Daily Archives: January 14, 2015

Dan the No Longer Libertarian Man

(UPDATE: Per VTDigger, he’s joined the Republican Party. See below.)

Here’s a little piece of political news so shocking that I almost stifled a yawn.

Oooooookay, then. I imagine this will rattle around the Vermont political media for a few hours and then we’ll get back to stuff that actually matters.

Not to disparage the contributions of Mr. Feliciano. But we are talking about a guy who enjoyed a boatload of free publicity, including widespread speculation that he might outpoll Scott Milne, and in the end he barely managed to fend off the bottom-of-the-ballot Nutbar Brigade. He couldn’t even push the Libertarians into automatic ballot status for 2016.

I can see three possible implications. In order of likelihood:

— He’s had enough of politics and will turn his attention back to work and family. 10% chance; once bitten by the political bug, the fever usually persists beyond one election cycle.

— He doesn’t know what’s next, he’s on the outs with the Libertarians anyway, so he’s clearing the decks. 30% chance; it’s neat and clean, but I suspect he has an idea what he wants to do. Which is…

— He’s aiming to run for governor in 2016 as the darling of the right wing. 60% chance. The opening is there, unless Randy Brock re-emerges from the weeds. (Which I doubt.) The right needs a front man with some sort of credibility, and Feliciano was a perfectly cromulent candidate in 2014. He’s got some name recognition, he’s got a foothold in the Vermont political world. He impressed the likes of Darcie Johnston, even if he pretty much failed with the electorate.

There are problems with this scenario, obviously. His “proven appeal” amounts to 4% of the vote, even with all the publicity he got and all the troubles of his Republican counterpart. He’d be aiming to represent a wing of the VTGOP that’s clearly on the outs; if the 2014 election proved anything, it’s that a center-right position is much more appealing to voters than a hard-right stance.

Plus, in a hypothetical primary against Phil Scott, he’d get flattened.

Of course, the fact that the right wing is clearly on the outs makes them desperate enough to see Mr. Four Percent as their knight in fiscally conservative armor.

UPDATE: VTDigger’s Tom Brown reports that Feliciano has joined the Republican Party, saying its larger base would give him a better chance of winning a future campaign. That might be another run for governor; he might also pursue another office:

“It depends on what it is,” he said. “I have to be in a position where I can really influence things and get things done. I would not be good in the middle.”

I think we can all agree on that.

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Fear and loathing under the Golden Dome

Funny thing. The more time goes by since last Thursday’s inaugural protest, the more fearsome and dangerous it seems to become.

We haven’t had any single item more outrageous than Sen. Dick McCormack’s employment of that fine old epithet “fascist.” What we have had is a proliferation of exaggerated characterizations and inconsistent rationales for why the Vermont Workers’ Center went too far.

At first, the ire was mainly concentrated on a single incident, in which a lone protester entered the chamber singing and chanting over the benediction. Regrettable and stupid.

But apparently Our Elected Leaders realize that that one incident fails to justify their reaction, because they’ve been using their creative powers to devise new ways the protest crossed some invisible boundary. I suspect that by the end of the month, the protest will be described as a cross between the Chicago riots, the nude scene from “Hair,” and the supercharged zombie attacks from “World War Z.”

The Inaugural Protest. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

The Inaugural Protest. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

Anyone who’s experienced real political turmoil would have to admit that the VWC was remarkably restrained. They did not, as many media outlets have reported, “disrupt” or “interfere with” the proceedings.

I listened on the radio, and I heard very little of the protesters — and I heard no interruptions in the proceedings. If those in attendance couldn’t hear, they could have asked that the sound system be turned up.

Recently, we’ve heard that some lawmakers felt uneasy about proceeding into the House chamber through a crowd, even though police officers lined their path. (And even though there was no hint of any violent intent by the protesters.) Indignant lawmakers have stopped referring to the benediction incident in favor of overly-broad depictions of the protest as loud or disruptive, which is only true if the expectation is library-standard quiet. We’ve heard references to possible fire-code violations — in a building whose last major fire was, I believe, in 1857. (We haven’t heard a peep from the police or the Sergeant At Arms about the fire code; that’s all come from opportunistic Republicans.)

Today we had the unedifying spectacle of Republican lawmakers threatening to walk out of the Governor’s budget address on Thursday should the protesters return, on the transparently specious grounds that they fear a stampede in case of a fire. Hell, those protesters are probably better organized than the assembled dignitaries. I suspect they’d be fully capable of calmly proceeding to the nearest egress.

We’ve also heard a whole lot of blaming the protest for potential security upgrades at the Statehouse. Which is ridiculous. First, because the protesters did not pose a threat to anyone with an ounce of common sense. And second, because enhanced security has been on the table for quite a while now — and will inevitably penetrate the hallowed halls. Because that’s just the way the world is these days. To blame it on that protest is utterly disingenuous.

Most of all, we’ve heard repeated appeals to respect and dignity and civility.

What this is really about is a set of crusty old traditions about the Statehouse. Voices are generally lowered, at what might be termed a “power mumble.” (It’s hell for old radio guys like me, with moderately compromised hearing.) There’s an unspoken expectation that men shall wear button-down shirts and ties. VWC members have one strike against them from the gitgo, since they dare to wear red T-shirts while roaming the sacred halls.

Playing by the unwritten rules is important to Statehouse regulars. The longer they’ve served (McCormack, a total of 22 years), the more wedded to Statehouse mores they become. And the more they resent it when the outside world dares to intrude.

They call it the People’s House, and accuse the protesters of disrupting the People’s business. But they themselves want everyone to treat it like a cross between a museum and a mausoleum.

It’s too bad when democracy — the People’s real business — gets a little messy and intrudes on what some consider sacred space. But I don’t feel sorry for them, not at all.

And those traditions? Throw ’em out with the trash, if you ask me.