Congratulations to the Progressive Party on its Hostile Takeover of Vermont Politics

There seems to be a popular delusion among Republicans in these parts, even the non-fringey types. In the words of outgoing Rep. Heidi Scheuermann,

…the Progressives have taken over the VT Democratic Party.

This same belief was expressed a few months ago by VTGOP Chair Paul Dame, when he compared the Progressive Party to a parasitic horsehair worm that had taken over the Democratic Party from within.

Outgoing Sen. Joe Benning said much the same thing in his post-election post-mortem: “Ideologues in the Democratic/Progressive supermajority,” he wrote, are driving policy that “runs counter to Vermont traditions and fiscal capacity.” At least he put the Democrats first, but still he’s conflating the Dems and the Progs in a way that’s far from the truth. The two parties sing from different hymnals on many of our most contentious issues, and the Dems always sit in the right-hand pew. Top Democrats are fond of styling themselves as small-P progressives, but they are definitely not the capital-P kind. Not at all.

I don’t doubt that these Republicans believe what they’re saying, but it shows how ignorant they are about left-wing politics in Vermont.

Receipts, we got receipts. Here are some passages from the Progressive Party’s platform. You tell me if they’re controlling the narrative on any of these issues.

Social Justice: …an end to the use of private and out-of-state prisons; strong safeguards against the disproportionately high incarceration rates of populations most vulnerable to discrimination; and a reduction of incarceration in general.

The Dems give lip service to all those ideas, but there’s been no substantial action on any of them. And it’s not because Gov. Phil Scott blocks the way. The Dems have never seriously pursued any of these reforms, and they didn’t when the governorship was in their control.

Government Reform: We insist on publicly-funded elections with comprehensive campaign finance laws.

The Dems have done nothing there. They’ve enacted some good voting reforms, but little to nothing on campaign finance. And they won’t, because in Vermont the current system benefits them because of their superior fundraising reach.

Economic Justice: We believe Vermont needs a progressive tax system where wealthier Vermonters pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than low to moderate income Vermonters.

Nope, sorry. Our system is moderately progressive, but it could move much farther in that direction. Last I checked, the middle and upper middle classes pay a higher percentage than anyone else.

Health Care: …we support universal, single-payer, prenatal-to-death healthcare provided through a not-for-profit, publicly financed system, with access to prescription drugs, dental care, vision care, hearing care, and mental health services.

Hahahaha. The Democrats have stayed away from major health care reform since Peter Shumlin folded his hand in 2014. They haven’t even tried to push universal primary care, let alone resurrect the corpse of Shumlin’s plan.

Education: …a strong and equitable Pre-K to 12 public education system funded with a progressive tax structure, and tuition-free public post-secondary education is an essential foundation to foster civic participation in a democratic society.

It’s hard to evaluate something as generic as “a strong and equitable…public education system,” but we don’t have a progressive tax structure for school funding and tuition-free post-secondary education doesn’t get a sniff.

Housing: …a safe, stable, and affordable housing is the right of every Vermonter

Yeah, sure. We’ve got Ann Pugh, the outgoing Democratic chair of the House Human Services Committee, talking about “splitting the baby” on housing the homeless because we can’t afford to shelter them all. For those who don’t know the Biblical reference, King Solomon proposed cutting a baby in half so the real mother would show herself. For “real mother” read advocates for the homeless, who are just trying to limit the damage instead of fighting for universal access.

Housing as a right? The Progs ain’t getting anywhere with that one.

Energy: We support sustainable alternatives to carbon-based energy. We believe Vermont should be powered with safe, clean, renewable, and publicly and locally owned energy resources and utilities.

This is another case of Democratic lip service. They’ve been spooked by the small-in-number but very loud opponents of large-scale renewable energy. As for “publicly and locally owned” energy projects, well, that sounds like Socialism to me.

There you have it. If the Progressive Party is the tail wagging the Democratic dog, they’re doing a piss-poor job of it. In truth, the Progs try to pull the Dems incrementally to the left. Their track record on that limited tactic is mixed at best. If you told a Progressive that their party runs the joint, the response would likely be a bitter laugh.

Parasitic worm? More like a gnat on the Democrats’ ass.

7 thoughts on “Congratulations to the Progressive Party on its Hostile Takeover of Vermont Politics

  1. Joe Benning

    Perhaps I’m not as articulate as I could be. My use of the term “ideologue” was meant to describe the louder voices driving the conversation. Most often they represent the extreme’s greatest wish list. (Both sides have them.) Doesn’t mean they always win, but those loud voices most often define a party as far as many are concerned. Your blog site is proof of that.

    You’ve listed seven policy issues advanced on the left that haven’t yet been passed. You express disappointment in a way that implies they never will. But the loudest voices now defining the D/P party (or P/D party, take your pick) are pushing those very issues in a moment when their side possesses an impregnable super majority. That’s where Vermont will now be heading. Moderate voices will take a back seat while the ideologues flex their muscles and position themselves for future elections.

    As an example, I almost fell out of my chair during a debate in the LG campaign where my opponent resurrected the idea that Vermont could go it alone on universal health care. Even though Peter Shumlin finally recognized we couldn’t sustain it financially (costing the state over 200 million dollars before figuring that out) historical amnesia has set in and it’s deja vu all over again. Only this time even Phil Scott can’t drive caution.

    And just wait to see how much a gallon of gas and fuel oil will be costing us by 2024. Will that unknown quantity of unidentified “rich people” pay enough of a “fair share” to subsidize the yet unknown cost for both of us to purchase EV’s and heat pumps? I guess we’re going to find out.

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      I respect your views, but disagree. “The louder voices” are a convenient whipping boy, but they are not driving anybody’s agenda. “Their side” does not have a supermajority; “the loudest voices” are a sliver of the majority caucuses. Majority leadership knows it can’t push too far; they’ve got too many moderate/centrist members who would probably have been Republicans a generation ago before the GOP went nuts. Your opponent, for instance, is not particularly welcome in Democratic policymaking circles. He has little to no influence. It takes a considerable feat of imagination to see the Progressives taking control anytime in the future, let alone now.

      As for “both sides”… on the left, the loudest voices are a small minority. On the right, they’re the Republican base.

      Reply
      1. H. Jay Eshelman

        Re: “The louder voices” are a convenient whipping boy, but they are not driving anybody’s agenda.

        The fallacy of your premise, Mr. Walters, that ‘louder voices’ are not driving anybody’s agenda, is evident in the fact that the newly elected legislature has yet to be called into session. You and Mr. Benning are, both, speculating. At least Mr. Benning gave a tangible example of the questionable policies (i.e., universal healthcare) he believes are likely to proceed.

        But you, Mr. Walters, conveniently avoid being specific. How ‘far’ is too ‘far’ for the majority leadership to push? You don’t say. Which, of course, can translate into a ‘never far enough’ claim whatever the case may be.

        The fact remains, despite your projected characterization that the loudest voices are but a sliver of the majority leadership, the legislature has a Progressive/Democrat super majority, a Progressive Lt. Governor, and a ‘moderate/centrist’ (i.e., democrat-lite) Governor.

        Katie bar the door.

  2. montpelier28

    I know I’m repeating myself but Chris Pearson gone, bad. And of course Anthony had to retire at some point. Baruth being Pro Tem is it? Probably good. That’s Shummy’s old job correct? Trivia.

    Reply
  3. Walter Carpenter

    “I almost fell out of my chair during a debate in the LG campaign where my opponent resurrected the idea that Vermont could go it alone on universal health care.”

    I beg to differ here. We could if we wanted to. We could do universal primary care if we were not wasting billions on OneCare for absolutely nothing that has benefitted the Vermonters who are paying these billions for it. Our health care tab is now $7.5 billion, about $12,000 per Vermonter. The question we have to decide on health care is do we care more for the health of our people or for the health of a few mega donors? Except for the Progressive Party, Vermont’s political leadership (Demo and Repub) have, to date, favored the donors.

    Reply
  4. Ellen Oxfeld

    I would like to make a comment on health care. First of all, we are now spending over $6.5 billion per year in Vermont on health care. That money all comes from us in some form or fashion — from our premiums, taxes, out of pocket costs, etc. So, a universal system isn’t about spending more, but it is about spending in a more efficient way.

    At present, 30% of every health care dollar goes to administrative costs. These are very high precisely because we have a fragmented, semi-privatized financing system with lots of opportunities for middlemen to make a profit — and all of that is wasted money as it doesn’t actually get to health care. So, a single payer system actually makes sense from not only a progressive point of view, but a conservative one as it is much more efficient and less wasteful. You also save money when people don’t have out of pockets because they will go to see their doctors before their problems are more serious and expensive.

    By the way, the Vermont Democratic Party platform also now endorses implementing Act 48, beginning with Universal Primary Care. It’s time to do something about health care. If our legislators –Democrat, Republican and Progressive — think they can keep putting this off session after session they will see what we are seeing now get worse, and right now 44% of Vermonters under age 65 are underinsured. That’s not something to brag about.

    Reply

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