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.