Mr. 80%

A big ol’ victory lap for our hard-drivin’ Governor Phil Scott today, as Vermont became the first state to surpass the 80% threshold for vaccinations and he got to announce the end of all state-mandated Covid restrictions.

And he deserves the spotlight on this day. He steered the Stock Car of State through the crisis and got us over the finish line. Sure, he cut corners occasionally, traded a little paint here and there, and nicked a guardrail or two, but he’s in the winner’s circle and nobody can take that away from him.

I’ve been critical of the governor on occasion. He always insisted all his decisions were based entirely on data and science, when he obviously considered economic impacts as well as the data. His administration was very slow to react to the unemployment insurance crisis, and the system has never really been fixed. He refused to prioritize inmate vaccinations when that would have been a simple thing to do.

But we got through it just fine, sometimes despite Scott’s actions and, far more often, because of his steady, prudent leadership. He wasn’t perfect, but we’re coming out of the pandemic about as well as one could possibly expect. He’s in charge, and he gets credit for that.

Among other things, it shows what we are missing when one of our two major political parties stops caring about governance.

We can look back in history and see many Republicans who approached government in much the same way as Phil Scott: Always an eye on the bottom line, averse to spending a dime more than necessary, but also wanting government to serve those in need and protect the environment. They didn’t do those things exactly how a liberal would like, but they tried their best — within their belief systems — to make government work.

Those kind of Republicans are a useful counterweight to the excesses of Democratic administrations, whose policy ambitions sometimes outrun their competence. See: Peter Shumlin’s single-payer health care experiment.

Or see the current governor of my home state of Michigan. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer’s pandemic policies have been inconsistent. The state has experienced outbreaks far worse than many others. She made a trip to Florida when she was telling Michiganders not to travel* and went out to dinner with a bunch of friends in violation of state rules. Worst of all, her administration failed to keep track of nursing home deaths when her policy likely contributed to a high death rate in senior facilities. Plus she tried to cover up the failure. I’m a liberal and on policy grounds I’d prefer a Democratic governor to a Republican, but when it comes to Covid, I’d much rather have Scott than Whitmer.

*And lied about it. She claimed she went to Florida to visit her ailing father. In fact, he has manageable chronic conditions, as does just about every senior citizen. And he traveled to Michigan himself not long after she visited him in Florida. Sheesh.

In fact, the state and the nation, as well as the GOP itself, would be better off with a Republican Party that isn’t solely interested in amassing power at all costs and willing to do anything —lie, cheat, steal, destroy democracy — in order to do it.

It ain’t gonna happen, of course, but a guy can dream. In the meantime, we can be glad we’re governed by Phil Scott instead of just about any other Republican governor plus most of the Democrats.


2 thoughts on “Mr. 80%

  1. Chuck Burkins

    Agreed, John. I’ve been an minor officer of the Dems (town chair, county chair, that kind of thing) and although I disagree with the Governor on a whole host of things, I think he’s shown real leadership. I didn’t agree with all of his decisions, but I thought pretty much all of them were rational and defensible. I read a story in the Washington Post today about folks who didn’t get the vaccine although they wanted to, caught COVID and died. It seemed like some of them were trying to save it for others. We never had that, because of Gov. Scott’s keep it simple approach. I knew when it was my turn, and I knew that they wanted me to get the vaccine on my turn. I personally would have vaccinated grocery store workers and prisoners before he did. But would that have made it too complicated? Maybe. Maybe not. In the end it was his decision and I’m not going to Monday morning quarterback what was, in the end, a great job.

  2. walter carpenter

    “See: Peter Shumlin’s single-payer health care experiment.”

    The problem with Shumlin’s “single-payer health care experiment” was that it was never tried at all. One of the greatest missed chances in Vt history since it became the first state to prohibit slavery in its constitution. There were many factors in this: Obamacare intruding on everything and how Shumlin botched it, Shumlin’s own personal gaffs, the way that Vt (and every other state) leaves the wealthy relatively immune from taxes in return for precious campaign loot so making the middle class pick up much of the tab for it, and that Shumlin nearly lost the 2014 election to a political neophyte, thrown up as more of a sacrifice than anything else… In any case, I do agree that we were lucky in Vt with Scott as a Republican, one of the rare ones who did care about governing and not just power, racism, and tax breaks for their wealthy financiers. We got lucky here, very lucky.


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