So I forced myself to watch the Republican presidential debate last week. Overall impressions?
Ben Carson excepted, these guys are articulate spokespeople for a worldview completely at odds with reality. Also, whoever gets the nomination is going to be an albatross around Phil Scott’s neck.
I mentioned this in my previous post, but the point deserves further attention.
In a relatively serious, issue-oriented debate, the Republicans presented an array of positions that made George W. Bush look like a liberal. And we all know how popular George W. was in Vermont — the only state he never visited as President. (Dick Cheney made one stop, a quick in-and-out at the Burlington Airport.)
To put it another way, the Republican presidential nominee will not help Phil Scott or his party-broadening project. Not the least tiny little bit.
In case you doubt me, just look over this list of positions. Not all were voiced by every candidate; but if there’s one thing John Kasich proved, it’s that a little bit of apostasy goes a long way toward dooming your campaign. The successful nominee will have to support these positions, or slightly toned-down versions thereof.
Immigration: Mass deportation is the hard line approach. The “sensible” version is securing the borders (which is an unattainable goal) and then maybe pursuing some modest reform.
Taxation: All the candidates support tax reforms that would give huge breaks to the wealthy and do little or nothing to help struggling Americans. Many candidates espouse tax increases for those barely out of poverty, on the grounds that everyone should have some “skin in the game.”
Income inequality: They all have lovely rhetoric about helping Americans succeed, but none would actually do anything to help aside from the rainbows-and-unicorns notion that massive tax cuts will produce prosperity for all. Even though that’s never worked. Donald Trump lifted the curtain on this swindle when he said that higher pay for working Americans would hurt our competitiveness, and that “people have to work really hard and get into that upper stratum.” When, (a) people are already working really hard and struggling to get by, and (b) the vast majority will never see the upper stratum.
Budget: Their tax plans would add trillions to the deficit over ten years’ time, and (except for Rand Paul) they call for massive new spending on the military and homeland security. When asked how they would cut the budget, they offer unworkable ideas or vague promises. And, in the case of Ted Cruz, the closing of five agencies he can’t remember.
Foreign policy: The big idea seems to be widespread military intervention around the globe. Which would further destabilize troubled regions and blow another big hole in the budget.
Health care: Repeal Obamacare, depriving millions of health coverage. Replace it, maybe, with some unspecified thing. None of them has a real plan. (Carly Fiorina, serial prevaricator, actually said that “Obamacare hasn’t helped anyone.” She was dead serious. And she was lying through her teeth.)
Veterans: Privatize the VA, leaving our military vets in the tender embrace of the insurance industry. Which is only a good tradeoff if Republicans guarantee full payment for to-of-the-line private insurance coverage.
So there’s your Rogues Gallery. Now tell me: how will any of this help Phil Scott win the governorship? The Republicans’ extremist nominee — and the closest thing to a “centrist” is John Kasich, who was a loyal member of the Newt Gingrich “Contract With America” team and has been a ruthless cutter as Governor of Ohio — will be so out of step with where Scott wants to take the VTGOP that I sincerely doubt he will ever mention his own party’s standard-bearer. Aside from grin-and-bear-it expressions of support in response to direct media questions.
The Republicans’ presidential nominee is likely to drive Democratic turnout much more than Republican. It will add to Vermont liberals’ determination to get out the vote, while the VTGOP hierarchy will be ambivalent at best about their standard bearer.
That’s it for this post, but I’m not done with Reasons Phil Scott Might Lose. Coming up next: a contrast in party strength.