Sooner or later, the Vermont Republican Party will have to sort through some stuff. Some unpleasant, downright Trumpian stuff swirling around Rutland these days, sparked by the proposed settlement of 100 Syrian refugees.
It won’t be an issue this fall — except in Rutland. And it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Phil Scott has to say about it. To judge by his usual metrics, he’ll come out with a mealy-mouthed thing about taking everyone’s views into consideration and finding common ground.
Instead of, you know, the right thing: condemning the dog-whistle racialism being spewed by opponents of settlement — the likes of Rutland First and its allies.
The real moment of truth is likely to come next March, when the nativists will almost certainly field candidates who would block the settlement and try to defenestrate incumbent Mayor Chris Louras, the primary author of the settlement plan.
That’s when the VTGOP will have to choose sides. Or, you know, duck and cover.
RF held an “informational” meeting on Monday. It was live-Tweeted with great skill by self-described writer, journalist and bartender Jim Sabataso. The Tweet that caught my eye:
— Jim Sabataso (@JimSabataso) August 30, 2016
That’s Wendy Wilton, Rutland city treasurer and spectactularly unsuccessful candidate for Vermont Treasurer back in 2012, when she got her clock cleaned by first-time candidate Beth Pearce in spite of the generous backing of Lenore Broughton and her short-lived but very costly Vermonters First advocacy group. (Hmm: “Vermonters First”, “Rutland First”. Coincidence, I’m sure.)
(If “group” can be fairly applied to an “organization” consisting of Lenore Broughton and former bagboy Tayt Brooks.)
WIlton was apparently a loud and prominent spokesperson for opponents of settlement, brandishing an “analysis” of the plan that identified truly astounding costs to the city and its taxpayers. Mayor Chris Louras branded her “analysis” a “lie” and asserted that Wilton “is simply making things up to serve her own agenda.”
Sounds like the makings of a pier-six brawl down Rut Vegas way, with the VTGOP’s conservative wing already beginning to line up behind WIlton and Friends.
(Wilton also pulled a fast one on local lawmakers attending the meeting. At the end of the evening, she produced a letter requesting a moratorium on the settlement plan, and asked the lawmakers to sign it.
Faced with a document they hadn’t read or had time to consider, all of them refused. Rightly so; if WIlton had wanted their signatures, she would have handled it more deftly. As it was, she seemed to want confrontation rather than consent. The mark of a demagogue.)
What will the VTGOP do? Will it side with the very successful incumbent Mayor? Will it furiously dog-whistle?
My money’s on careful equivocation with just a hint of dog whistle. You know, “we must be careful and give full consideration to the valid concerns of local residents.”
Residents like the woman braying about Sharia law at a Castleton town meeting? Or like State Rep. Doug Gage, who wondered why we couldn’t choose Syrian Christians because, ahem, they’d fit in better than Muslims.b
Yeah, legitimate concerns my Aunt Fanny.
And how, pray tell, will the potential next Governor of Vermont, Phil Scott, address this battle for the soul of Republicanism? Will he hearken to the party’s roots in the fight against slavery and Vermont’s role in liberating escaped slaves?
Or will he so the old soft-shoe and distance himself equally from Mayor Louras and his opponents?
Another occasion for some good old leadership. If a WIlton/Louras campaign develops, we’ll see what kind of a party the VTGOP is, and what kind of leader Phil Scott really is.