For those who thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill, here’s your Monday morning wakeup: environmental activist Bill McKibben has withdrawn his endorsement of Matt Dunne for governor. He’s shifted his support to Sue Minter. The news was broken today by Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.
This is big in two fundamental ways. First, obviously, McKibben is the planet’s number-one climate change activist. His endorsement of Dunne was effectively an environmental seal of approval.
Second, McKibben was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Dunne — indeed, he encouraged Dunne to run for governor, presumably because he thought that Dunne was the best candidate to continue Vermont’s renewable energy push. As recently as last Wednesday, McKibben co-signed a letter to the Addison Independent endorsing Dunne.
And then Friday came, and Dunne executed a flip-flop worthy of Simone Biles. Technically, he didn’t come out against wind or solar energy. But he adopted the rhetoric of those who are trying to slow or even halt our renewables buildout. He blew all their favorite dog whistles.
McKibben heard. And now Dunne has lost his most prominent environmental supporter.
Which again brings me to the subject of early voting. Thousands of Vermonters have already cast their ballots for the August 9 primary. How many of them were swayed by McKibben’s endorsement? We don’t know, but it’s reasonable to assume that some people voted for Dunne based (in part, at least) on McKibben’s then-enthusiastic support.
Which is why, as McKibben said himself in his withdrawal letter, candidates should avoid significant changes in their positions during the early voting period.
It takes courage to publicly change course and admit you were wrong. Courage has been a hallmark of McKibben’s lengthy tenure in the spotlight. He displayed it once again with his un-endorsement letter.
His letter is reproduced in full at Seven Days. Recommended reading.