Republican growls, Democrats scatter

So this week, VTGOP chair David Sunderland has been aggressively attacking the Democrats over a proposed carbon tax. Which, as Terri Hallenbeck pointed out, isn’t actually on the table for legislative action.

Right off the bat, word one, Sunderland’s lying. But he goes on to tell a bigger lie: that the carbon tax would be a massive burden, especially on working and middle class Vermonters.

What he’s conveniently ignoring is the fact that the carbon tax idea includes counterbalancing tax cuts, targeted at working Vermonters.

But Sunderland isn’t telling you that. He’s yammering about an “assault on working Vermonters, struggling young people and senior citizens,” “dangerous, pulitive, regressive,” “punishing… disgusting,” and “disconnect with reality.”

Actually, Sunderland is the one disconnected with the reality of the idea. But he sees a point of attack, and he’s not going to give up on it just because he has to lie constantly.

I shouldn’t be surprised, since Sunderland has publicly denied the settled science of climate change.

As I wrote last February:

On Wednesday, two of Vermont’s top Republicans took to the VPR airwaves to make their case to the people. And one of them said this about global warming, really, actually:

“I think there’s science on both sides of the issue that both sides use against each other.”

The Mystery Voice belonged to VTGOP Chair David Sunderland, who had just finished “explaining” how the VTGOP was different from the national Republican Party — more inclusive, less extreme. He doesn’t set a very good example, does he?

So yeah, I guess if you don’t believe the broad scientific consensus on climate change, then you wouldn’t be in favor of a carbon tax. Because why not just keep burning fossil fuels?

Sunderland’s aggressive mendacity has been met with a lily-livered response from many top Democrats. They’re tripping all over each other with reassurances that they won’t take up the carbon tax idea in 2016, nor will they for at least several more years or until neighboring states join us. Or until sometime after the last polar bear drowns in the open waters of the Arctic, perhaps.

The worst offender I’ve seen, unfortunately, is the newly-minted candidate for Lieutenant Governor, State Rep. Kesha Ram. She is the only Democratic statewide candidate who’s signed on as a sponsor of a carbon-tax bill. Now read this mess (courtesy of VPR), and tell me you don’t smell desperate backpedaling:

“I think the lead sponsors as well as many of the co-sponsors and people who have been interested in this conversation know that it’s a long-term conversation and that it all has to be discussed in the context of knowing that cost-of-living is increasing for Vermonters and we cannot create significant economic dislocation at a time that Vermonters are already struggling,” she said.


Not a great move for a candidate who’s supposed to help the Dems maintain their left flank.

From what I know, the carbon-tax plans under consideration were designed to mitigate the impact on working families. Including the one she’s sponsoring, and has presumably read. But Ram doesn’t mention any of that. Instead, she cedes the rhetorical battlefield to the Republicans. Not a good look.

The only person who’s directly confronted Sunderland is Paul Burns, head of VPIRG. He has challenged Sunderland to a debate on the carbon tax:

In his press release, Sunderland not only neglected to mention the importance of making money-saving clean energy choices available to more Vermonters, he also misled the public by failing to disclose that the proposal would also lead to massive tax cuts for both businesses and individuals.

“Mr. Sunderland claims that in the coming weeks and months he wants to engage Vermonters in a discussion around this proposal and matters of fiscal responsibility,” said VPIRG’s Paul Burns. “Let’s do it. I challenge you to defend your fear mongering in a public debate.”

That’s the courageous response. What the Democrats are doing might be prudent politics, but it’s politics from a defensive position. It’s yet another example of triangulating to the center and failing to confront an eminently confrontable Republican talking point. If the Dems are hoping to avoid a split on their left and an electoral challenge from the Progressives, they’re doing it wrong.

3 thoughts on “Republican growls, Democrats scatter

  1. Walter Carpenter

    Good for Paul. Glad he called Sunderland out on this one. Glad you did too. At least someone had the kudos to do it.

  2. chuck gregory

    As Michael Moore long ago put it, the Democratic party vis-a-vis the Republicans is the abused spouse who keeps trying to be nicer in order to gain a smidgen of approval. Vermont’s party isn’t very much different.


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