Ever since last Thursday’s inaugural ceremonies, Gov. Shumlin has been telling anyone who will listen that he was “saddened” by the presence of protesters. Like other Democrats, he singles out the one protester who crossed the line by singing during the benediction.
He has to highlight that one moron because otherwise, the demonstrators were not disruptive or offensive. They followed the rules of civil protest. The inauguration proceeded as scheduled until the very end.
Of course, what really offends the governor is that they dared to crash his coronation. The Vermont Press Bureau:
“The inauguration is an opportunity where we all say, ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves, cut out all this party stuff and get to work,’” the governor said. “And I just don’t think that they did their cause… much good by the kind of tactics they employed…”
Or in Brill Building terms: “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To.”
The whingeing is excessive and self-centered. But I’d like to focus on one thing the Governor is saying, over and over again, that hurts his credibility. It goes something like this:
“I was really saddened by what happened yesterday, because I’m as frustrated as anyone with our health care system, and there’s no one that wants to see the goal of universal access as much as I do,” he said.
That’s from Saturday’s Burlington Free Press, but he’s been spouting variations on that theme in other outlets.
And he needs to stop. Now.
For one thing, it’s false. For another, it’s a two-sided statement: Shumlin is trying to emphasize his own political pain and loss — but at the same time, he’s downgrading everyone else’s.
Is there really no one who is more frustrated by Shumlin’s abandonment of single-payer? Is there really no one who more ardently wants to see universal access?
Of course there is.
Start within the administration itself. Are Robin Lunge or Mark Larson less disappointed than Shumlin? How about Anya Rader Wallack? Or Jonathan Gruber, who’s become a national laughingstock and has now lost his best chance to enact single-payer? There must be, at minimum, dozens of staffers and contractors who’ve put their heart and soul into Vermont’s single-payer initiative. That’s not to mention the single-payer advocates like Deb Richter and Peter Sterling, who served on the Governor’s Consumer Advisory Council and had the rug pulled out from under them.
Widening our scope, how about the entire Progressive Party, which put its own gubernatorial ambitions on hold for three straight election cycles in order to give Shumlin a free hand on single-payer? Might they be more frustrated than the Governor?
Which is not to overlook Democrats who’ve fought for single-payer. Maybe ex-Rep. Mike Fisher feels a bit of disappointment after losing his bid for re-election and then the cause he’d worked so hard for.
Finally, let’s not forget the tens of thousands of Vermonters who still don’t have health insurance, and the additional tens of thousands who still struggle to pay their premiums, in spite of the Affordable Care Act’s advancements. They are directly impacted by Shumlin’s decision in ways that he will never, ever be. He’s a millionaire who can afford any kind of health coverage he wants, up to and including concierge medicine from the Mayo Clinic.
That’s a partial list, but a substantial one. I think it’s safe to say that there is at least one person more frustrated and more disappointed than Governor Shumlin.
Whether he intends it or not, the Governor slights the feelings and experiences of all those people when he claims special status as the number-one victim of single-payer’s demise.
As for what he should say instead, here’s a suggestion:
“My decision not to pursue single-payer health care has caused a lot of anger and frustration, and disappointed a lot of people, including many who have supported me politically. Our inability to move forward on single-payer has brought pain to thousands of Vermonters who are still without health insurance.
“I apologize to each and every one of them. My commitment to universal access is as strong as ever, and as long as I am Governor, I will strive to advance the cause of universal access to the best of my ability.”
There. That’s not too hard, is it?