It didn’t sink in until after I’d written my previous post about Governor Shumlin’s news conference, but there was a clear theme running through it all.
Don’t expect much.
Especially you liberals out there.
It seems the Governor was determined to extinguish whatever hopes might still have existed for a small-p progressive administration. Some have argued, like Yours Truly and nanuqFC at Green Mountain Daily, that the real message of last week’s election is that Shumlin lost his liberal base. If he’d simply polled as well as Senate Democratic candidates, he would have sailed to re-election.
But nope. His takeaway was that we need more triangulation, more compromise, and no big new initatives.
On health care, clear signs of a retreat from single-payer. On the budget, admission that a perpetually sluggish economy will force draconian changes. On school finance, crafting a cheaper system will be job one. He gave a preliminary thumbs-down to environmental groups’ expected call for a carbon tax. And, although he personally favors legalizing marijuana, he’s going to defer to legislative leadership on the issue.
Overall, a constant refrain of cooperation, consultation, consensus, listening and learning. (No mention of “leadership.” Or “liberal.”) And do you think the ever-cautious Democratic legislative majority will be in any way emboldened by the loss of ten colleagues? I think that’s a big fat no.
I can’t say this is a surprise. Shumlin’s own instincts and his financial base, if not his electoral one, lead him in a centrist direction. And as a purely practical matter, he emerges from the election in a significantly weakened position vis-a-vis the legislature; he is in a bad position to make demands when he did so much more poorly than they did.
But if anybody was holding out hope that Shumlin would respond to crisis with a new burst of energy and a determination to cement his legacy? There’s no sign of that so far. This could drive a wedge into the already fractious relationship between Shumlin and the liberal base.
2016 might be a good year to be a Progressive candidate.