The Legislature’s vote for governor will not be close

The Man Alone, Scott Milne, briefly emerged from his hidey-hole a few days ago to tell the Associated Press’ Dave Gram that his chances of being elected governor “are getting better on a weekly basis, if not a daily basis.”

Curious thing to say, with less than a week until the vote. Speaking calendrically, there ain’t no more “weekly” left. But if you think that’s a bit confusing, wait till you read what he told VTDigger’s Anne Galloway: 

Milne said on Sunday his “chances are improving.” When asked how many lawmakers support his candidacy, he said his statement was “non-mathematical.”

“I’m not counting votes, and if I was, I don’t think I’d have close to 91,” Milne said. He said he could get 25 or 100 votes, but “more likely I’m going to lose, I don’t really know.”

Scott Milne, the lone constant in an ever-changing world.

Scott Milne, the Man From Another Dimension.

I make that a quintuple spinaroonie: up, down, down, up, down. Whatever happens, he’ll be both disappointed and vindicated, I guess.

Anyway, if he thinks he’s gaining ground, he’s wrong. The Legislature’s vote will not be close. Gov. Shumlin will win, with perhaps a handful of Democrats crossing party lines to vote for Milne.

At this point, the cynical among you might be saying, “Hey, didn’t you predict an easy win for Shumlin in November?”

Yup, me and every other pundit and politico in Vermont. But I feel confident enough to tiptoe out on a limb once again. The Legislative vote is a whole different animal than the general election.

In November, a whole lot of liberals and card-carrying Democrats voted for someone other than Shumlin or simply left their ballots blank. There’s substantial evidence that the Democratic vote was far smaller in the gubernatorial race than elsewhere. It was easy to cast a protest vote when “everybody knew” that Shumlin would win. I certainly believed that Shumlin didn’t really need my vote. After the results came in, a liberal friend who voted for Milne swore never to cast a protest vote again.

The ironic but unmistakable conclusion: if people had thought the race was close, Shumlin would have done better. To put it another way, if voters had thought they might actually elect Scott Milne, he wouldn’t have done so well.

In the legislative vote for governor, there’s no kidding around. When you’re one out of 200,000, you can tell yourself your vote doesn’t count that much. When you’re one of 180, you really can’t. Each lawmaker is going to take the vote seriously.

And while leadership insists they aren’t twisting any arms, party discipline does — rightly — play a role. Parties are based on some sense of shared purpose and loyalty, which is why I’ve been so harsh on John Campbell and Dick Mazza for their open support of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.

When push comes to shove, and all the cards are on the table, how many Democrats are really going to vote for the other guy? Even if the ballot is secret, it wouldn’t be hard to figure out who voted which way. I expect Milne to get a modest number of Democratic votes, but no more than that.

Besides party loyalty, there’s also Vermonters’ tendency to stick with the familiar. Shumlin may have lost a lot of voters, he may have cost some lawmakers their seats, he may have turned his back on his signature policy proposal, but he’s still “Our Guy.” If the Senate Democratic Caucus gave near-unanimous support to Our Guys John Campbell and Dick Mazza, how many would abandon Peter Shumlin, who’s another one of Our Guys?

There’s also this: Just about everybody in the Statehouse knows that Scott Milne would be a disaster as governor. Well, at best he’d be a two-year placeholder. At worst, Legislative leadership would work around him. But nobody except Scott Milne wants Scott Milne to be governor.

Including all the Republicans who’ll vote for him on Thursday. I’ve written this before and it continues to be true: do you ever see Milne and the top Republicans together? Do you see any mention of “Governor Milne” when Republicans talk about their plans?

Is Milne involved at all in Phil Scott’s little “pitch session” with business leaders on Wednesday?

Nope, nope, and nope.

If the Republicans believed that Milne had the remotest chance of winning, they’d have him out front at every VTGOP event. But they don’t, in spite of their utterances to the contrary, so he remains The Invisible Man.

And on Thursday, he will formally become the losing candidate for governor. As he should be.

(And if I’m wrong, I will cheerfully fess up.)

5 thoughts on “The Legislature’s vote for governor will not be close

  1. Robert Maynard

    “Parties are based on some sense of shared purpose and loyalty, which is why I’ve been so harsh on John Campbell and Dick Mazza for their open support of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott.”

    Hi John,

    This is an issue that is not so clear to me. What if the loyalty to a particular candidate flies against what one holds as “shared principles?” This is not an academic exercise for those of us conservatives/libertarians within the GOP who supported Libertarian Dan Felciano. It certainly was not an accademic exercise for Ted Kennedy when he opposed Jimmy Carter in the 1980 Democratic Primary. I can understand why progressives would be not happy with Democrats supporting Phil Scott over Dean Corren. Progressives have worked hard to ensure that the modern Democrtatic Party’s “shared purpose” reflects progressive goals and ideals. What if Dean Corren ran as a Progressive for a state office against Dick Mazza? Would progressive Democrats be jusitfied in supporting “P”rogressive Dean Corren over “D”emocrat Dick Mazza? I think that they would.

    Of course, this is an accademic exercise for now, as progressives have obtained the kind of message discipline within the Democratic Party that makes such a scenario unlikely to happen. No Democrat is going to win a primary on anything other than a local level unless they at least pay lip service to the progressive agenda. That is why progressives like Bernie Sanders do not support independent progressive challanges to Democrats like Pat Leahy and Peter Welch. It also explains why the Progressive Party worked hard to make sure that Peter Shumlin did not have a progressive challenger in the 2012 general election.

    That may change in the future, as the old line Democrats like Dick Mazza may come to control the party once more, but for now the party is pretty much run by progressives. That is not a criticism, but an observation. I disagree with progressives when it comes to political ideology, but I admire what you guys have accomplished. In fact, I would like to see the kind of message discipline you guys have achieved with the Democratic Party replicated by conservtives/libertarians within the Republican Party.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Robert: Most lefties would laugh bitterly at the notion that progressives control the Democratic Party. They see a leadership that includes a clearly moderate John Campbell, the self-described moderate Shap Smith, and a governor who gives a lot of lip service to progressive ideals but scampers to the center at the first sign of trouble. They see an administration that has blocked modest attempts to rebalance the tax system, sought unprogressive changes to human services programs (particularly the EITC), and has abandoned its signature issue, single payer health care. That’s a partial list; I could go on. Your view of the Democratic power structure is colored by your own political beliefs. Fair enough, but lots of people don’t see it that way.

      As for party loyalty… there are times to go against one’s party, but it should be done with care and consideration. And if the party chooses to punish you for acting that way, you don’t really have a complaint. Parties, like any organization, need some internal coherence. That’s partly a matter of shared beliefs, but there also needs to be some sense of obligation to the party which has helped advance your career.

      I don’t begrudge John Campbell or Dick Mazza for their personal political choices; I just wonder why they don’t face any consequences whatsoever for their repeated actions. Of course, your view of their choices differs from mine because of our different perspectives on the nature of the Vermont Democratic Party.

  2. Robert Maynard

    Hi John,

    I see the term moderate as relative. One thing that is hard to deny is that Vermont has been moving steadily down the path of activist government for quite a while now. As it has done so, the political center has moved leftward. I could name issue after issue where testimlony before the legislature is thoroughly one sided. From environment policy to health care and everything in between. The libertarian approach to dealing with these issues is hardly ever discussed, much less considered. Those who oppose the march toward single payer are portrayed, with very little resistance, as opposing health care reform itself. Those you mentioned may indeed be moderates, but for the most part they have gone along with the lurch toward an ever more activist government. The only real debate we have in Vermont politics is how fast to go in tis direction, never is it discussed whether the direction itself is the right one. Even the Vermont GOP has done little more than slow things down a bit. I am aware of the fact that the left in Vermont don’t see themselves as in charge, I just don’t buy it. By left, I am not referring to the older “Classical Liberalism,” but progressivism.

    I am not complaining becsue in politics there is a saying: “To the winner goes the spoils.” The influence of groups like VPIRG is hard to deny when they tale in over $1 million a year between their 501c3 and 501c4 branches, can get a single grant from the John Merck Fund out of Boston that rivals the entire anual budget of the Ethan Alen Institute, are at or near the top each year of groups with lobbyists at the State House, etc. VPIRG is the 800 lb gorilla of Vermont Politics and they are one one such group. Vemont’s progressives have done a very good job of creating an infrastructure to support their agenda and get a LOT more out to the Vermont Democratic Party that conservatives/libertarians get out of the Republican Party.

    Old line Democrats like Dick Mazza may disent from the party and it is worth asking why they are not repremanded. I am not arguing that. I am saying the agenda being pursued by the Democratic Party as a whole is more influenced by the progressives than old line Democrats. Look at Bernie. At one time he was willing to take on the Democratic establishment in Burlington. Now he works with them. I have disagreed with fellow conservative/libertarians, who see this as hypocritical. I see it as strategic. Bernie receognizes the progressive success in moving the Democratic Party to the left. Now, with single payer stalled, and the real possilility that Shumlin was playing politics with this issue all along, I see progressives as justified in making the Democrats pay in 2016. It may hurt your cause in the short run, but advance it in the long run. My interest in this discussion is the parallel situation that conservatives/libertarians have in the GOP. It is not exactly the same as we do not have the same degree of influence within the GOP as you guys do within the Democratic Party.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Whoa, slow down a bit, partner. Too many typos can hurt your credibility. I disagree with your basic point about Vermont and the nation moving to the left; I’d argue that the height of liberalism was in about 1966, and that Richard Nixon (for all his faults) was the last moderate Republican president.

      Since then, Reaganite values have largely held sway. Even liberals like Bill Clinton (and Peter Shumlin) have had to swing to the center. On tax policy, on economic theory, on labor law, on welfare, on gun control, on national security, we’ve moved to the right. And that’s a very partial, off the top of my head list. If we seem to be swinging leftward on some things (like health care reform), it’s only because Reaganite principles have failed people in many ways.

  3. Robert Maynard

    OK, I will grant you that there has bee an ideological shift, but it has not been accompanied by a change in direction in the movement towards a more activist government. The last President to actually cut spending was Calvin Coolidge. Even under Reagan, the cuts were really a slowdown in the rate of spending. As for Bush I and II, Bush I raised taxes and Bush II engaged in a spending binge that rivaled Democrats. Neither one of them were really conservative in the libertarian, Goldwater/Reagan sense. The GOP base is to the right of most of the leadership and have high regard for Reagan. This causes GOP leadership to pay lip service to carrying the Reagan mantle, but actual policy rarely reflects political rhetoric. This is starting to change in the post Tea Party GOP at the national level. It will be interesting to see who gets the GOP nod in 2016. I am pulling for Rand Paul. There is even talk of a left/right coalition forming to back him against the establishment of both parties. Ralph Nader has mentioned an interest in pursuing this.

    The above mentioned dynamic of the party moving rightward is not happening anywhere near to the extent here in Vermont that it is nationally. This past election has resulted in the Vermont GOP tilting further to the right, but nothing compared to what happened nationally. I think that the post Reagan ideological shift is starting to have an impact around the country and we will see a continued shift to the libertarian right. There is a great potential for the information revolution and social media to accelerate that trend as people become more able to spontaneously organize to get things done without having to resort to government by bureaucratic decree.

    Finally, you are right about me needing to slow down. I am in a habit of trying to do too many things at the same time.


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