Dregs of the Ballot: Beware the Humble “Tree Farmer”

Pictured above is Jason Herron, self-described “maple farmer,” candidate for Select Board in Guilford and believer in a bunch of ultra-conservative nonsense. Like other stealth candidates for local office around Vermont, he presents himself as a simple guy who merely wants “transparency” in town government.

Transparency, as we have seen before, is one of the code words used by far-right candidates in an effort to con mainstream voters. Because, you know, if these candidates came right out and said what they believe, they’d get a tiny sliver of the vote and they know it.

Some of his supporters have been writing letters to local media endorsing Herron in the most generic of terms: “tree farmer,” “open, sincere, honest,” “no hidden agenda.” I have seen three such letters, and they make the same arguments using the same phrases. Almost as if they’re working from the same set of bullet points.

Herron is known among a certain tranche of the community as the organizer and presenter of a series of “educational” events under the rubric of “Constitution Alive!” That sounds benign enough, but “Constitution Alive!” is headed by David Barton, disgraced amateur historian, and Rick Green, identified by a far-right website as “the man Chuck Norris calls a ‘Constitutional Expert.'”

You might hear a faint bell ring at the name “David Barton.” He’s a self-described historian whose only degree is a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University. He has termed AIDS as God’s punishment for the sin of homosexuality, and asserted that gay people die “decades earlier” than cis folk.

About ten years ago, Barton wrote a book called “The Jefferson Lies” which became popular in conservative Christian circles for its portrayal of that Deist Founding Father as a devout Christian who opposed church/state separation.” Well, the book was popular until its Christian publisher withdrew it because it contained so many errors, including some real howlers.

Herron is also a local captain of the Convention of States, a far-right effort to wangle a Constitutional convention. Yep, they like the Constitution so much they want to rewrite it! But this wouldn’t be an open rewrite; it would be, according to the COS website, “restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.”

According to SourceWatch, COS has “deep ties” to ALEC and the Koch Brothers network. It has received funding from the Mercer Family Foundation. Ah, the Mercers, generous funders of a string of dark-money conservative organizations and major donors to Donald Trump’s campaigns. Their donations run in the tens of millions apiece.

I think I’ve made the point. Jason Herron is far from a simple man of the soil whose only interest is transparency . If you need more proof, just take a gander at his recent appearance on “Generally Irritable,” the rarely-watched YouTube show hosted by none other than Ericka Redic. He and Redic are two peas in a pod, ideologically speaking.

And that’s not a good thing.

One final note on this self-effacing tree farmer. His father John is a former CEO of Entergy Nuclear, the former owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. John was not the CEO of Vermont Yankee — he was CEO of Entergy’s entire nuclear operation. Which likely makes Jason Herron one of those “trust fund farmers” that conservatives so often rail against — scions of privilege who use their wealth to buy farms and live a comfortable life while pretending to be salts of the earth.

In closing, I’ll say what I’ve said before. Jason Herron has every right to run for office, and you have every right to vote for him. But you ought to be informed, and he ought to be open about his beliefs instead of hiding behind platitudes.

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