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.”
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?