The Progs’ irony trap

I just realized that it’s been a long time since I’d given any thought to the Progressive Party as a force in state politics.

What reminded me was Terri Hallenbeck’s piece about the Stanaks, “a family divided over a Vermont election.” It’s the story of a stalwart progressive (and Progressive) family that’s gone in different directions this cycle. Paterfamilias Ed Stanak, motivated by opposition to ridgeline wind, is backing Phil Scott. Daughter Lluvia Stanak is working on the Sue Minter campaign. Her sister Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, chair of the Vermont Progressive Party, is officially neutral.

That’s because the Progs opted to sit out the gubernatorial race, failing to field a candidate of their own and refusing to endorse anyone else. I vaguely recall knowing that at some earlier point, but I’d managed to completely forget it until now.

The non-endorsement kinda made sense at the time. Sue Minter looked like an offshoot of the Shumlin administration, which had burned the Progs twice over by snagging their endorsement in 2010 and 2012 and then bailing on their number-one issue, single-payer health care. The Progs were, understandably, twice bitten and thrice shy.

It looks a lot worse now, what with Prog stalwart David Zuckerman fully on board with the Democratic ticket and Bernie Sanders going all-out to boost the Minter campaign. Indeed, the Progressive Party looks out of touch and almost irrelevant.

You might even say they have to be hoping they’re irrelevant. If their non-endorsement reduces the Minter vote by a couple of percentage points and she loses a close race, they’ll own a share of responsibility for a Phil Scott governorship.

The party’s invisibility in this campaign is partly due to its gubernatorial abstention. Add to that the almost complete lack of a Progressive ticket, as its highest-profile candidates are running on the Democratic banner. They might still be promoting Progressive (or progressive) policies, but they’re not carrying the Prog colors.

If Minter is elected despite the Progs’ non-support, will she feel any responsibility to include them in her policy deliberations? Probably.

But she doesn’t have to. They’ve done nothing to earn a seat at her table.

This is a turning point for the Progressive Party in ways I don’t think they’ve fully realized. On the one hand, their members are winning elections as Democrats that they’d never win as pure Progs. On the other, the actual Progressive Party is largely absent from political discourse and public recognition.

Including my own.


5 thoughts on “The Progs’ irony trap

  1. David Ellenbogen

    John, You’ve missed it here. The big story is the SUCCESS of the Progressive Party, as Dave Zuckerman becomes the highest ranking 3rd party candidate in the US (knock on wood, as we still have 24 hours to go). Do you know what’s gone on behind the scenes? And doesn’t everyone know that DZ has put the grass back in grassroots and toppled the dem party wishlist? If not, ask Shap and Kesha. And now Dave’s coat tails may just help Sue M win the guv’s seat. The Prog Party will also gain seats this year, as dem stalwarts like Mazza and Shap see their power shrink or vanish. Sure, fusion candidates have become common, but the message is still wildly different from that of the mainstream dem party.

  2. Mark Trigo

    So let me get this straight. The Progs want all of the benefits of the Democrats hard work by running under their banner, but they won’t return the favor and endorse Minter. They are like a house guest who eats everything in your refrigerator and can’t even be bothered to say, “Thank you.”

    1. David Ellenbogen

      Hi Mark. Political parties can’t endorse candidates– they can only nominate them. And that nomination is useless if the candidate turns it down. So the best the Prog Party could do to help Minter is to not run someone against her.

  3. Paula Schramm

    If we had “ranked choice voting”, we could have more Progs running for state office without the fusion tickets. It’s a hard slog for third parties in this state & in this country, where actual policy differences don’t always seem to figure in. Not to mention the huge involvement of money that suddenly has become the new reality even here in VT – no more $17 campaigns. Under these conditions the Progs are doing OK, I think. If Minter squeaks out a win she certainly knows she needed the Progressive voters to do it, and she will be listening to their views on issues.

  4. David Van Deusen

    Dave Zuckerman will win. There will be a LT Gov from a Progressive Party for the first time in 102 years (and lets not forget he beat the Democrats Speaker of the House in the speaker’s own Party primary). Hoffer is a member of the Party and will win with 70% of the vote. The Progressive Party will also see net gains in the General Assembly. Those facts speak for themselves.


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