Shall We Call This “The Zuckerman Rule”?

This item is almost too petty to report. But if it was that petty, then why did the Vermont Democratic Party do it?

I’m referring to a change made last year to the party bylaws that seems to be aimed squarely at Progressive/Democratic Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.

Follow me into the weeds. The VDP allows its top officeholder at the state level to appoint a nonvoting member to the party’s executive committee. Under the former bylaw, that would be Zuckerman. But the appointment was, in fact, made by Treasurer Mike Pieciak.

That’s because the bylaw now specifies that it’s the top officeholder with “D” as their only or first party designation. Used to be, Zuckerman’s “P/D” would qualify. Indeed, during his first tenure as LG he named Ed Cafferty to the committee. (And Cafferty is, in fact, a loyal Democrat of long standing.)

This rule change didn’t matter when Democrat Molly Gray was LG. But it does now that Zuckerman is back in office.

Now, this is small potatoes to be sure. It’s a nonvoting member of a party committee. But again, if this is so trivial, why bother making the change? We’re talking about the sequence of two capital letters here. Is P/D really that different from D/P?

“Folks internally felt it was a necessary change to make,” VDP Executive Director Jim Dandeneau told me, “and a way to make sure those working to build the party have a voice.”

He added that relations between Democrats and Zuckerman have never been better. “We’re all pulling in the same direction. It’s about outcomes, not a label on the ballot.”

Well, um, it precisely is about the label on the ballot.

Dem/Prog relationships can be more than a little touchy going both ways. Specifically, many Dems have strong feelings about Progressives taking up space on the Democratic ticket. They feel better about it if the candidate puts the “D” first.

You can look at this two ways. On one hand, the VDP’s purpose is to elect Democrats. Why shouldn’t they favor candidates whose primary affiliation is Democratic?

On the other hand, it’s not as if the Progressive Party is any sort of threat to the VDP. Would it really cost the Democrats anything to be a little more generous? Not really. You could even argue that keeping the door open between Progressive and Democratic is a good way to ease tensions and maybe even convince some Progs to change affiliation — or at least reverse the P/D sequence when they run for office.

But that’s a minor irritant, not an existential threat. Repaying an irritation with another irritation may make you feel a little better right then and there, but it’s not the best way to build a productive relationship on shared policy goals.


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