in the world he means by that. And when asked about supporting agriculture, his one idea was — you guessed it — cutting EPA regulations.
In spite of rampant pollution in Lake Champlain, to which agriculture is the single biggest contributor.
This is Feliciano’s unique position, and his glass ceiling. He is a man of ideas, certainly. But it’s a small handful of endlessly repeated dogmatic ideas that don’t work in the real world. Much as he tries to water it down, he is stuck with Libertarian dogma. It gives him a clear outline, unlike the endlessly foggy Mahatma Milne. But it also consigns him to fringe status in any race with a credible Republican candidate.
If Milne keeps on soiling the sheets, Dan Feliciano might get into the double digits on November 4. But he’ll never be anything more than that. And whenever the Republicans run a viable candidate, he’ll be back down to Emily Peyton territory.