Imagine, if you will, a high-profile statewide campaign launch held in the ballroom of a semi-swanky hotel.
In addition to the usual banners, balloons, etc., the room also contains four gas-powered vehicles (or representations thereof): a vintage tractor, a miniature race car and bulldozer, and a full-sized stock car. The candidate himself is a stock car driver; the car is decked out as a rolling campaign billboard; and his logo features a checkered flag. All that’s missing is a model of an oil derrick.
The event occurs in late afternoon. For most of the day, the same room had hosted the annual meeting of the state’s biggest construction trade association. The candidate is a prominent member of the group.
Now tell me: what kind of environmental policy would you expect from this candidate?
I’m speaking, as you already know, of putative moderate Phil Scott. The trade group? The Associated General Contractors of Vermont. (You don’t often see so many portly, pasty-faced men in one place. It was like hippos at the watering hole, except with suits and ties.)
True to his image, Scott made his share of moderate-sounding noises; but the optics would presage a hard-line, pro-development, pro-fossil fuel campaign you might expect from a Rick Perry or a James Inhofe, not from Good Ol’ Phil Scott.
This being Good Ol’ Phil Scott, I’ll bet he gets the benefit of the doubt. Nobody (present company excepted, ahem) will call him on this, because we all know Good Ol’ Phil Scott is a nice guy who loves the environment just as much as any pure-bred Son Of The Green Mountains.
But does he really?
He’s very good at paying lip service to moderation and Vermont’s (overrated) tradition of respect for the environment. But to judge from his campaign launch, he’s in bed with the development crowd and he’s really, really into gas-powered vehicles.
And those unfortunate optics are very much in sync with his real-life experience. He’s been in the construction business a lot longer than he’s been in politics. Indeed, he says he entered politics because of his “frustration with Montpelier” as a business owner. He is a longtime member of AGC-VT and has served as its president. One of its top executives spoke at his announcement and shared the stage with him.
If that’s not enough, there’s his oft-repeated anecdote about his first business venture, a motorcycle shop. When he tried to expand the business, he ran afoul of Act 250. He certainly hasn’t forgotten; has he forgiven?
To bring it up to the present, Scott has pledged to reject any proposed legislation that increases costs in any way. Which pretty much kills any new bills on environmental protection or climate change for the duration of a Scott administration.
You know, even if there isn’t a corrupt bone in his body, isn’t it fair to assume that he has the life experiences of a contractor and shares the profession’s values and beliefs? Isn’t it fair to assume that if he’s elected, his old construction buddies will enjoy an open door to the corner office?
If you knew nothing about Phil Scott before you read this account, would you expect him to be a moderate? Or a gung-ho pro-business type?
He’ll probably get a pass on all this, because after all, he is Good Ol’ Phil, universally acclaimed nice guy. And maybe I’m cynical, but the phrase “Trojan horse” springs to mind.