Phil Scott didn’t exactly sweat out Campaign 2022. He did spend Election Eve barrelling around the state, touching down in all 14 counties, as is his wont. But before then, it was more like The Campaign That Wasn’t. So I guess it’s no surprise that he needed to flex his muscle after the election with a brisk session of punching a straw man.
His post-election message, “Vermonters Called for Balance and We All Need to Listen,” is classic Phil Scott from beginning to end. He starts with a Reaganesque appeal to our own well-developed self-regard. Referring to that Election Eve tour, he wrote “This 500+ mile tour has a way to put things into perspective. It reinforces how beautiful our state is and how much it has to offer.”
Having established his sunny view of Vermont, he identified one thing we have to do better on. No, it’s not the opioid crisis. It’s not climate change. It’s not universal health care or paid family leave. It’s all about economic opportunity, which is a distinctly Republican view of human fulfillment.
The governor then gets to the heart of his post-election message: Vermonters opted for centrist governance and we should all get on board.
But on election night he sang a very different tune: “[Vermonters] want their leaders to focus on the economy, affordability and protecting the vulnerable.”
Say, aren’t those the three pillars of Scott’s governorship? From day one till now, he talks about “the economy, affordability and protecting the vulnerable.”
So legislative leaders are supposed to show their bipartisanship by… supporting the Phil Scott agenda?
Well, that’s nothing new either. He has always made his agenda the true test of political cooperation.
And now, the straw man enters the arena.
Of course, they don’t want me to be a rubber stamp for the Legislature, nor do they want the Legislature to blindly go along with whatever I put forward.
That’s ridiculous. Nobody expects anybody to be a rubber stamp.
Scott proceeds to decry all the things about politics that people always decry — except when they’re practicing the dark arts themselves. He wants “less partisanship and political positioning,” no more “hyper-partisan* political parties,” no more “labels and name calling.”
*Note the characteristic “both-sidesing” of hyper-partisanship. In fact, the vast majority of the “hypar-partisanship” is on his side of the aisle and he knows it.
Which would be perfectly fine if Scott didn’t have a long track record of demeaning his political opponents. He accuses lawmakers of “playing politics” when they criticize his policies.. He has referred to himself as “the adult in the room” in his dealings with the Legislature, indirectly defined as a bunch of children who require wise guidance.
And, of course, his dedication to bipartisanship rears its ugly head when he shatters the all-time record for vetoes. He may talk of civility, respect, and cooperation, but when push comes to shove he wants everyone to follow The Phil Scott Way.
Which is, he asserts, acting with “basic decency, kindness, and generosity toward each other,” “treating each other with dignity and respect,” and in closing, “putting people before politics.”
That’s how the governor sees himself. Not as the churlish passive-aggressive scold who talks down to his counterparts and dismisses them as merely “playing politics.” Phil Scott is above it all, floating serenely while the rest of us root around in the slop of partisanship.
There is nothing wrong with calling for civility, cooperation, and decency in politics. We could use a lot more of it. But Scott violates his own standards on the reg. At every press conference he belittles the press or his opponents. Every veto is a failure to find common ground, and that’s a two-way street. In the gubernatorial debates he treated Brenda Siegel with poorly-disguised condescension.
This is why I have trouble taking it seriously when he gets on his high horse and tells the rest of us how we should be conducting ourselves. This is why I see him as a hypocrite.
“Which is, he asserts, acting with “basic decency, kindness, and generosity toward each other,” “treating each other with dignity and respect,” and in closing, “putting people before politics.”
Dear Governor Scott,
Would you please support Universal Primary Care so people can get the healthcare they need? As things stand right now they are not. It would truly be a decent, kind and generous thing to do. You have stated it is important to treat people with dignity and respect. What is more dignified and respectful than to support a healthcare system that actually helps people live a more productive and happy life? Universal Primary Care would help so many Vermonters do just that. If you truly wish to put people before politics, well sir, this is your chance.
My mother always told me – words are easy, it’s actions that truly tell the story.
Thank you. I’ll not only be listening, I’ll be watching.
“which is a distinctly Republican view of human fulfillment.”
Yes, socialism for the rich and capitalism for the rest of us.
“words are easy, it’s actions that truly tell the story.”
Thanks, Kelly, you’re right on the words and that’s all we’ve been getting… words… We’ll all be watching and listening. It’s time for UPC
“Affordability” rivals “the Vermont Way” as a perfectly reasonable-sounding virtue that is literally meaningless. Except both are code for “do it my way.”