The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

Apparently this all started when Windsor County Democratic chair Brandon Batham excluded Paige from a Democratic forum earlier this month. His reasoning, per the Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman:

“…we decided to set up a rule that if you had run on a statewide ballot as anything other than a Democrat in the past five years, that’s a pretty good indicator of your commitment to the Democratic Party,” said Batham, who noted Paige has run as a Republican in recent years.

Paige responded on Facebook by calling Batham a “flatlander” and adding some unflattering references to Batham’s girth. Which, like my own, is not insubstantial.

VDP Executive Director Conor Casey said Paige’s comments were “beneath contempt” and that “we have a zero-tolerance policy for… such offensive statements.”

Commendable.

But hypocritical.

Throughout the active phase of the Democratic presidential primary, Vermont’s superdelegates came under heavy pressure from Bernie Sanders supporters. That pressure was often insulting, highly personal, and/or threatening in nature — far worse than anything Paige has written or said. Has the VDP taken action against anyone else under its “zero-tolerance policy”?

Not that I know of.

As for the ruling that started this whole thing — excluding candidates who have carried the banner for another party in the past five years — well, they haven’t done anything about staunch Progressive Chris Pearson running for a Democratic State Senate nomination. Indeed, if the state Democratic Party adopted “the Batham rule,” our current crop of Progs-turned-D/P’s would have been excluded from the Democratic ticket.

I understand the desire to be rid of the sometimes irritating Mr. Paige, but this move seems ill-considered. It’s given him a fair bit of publicity, and it puts him in a sympathetic light. Consider the refined wisdom of Lyndon B. Johnson: Isn’t it better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in?

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14 thoughts on “The Paige Exclusion

  1. Bud Haas

    You’re way too hard on the “Diamondstone” Clan. If you go back over the past 30 years, you’ll find the Peter was right-on, on almost all the issues, from war, to medical care, to education, social issues, and all. He and the Liberty Union gang helped bring Vermont where it is today, by being the “radical” voice at time, forcing the Dem’s to come to the Left.

    Reply
  2. Brooke Paige

    John,

    Naturally I disagreement with some of this post , however on the whole I think there is a substantial serving of truth in your comments.

    FYI

    As you know I do not consider myself a “birther” since I never questioned Mr. Obama;s Hawaiian birth of his birth certificate only whether his father’s British subjecthood precluded him being a “Natural-born citizen” one of the three Constitutional requirements. Likewise Mr. Cruz;s Canadian birth and father’s Cuban citizenship AND Mr. Rubio’s lack of a citizen parent made both even less qualified than Obama (if such a condition is possible) ! I thought you might enjoy learning that Brady Toensing represents Rubio in our ongoing adventure, now being appealed to the SCoV.

    As to party affiliation, I have never, to date, run as an independent; as I would not wish to become even a modest spoiler in the General Election. I don’t think “party” is the big thing it is elsewhere – I think most people vote the person not the party. Neither the “Ds” nor the “Rs” have been thrilled with having me onboard as I tend to stand for issues that I believe in rather than being willing to embrace the “party line” – although the Republicans have had a better sense of humor about my involvement!

    Of interest is the fact that Brandon has been the Clinton operative in Vermont this election season and his intolerance for Cris and me is, quite possibly, an extension of the national party’s troubles with another recent adherent – Mr. Sanders.

    Thanks for providing your unique perspective on this little dust-up. In the season of “Trump” – I have been amazed that this has resulted in little “blow back” and a lot of folks lending words of support as a result of my dismissal, expulsion, . . . whatever. One thing is certain – the new Democrats are not the rough and tumble operatives that the party produced in day gone by. Can you imagine the insurgent Democrats of the ‘60’s or ‘70’s crying about being “bullied” by anyone, especially a minor candidate on their own ballot – OMG !

    All the Best,

    Brooke.

    Reply
  3. NanuqFC

    John, I think here’s a false equivalency in your comparison of Mr. Paige with the Bernie Bros. While many of the Bernie Bros have been obnoxious in the extreme to anyone daring to differ out loud from those who would anoint Mr. Sanders as the electoral Messiah, Mr. Paige has been an irritant far longer than many of the Bernie Bros have been of voting age; unlike Mr. Paige, the Bernie Bros may or may not be identifiable, depending on whether their comments are signed with their own names; unlike Mr. Paige, the Bernie Bros are not asking for tangible assets from the Democratic Party or seeking an endorsement with access to VDP databases; and unlike Mr. Paige, the Bernie Bros are not, for the most part, to my admittedly limited knowledge of their activities, running for office themselves.

    I’ll agree with you that banning Mr. Paige from VDP activities is probably not the most effective or small-d democratic way of dealing with his unwanted presence. What would you suggest the party do instead?

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      I would have given him a warning first, which may have been done.

      In the short run, I think it’d be preferable to ignore him. The Party could also have publicized his offensive behavior and formally distanced itself from him without an outright ban.

      In the longer run, perhaps the party should consider rules that would make it harder for outside candidates to use the Democratic name. Or pursue legislation that would make it harder for candidates to achieve ballot access.

      All that being said, this is kind of a tempest in a teapot anyway. Paige wasn’t going to get anywhere with whatever “tangible assets” he might have received from the Party, i.e. none. Nothing’s really changed.

      Reply
    2. NanuqFC

      I stand corrected: as of Wednesday’s Seven Days, in a story by Terri Hallenbeck, it has been reported that a few Bernie partisans are actually running for the state legislator. Not for them the route Bernie took, running for municipal office to gain hands-on, concrete management skills in a venue where their neighbors might hold them accountable. So, it’s good that they’re trying (and I’m sure they’re trying).

      There are others out there running on Bernie’s coattails, but they have already served in the past (yes, Matt, I’m looking at you, and the tv ads you are running in which you over-promise and come across rather like Jimmy Olsen beaming about Superman).

      Reply
  4. Selene Hofer-Shall

    As a member of the VDP Executive Committee, I’d like to defend the decision that we made as a political party.

    I see this as no different than defending a member of the VDP staff for being publicly attacked for being gay or for being non-white or being Trans-Geneder. Our staff and leadership team have made a commitment to support one another, and there is a big difference between using social media to argue policy positions verses using social media to make personal attacks.

    It’s cyber-bullying of a member of the VDP staff from a candidate who claims to be running as a Democrat. Can you imagine TJ Donovan, Matt Dunne, Shap Smith, etc acting in a similar manner? Obviously no. Unacceptable.

    As for the Bernie Bullies, I don’t disagree with your perspective in a general sense, but see this as a false equivalency.

    There is a difference between a supporter of a candidate being hostile on social media (we can’t control the crazies, but we are having a lot of these 1:1 conversations offline to request civility) and a candidate running on the DEMOCRATIC BALLOT being hostile.

    Bottom line is that we chose to support a member of our team in defense of him being bullied online. I recognize that in doing so we gave more press to H. Brooke Paige than he deserved, but supporting a member of our staff took priority.

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      You make some good points, and I certainly think the Democratic Party can set its rules as it sees fit. I would take exception to the term “bullying” here. True bullying includes a power imbalance: the bully has the upper hand, and is using it in an abusive manner. The misuse of “bullying” dilutes the meaning of the word.

      You can call it harassment if you like. That’d be accurate.

      Reply
    2. Faith Biggs King

      “Bullied online”. Oh my goodness. Yes, you are right , there is a difference between online behavior from supporters, or hot heads, and the behavior if candidates. True. Bit your stance on Paige is riddled with holes like swiss cheese. Let’s take the spurious reference to “Bernie Bullies” or “Bernie Bros”. Glenn Greenwald thoroughly deconstructed that invented meme in the Intercept a few months ago. It was nonsense then. No more than a swift-boating construction by the Clinton campaign that dissolved under close scrutiny. It was put in place through a few tweets and opinion pieces by a handful of ‘commentators’ around the country – and then took off like wild fire. Dog whistles a plenty. Joan Walsh and her “angry white men” cracks – conjuring up images of abusers and the KKK. Nobody corners the market on rude, online comments. I read innumerable personal insults slung at Senator Sanders – online – by apparent Clinton supporters – during this primary campaign. He was repeatedly derided for his age; termed ‘useless’ and labeled ‘crazy’. I’ve been told there were more than a few instances of anti-Semitism thrown into the online conversation as well. Yet not once did I read that Secretary Clinton was disowning that behavior or language. Not once. Nor have a read any State Dem’s denouncing that language either. (“Clinton Crazies, anyone?”) I have a suggestion. Let’s put the term “bullying” back on the playground where it belongs. The only valid, clear line I see for adults is that threats, explicit or implied, are out. I would add to that references to status that receive constitutional protection. Everything else? As Brandeis said: the best remedy for false speech is more speech. You don’t like Paige, don’t vote for him.

      Reply
  5. Brooke Paige

    John,

    A couple of answers to questions raised by your followers.

    First, I never asked, nor, received, any support from the VDP. I never used their “data base” I never asked for financial support and in fact contributed a couple hundred dollars to the party,

    Second, I agree that the parties should have control over who may call themselves “Ds” or “Rs” – in fact bringing attention to the defects in Title 17 (Vermont’s Election Law), is one of the main reasons I work to get on the ballot and conduct my low budget campaign. For years, the Democrats and the Progressives have used the current election law to game the election in several ways. The most notorious has been Mr. Sanders petitioning to be in the Democratic Primary, only to refuse the nomination once it was impossible for another candidate to run against him, as a Democrat, in the general election – in a successful effort to preclude a three way race for federal office. In the last election (2014) hundreds of Democrats took Republican ballots in the primary in an effort to have their candidates labeled as both “D” and “R” and succeeded in having Beth Pearce, Jim Condos and Doug Hoffer won as the highest Republican vote getters. Further their effort almost succeeded on having Bill Sorrell best the Republican write-in favorite Shane McCormack. The Democrats are only upset to have a candidate turning the tables on them and pointing out the defects in Title 17. Jim Condos is running a pretty :loose ship” in the elections division and I think it is time for the Legislature to take a look at the big picture and tighten up the election process.

    Third, as to the claim of equivalency between a comment about someone who is morbidly obesity and someone “being gay or for being non-white or being Trans-Geneder (sic).” I think making such claims, diminishes the importance of protecting individuals in those categories.

    Heck, I get “chided” regularly for being overweight, balding (old-head), dressing to formally, being a “classic liberal” (conservative),being a closet Republican, being a “birther,” being a perennial candidate (when I have only run for office three times) to name but a few of the “insults” sent my way. Unlike Mr. Batham and his Democratic comrades, I would never even consider making a big deal out of it; let alone claiming that I was being “bullied.” This is the big leagues and one shouldn’t be in the “kitchen” if one cannot take the heat !

    Brooke

    Reply
  6. odum

    A political party should never issue “blanket bans” on any individual to all its events. Its antithetical to the mission.

    Reply
  7. Brooke Paige

    After rereading your post, I would like to suggest one small correction to make it more accurate:

    “Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own in his entire political ‘career’.”

    Appreciate Your Consideration,

    Brooke

    Reply
  8. newzjunqie

    Not a fan of side-line candidates but it’s not a crime. Mr. Paige is really so polite & has been on other left-leaning blogs also. Such a gentleman & makes interesting thoughtful comments even though personally disagree with most positions.

    Dem party top dog kinda jumped the gun with perfunctory broadish-brush analysis. Saw the back-and-forth including blow-by-blow. Was mystified at how serious an event Dem top-brass made of it — pursued with the same gusto equivilant to a hate-crime — laughable really. “Somebody called me a ‘fat’lander” oh WAH! So silly and really pretty pathetic. Was expecting to see “micro-aggression” & “safe-spaces” flying somewhere in the mashup-whew.

    Beware the blogosphere & social media-hazard to health & not for the fainthearted.

    Reply

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