At times I feel sorry for Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont Republican Party, seen here on one of his seldom-watched YouTube thingies (posted 2/18, racked up 40 views since). But then he goes and opens his mouth, and the sympathy evaporates.
Dame has a staff of no one, and he’s got the thankless task of cosseting the Trumpites and the QAnon types without alienating the center and center-right voters necessary for electoral success. He carries out that delicate endeavor with all the grace of a rhinoceros on a high wire.
Take his reaction to Tuesday’s Town Meeting results, in which almost every right-wing fanatic lost their bid for local office. In an email to Seven Days, he claimed that the results had nothing to do with ideology; they were simply a matter of incumbent’s advantage.
Yeah, well, that might be true for races with actual incumbents, but it leaves out all the other contests that saw non-incumbent, non-extremist candidates absolutely mollywhop their far-right opponents. But I guess Dame has to find an explanation besides “Vermont voters are sickened by extremism.” That wouldn’t play well with the base.
He then went on to blame Emerge Vermont (!!!!!) for politicizing local elections.
“The Republican Party did not provide training or resources to school board candidates this election,” he wrote. “But if Emerge VT continues to make local elections more partisan by supporting only Democrats and turning away Conservatives and Independents it may be something our party considers getting more involved in for 2023.”
It’s true the Republicans didn’t support school board candidates; they’re woefully under-resourced to conduct the normal work of a statewide party, let alone take on new challenges. But there’s an extremely well-funded national movement to get ultraconservatives into local and school government. It’s the conservatives who are injecting hyper-partisanship into local politics. And they’re dumping huge pots of money into the effort. But sure, go ahead, blame it all on Emerge.
But the big takeaway from Dame’s statement is, as they say, the dog in the night-time. Dame said absolutely nothing about the fanatical and, frankly, racist views of the defeated local candidates. Not even the QAnon Jewelry Lady or the Milton Three or any of the passel of critical race theory truthers.
That’s because those people represent a big part of the VTGOP’s base, and the party chair can’t afford to speak a word against them. Well, either that or Dame isn’t troubled by their extremism. We are, after all, talking about the guy who was one of the most conservative lawmakers during his one term in the House, and the guy who happily promoted House candidates who were part of Farmer John Klar’s flock when he headed the VTGOP’s legislative recruitment effort.
One thing’s for sure. He ain’t the guy who’s going to lead the VTGOP out of the wilderness they’ve been wandering in since the salad days of Jim Douglas.