Stealth Conservatives: With a Little Help From the Press

Today’s edition of Stealth Conservatives features two Kindly Old Grandpas, or so their newspaper profiles might lead you to think. On the left, in the photographic sense only, is John Lyddy, the previously discussed election truther running for House. On the right, in every possible sense, is Peter Caldwell, Republican candidate in the solid blue Middlebury House district.

Both received the benefit of kid-gloves treatment in their local newspapers. These candidate profile pieces are often cranked out in a hurry, out of a sense of obligation rather than due diligence. But in a day when many Republicans are purposefully concealing their ultraconservative views, our political media need to do better.

In July, the Brattleboro Reformer published an extremely friendly profile of Lyddy, who has repeatedly exposed his extreme views on social media. The uncritical piece depicted Lyddy as a goodhearted retiree who simply wants to serve his community. And it completely ignores his attendance at the January 6 insurrection (and insistence that the Democrats stole the 2020 election), his veiled threats against elected officials and government agencies, and his advocacy for “a brief correction by civil war” to remove Democrats from office.

Yeah, just a brief civil war.

The Reformer’s stenographer reporter Chris Mays, a normally reliable chap, gave Lyddy free rein to spout vague nonsense like this:

“I would have rather stayed retired but I think things are at the point where we have to make some changes, a change of direction, and I think I can propose some common sense solutions to do that,” he said.

Mays could have found some much juicier stuff if he’d merely checked Lyddy’s social media presence, which ought to be Rule Number One for candidate profiles.

I’m sure the Science Guy appreciates the sentiment. On his Facebook page, Lyddy has endorsed the widely-discredited “2000 Mules” film about how the 2020 election was stolen. Here are some other things he said about 2020:

They [Dems} have taken a risk that we as a people will accept this blatant act fraud [sic] on the Constitution and on each other rather that [sic] rail against it. That a brief correction by civil war would be considered too destructive… They have spat on us, our religions, our homes or belief systems and said it [sic] going to be our way or the highway.

The Democrats have demonstrated for 4 years that they are pure evil. Now let them reap the whirlwind.

Beneath another Lyddy rant about 2020, one of his FB follows said “Dig into the illegal immigrants that voted in this election, giving them drivers licenses was part of the democrats plan.” To which Lyddy responded, “Then destroy the dmv.”

After he returned to Vermont from the January 6 insurrection, Lyddy claimed that Vermont’s election had been corrupt, and called for a “forensic analysis” of voting machines. When Secretary of State Jim Condos refused to play along, Lyddy threatened to “find out where they are kept and take them — ‘one way or another.'”

Kindly old grandpa, yep.

Oh, and maybe it’s unfair to bring up a 22-year-old court case, but back in 2000 Lyddy was involved in a hotly contested divorce that led to him absconding with his son. He and his soon-to-be ex had split custody pending disposition of the divorce. But two days before the final hearing Lyddy took off for Texas with his son, apparently fearing he would lose custody.

The hearing went ahead as scheduled without him and the mother was, in fact, granted full custody. Lyddy appealed to the state Supreme Court, which upheld the decision. The high court noted the testimony of Dr. Lawrence Bart, a court-appointed psychologist, that “there was a high probability that father suffers from psychopathology, that he is a predator, and that he is in need of treatment.”

I’m sure he’s feeling much better now.

Back to Peter Caldwell. John Flowers of the Addison Independent did a write-up that focused on Caldwell’s ownership of a classic 1947 Packard, pictured above. Caldwell is using his car, and the “ASK” license plate, as a conversation starter as he travels around the district. Flowers relates that Caldwell had planned to spend this year writing a book about bluegrass music until a local Republican asked him to consider running for the House. “Why not?” was his response.

Caldwell depicted himself as “a capital L Lincoln small r republican,” and allowed as to how he might have run as a Democrat if the Republican Party was dominant in Vermont: “I’m interested in being a voice for what is best for all Vermonters of good spirit who love their state, their country and are not way to one side or another.”

And then, after thirty-three paragraphs of Caldwell-fluffing, we get to the material that should have been at the top of the story: his climate change denial and his belief that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

All due respect to newspaper readers, but how many of them failed to plow through 33 paragraphs of bumpf and never even saw the climate change and 2020 stuff?

Flowers placed the material there because Caldwell made the comments at the end of the interview. I’m sorry, but that’s not an explanation or an excuse. If you’re writing about a candidate who harbors extreme views, you’ve got to put that in the lede.

These far-right candidates are popping up all over. As I have said before, every voter has the absolute right to support these people. But the voters need to know who they’re voting for, and the local media can play a crucial role in that process. Or they can shirk their duty.


1 thought on “Stealth Conservatives: With a Little Help From the Press

  1. kjkelley1

    You’re having a fine election season, John. This stylish, funny and courageous blog is one of my priority pieces of reading. it deserves much greater prominence — too bad you can’t keep a job with Vt Big Media.


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