Matt Dunne’s first TV commercial is bursting with energy. Upbeat music plays as the candidate faces directly into the camera, and claims the mantle of Bernie Sanders like Linus clutching his security blanket.
What Bernie Sanders started, we need to finish. This campaign is about making Bernie’s vision a reality right here in Vermont.
And then he talks up what may be the least impactful part of Bernie’s vision — a ban on corporate campaign contributions.
Corporations are not people, and they shouldn’t be allowed to buy elections anymore. As Governor, the first thing I’ll do is ban corporate money from politics once and for all.
And, err, that’s it.
I mean, it’s nice and all, but the first thing? Really?
(Also, he can’t do it first thing on his own. He’ll need to convince the Legislature.)
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy with a ban on corporate money. But it’s not even the most urgent problem with campaign finance, much less the most important aspect of the Bernie agenda.
The worst aspects of our cash-sopped campaign system are:
1. Plutocrats spending wads of their own cash — not corporate — to influence politics.
2. The Super PACs and other soft-money groups that are barely regulated at all, and get most of their money from the aforementioned plutocrats.
3. Corporate influence in all its forms, from lobbying to lawsuits to astroturf “advocacy groups” to, yes, campaign contributions.
Dunne’s big idea would address a fraction of the third-biggest problem with money in politics. But he presents it like it’s a revolutionary step that would rid our system of corporate influence and restore the people’s trust in government.
Okay, well, maybe this is merely the first step in Dunne’s rollout of a Bernie-style platform. Maybe we’ll see TV ads about single payer health care and free college tuition and a fairer tax system.
Not so far.
I looked over the “Issues” section of Dunne’s campaign website, and found a few ideas ripped from the Bernie playbook, plus a healthy dose of Shumlin-style incrementalism.
On the good side, Dunne favors a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.
On the “meh” side, he wants to provide universal health care and address the high cost of college — but he’s very short on specifics.
Below that, there are plenty of references to making government smarter or more efficient or tech-savvy, which have been the meat-and-potatoes of every politician since time immemorial. It’s the Googlefied version of “waste and fraud.”
And finally, there are the topics he fails to address at all, such as overhauling Vermont’s unbalanced, antiquated tax system.
Maybe Dunne has strategies for realizing a streamlined, government that can do more with less. But aside from the questionable value of his Google experience, it’s all pretty vague and we’ve heard it before.
So far, none of the Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls has solidified a claim on the Bernie legacy. If Matt Dunne wants his claim to be anything more than hopeful rhetoric, he’ll have to put a lot more meat on his policy bones.