The Vague Visionary

Well, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray has come out swinging. Today she declared her candidacy for the Congressional seat now held by U.S. Senator-in-Waiting Peter Welch with a two-minute campaign video simply dripping in Vermontiness. Lots of shots of Gray working on her family farm, tramping through the countryside, walking down quaint small-town Main Streets, a heavy dose of her all-Vermont-all-the-time personal story, and…

… no specifics whatsoever on issues. No platform. No policy positions.

But as much as I poke fun at the sheer obviousness of the video, it’s a damn effective piece of work. Vermonters do love themselves some Vermont, after all; wrapping herself in the Freedom and Unity flag is a winning move. Especially since she can honestly claim all that stuff. She was born and raised on a family farm. She did go to UVM on a skiing scholarship. She did work her way through Vermont Law School. (She still owes student debt, and ain’t nothing more Vermont than that.) She did come back home after a stint with the International Red Cross.

And, with precisely the same playbook, she did come from nowhere to win election as lieutenant governor.

Only a year ago, yes. But hey, who’s counting? Her very brief political resume sure didn’t hold her back in 2020, and I don’t think 2022 will be any different.

Yeah, she’s the early favorite to win the Democratic primary and the general election (against a no-hope Republican, no doubt) and become Vermont’s first female member of Congress.

When I say “early favorite” it’s not an endorsement. It’s the political form book. It’s the Vegas line. I might not vote for her, but I wouldn’t bet against her.

The persistent vagueness on issues ‘n stuff annoys me just as much as it annoys any small-P progressive. I’d prefer a Congressperson with a tougher policy edge. One not afraid to step out on a limb from time to time, which (IIRC) Gray has yet to do.

Of course, I could say the same about Peter Welch, and look how far he’s gone. Truth is, Bernie Sanders notwithstanding, the winning formula in Vermont politics is, well, vague liberalism or Jim Douglas/Phil Scott plausible centrism. Scott, Leahy, Welch, Shumlin, Douglas, Jeffords, Snelling, Stafford, Aiken.

Bernie’s the outlier. Those who have tried to copy his political formula have gone down to ignominious defeat. It pains me to say so, but there is nothing besides Bernie to suggest that Vermont is anything other than a center-left state, emphasis on “center.”

And there sits Molly Gray. Precisely in the sweet spot of Vermont politics.

Yes, she’s still a political rookie. Yes, her “platform” is a bunch of liberal bromides. Yes, it’s hard to recall a single instance of political leadership in her very brief public career. Yes, her pre-2020 personal voting record borders on disgraceful.

But none of that matters if Gray’s effective combo platter of networking, fundraising, campaigning and storytelling holds true next year. She pulled it off flawlessly as a first-time candidate, and that’s extremely difficult to do. Almost unprecedented, in fact. She ought to be even better this time around.

Anybody who enters the campaign against her had better bring their A-game.


3 thoughts on “The Vague Visionary

  1. Jan Abbott

    In the expectation that we shall have a group of intelligent young women running for Peter Welch’s seat, the primary debates may be crucial in decision making.

  2. Walter Carpenter

    You’re right about the bromides. Damn, she’s got it down on how to say absolutely nothing in such sweet Vermontisms while making them look authentic and not from an experienced career climber like she is trying to bs us into sending her down to D.C.


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