This coming weekend will feature the Democratic (
Saturday Sunday in Barre) and Republican ( Sunday Saturday in Burlington) state conventions. The Dems will be trying to accommodate the Bernie Sanders crowd enough to forestall any open warfare; and the four superdelegates who plan to support Hillary Clinton are girding themselves for a Bernie Bro onslaught.
But the real entertainment value is likely to come from the Republican gathering, where party leaders and potential candidates will have to deal with the unpleasant fact of Donald Trump at the top of their ticket.
And the national GOP is sending a clear message to state parties: Bow Down Before The Donald.
Republican activists chose party unity over “never Trump” resistance Saturday, with party leaders in one state after another pressuring their members to fall in line behind the presumptive nominee — and even punishing those who refused.
Eleven states held annual Republican conventions or party leadership meetings Saturday, offering a platform for those who still object to Donald Trump… But at almost every turn, they slammed into state leaders who closed ranks around a candidate who many once said they’d never support.
Interesting moment for Phil Scott, the VTGOP’s shining star and likely gubernatorial nominee. If the convention falls in line with Trump, he’ll be an isolated, neutered figure in his own party.
Especially if his challenger Bruce Lisman chooses that moment to finally endorse Trump — which he’s almost certain to do sometime.
The convention would be a singularly impactful opportunity for Lisman, if indeed the state party leaders are going to obey their national masters and push the pro-Trump narrative.
And if you don’t believe Lisman is actively moving toward a Trump endorsement, get a load of this from VTDigger:
Lisman says he has not decided, noting Trump won the Vermont primary convincingly.
“Simply saying I don’t like him for all that he’s said would certainly make those who voted for him wonder what we are thinking about,” Lisman said.
Trump’s margin of victory was 2.4 percent. Trump 32.7%, John Kasich 30.4 percent.
Gee, Bruce, why don’t you put on some spray tan and an orange wig while you’re at it?
The entertainment portion of the VTGOP convention will also have a Trumpian feel, although this would seem to be coincidental since it was scheduled before the Trumpstorm swept away all vestiges of Republican self-respect. The special guest is none other than John “Tig” Tiegen, one of the so-called “heroes of Benghazi,” the CIA contractors who tried to fight back against the embassy takeover.
Tiegen and his colleagues have heaped blame on the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Benghazi. And, wouldn’t you know it, Tiegen has endorsed Donald J. Trump for president.
(Tiegen won’t be giving a talk. It’ll be an on-stage interview conducted by none other than Mike Smith, former Douglas administration fixture and longtime Republican politico currently masquerading as a nonpartisan talk-show host on WDEV. So there’s that.)
(Amusingly, the Burlington Free Press posted a brief story about the Tiegen/Smith event in mid-April that failed to mention Smith’s current employment. Strange.)
Between the incendiary nature of Tiegen’s presentation and the national pressure to support Trump, the VTGOP convention could be extremely uncomfortable for putative leader Phil Scott. It’s also not going to help the party in its eternal quest to broaden its appeal. No, this is shaping up to be a red-meat affair that will cater to the hard-core elements of the party and those happy 32.7 percent who voted for Trump.
Vermont Republicans, whatever their political calculus for in-state success, can’t afford to go against the national party. The VTGOP remains financially and organizationally feeble; they need national help.
It’ll be quite the balancing act. I’ll bet VTGOP chair David Sunderland is hitting the Maalox bottle especially hard this week.