Category Archives: Politics

Finding a positive response to the election

Like many other liberals, I’ve been dealing with the pending Caligula Administration with studious avoidance. Not watching the news (not even Rachel), ignoring all the stuff coming out of Washington these days.

Not a healthy long-term solution, but I just can’t spend much time staring into the void without it staring back. Fortunately for me, I write about Vermont politics, so I can remain engaged without focusing on the potential horrors of the next two years.

Also helps that I’m a cis white male, so my immediate freedom, security, and personal safety are not at risk.

But still, not a long-term solution. A correspondent writes:

I still feel physically ill from last week, and am only now dipping back into the news. And trying to figure out what to do that might be useful. And not coming up with a lot yet.

I have some ideas that don’t involve moving to Canada or taking part in ineffectual protests on our safe Vermont streets or the left’s favorite pastime, the circular firing squad. They don’t immediately involve political action of any sort, because it kinda feels toxic right now and there’s plenty of time to plan for 2018’s Return Of The Jedi.

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Do campaigns matter anymore?

On the national level and in Vermont, the Democratic Party had the vastly superior organization. They were solidly networked from grassroots to leadership. They had more paid staff, more field offices, bigger phone banks, more robust GOTV efforts.

Now that it’s all over, those seemingly bulletproof advantages didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

Here in Vermont, as I wrote (and VTDigger’s Jon Margolis sees it the same way), you might as well have had no campaign whatsoever. If we’d had the election a year ago, Phil Scott would have beaten Democrat X by five to ten percentage points on the basis of (a) his popularity and name recognition, and (b) the unpopularity of Governor Shumlin.

And after a campaign of unprecedented length and expense, Phil Scott won by eight percent. Big whoop.

Elsewhere, the 2016 election shuffled some names, but the political landscape remains virtually unchanged. The Dems continue to hold the non-Phil Scott statewide offices and the Legislature’s partisan balance barely moved. For all of Scott’s assertions to the contrary, this was no mandate for his agenda — it was a mandate for him personally. The Republican platform got precisely nowhere except for his candidacy.

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Julie, we hardly knew ye (UPDATED below) (UPDATED again)

Minor sidelight, but entertaining. The Phil Scott campaign has a small but vociferous band of supporters on Twitter. Among the most frequent tweeters are John Quinn, Thomas Joseph, Hayden Dublois, whoever ghostwrites the @PhilScott4VT account, and someone named Julie Kennedy.

jk-bioKennedy presents herself as a dedicated ticket-splitter, a presumed liberal who’s voting for a lot of Democrats — but not Sue Minter. According to her Twitter bio, she lives in Brattleboro and just opened her Twitter account in August of this year.

Remember the “Brattleboro” part, because Julie just screwed up. She posted a photo of her ballot, showing votes for Phil Scott and Randy Brock (more on that below).

But the ballot was not from Brattleboro, it was from Washington County District 1, which includes Northfield and Berlin. More than a hundred miles from Brattleboro.

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Hey, Bernie: the door IS open

The purpose of this post is not to relitigate the events of the Nevada convention or figure out who insulted whom first or whose outrage is the most righteous. It’s not even to parse the subtle nuances of speeches given extemporaneously before large crowds.

No, the purpose is to point out something Bernie Sanders said Tuesday night that’s just plan nonsense. Here it is.

“The Democratic Party is going to have to make a very, very, profound and important decision. It can do the right thing and open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change. That is the Democratic Party I want to see.” Sanders said.

“I say to the leadership of the Democratic Party: Open the doors, let the people in! Or the other option for the Democratic Party, which I see as a very sad and tragic option is to choose and maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy,” he said.

Now, I am not a party person. I have never been a member of any political party. Sitting through party meetings, which I sometimes do for the sake of this gig, makes me itchy. Also, I’m not a mingler and I’m uncomfortable in rooms full of people. So there’s that.

But I have witnessed party proceedings, and here’s one thing you can take to the bank: The doors of every political party are wide open, all the time, to all comers.

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Our sclerotic Constitution

In the past, I’ve tossed around the notion that Vermont’s Founding Fathers were drunk when they wrote our Constitution. Partly, that’s a matter of historic record. In those days, everyone drank to what we’d consider wretched excess; and it was common practice for men to gather in taverns to talk politics. As a simple matter of probability, those guys were hammered when they drafted our founding document.

But there’s also the matter of content. This has come up in the context of our current ethics debate, in which many lawmakers have asserted that the Constitution gives the Legislature sole authority over the ethics of its members. That seems like a terrible idea on its face.

And kind of undemocratic as well. And it’s far from the only undemocratic thread in our Constitution. At the risk of being overly cynical, you might even conclude that the Constitution was written by political elites to provide themselves a measure of protection from those pesky voters.

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A departure not to be overlooked

A new name has joined the growing list of political departures in Vermont. Last night, Rep. Tim Jerman informed constituents in Essex that he would not seek re-election to the House. He’s been in the House for twelve years, and has been a valued player in the Democratic caucus leadership team.

Nothing dramatic in his announcement; “It’s time to pass the torch,” he wrote in a message to his email list. “We have a strong bench locally to keep us moving forward.”

Tim’s not flashy or self-promoting. He’s what I call a glue guy, one of those people who tries to make the party and the system work better. Those people don’t grab headlines, but they play a crucial role in the political process. The job of the next House Speaker just got a little bit harder.

He’s a vice chair of the Vermont Democratic Party. For the past several years, he has served as the liaison between the House Democratic caucus and the state party executive committee. Myself, I hope he sticks around in his party role; it can use good people like him, people with more principle than ego.

Worst… Conspiracy… EVER

When I defended the Democrats for saving “superdelegate” seats for key officials, I expected to get blowback from Bernie supporters. And I did. And that’s fine. But I think something needs to be said in response.

The tenor of the blowback is basically that the Democrats are rigging the game for Hillary Clinton.

Well, if this is true, then it’s a woefully inept conspiracy.

Quiet! DNC At Work!

Quiet! DNC At Work!

The Democrats have set aside 15 percent of their delegate slots for officeholders and party leaders. These people can cast their convention votes as they see fit. Those who get superdelegate spots are not chosen for their loyalty to a particular candidate. If they were, then Sanders supporter Rich Cassidy wouldn’t have a superdelegate slot from Vermont. Hell, Bernie himself is a superdelegate — and he’s not even a Democrat.

And so far, less than half the superdelegates have endorsed Clinton.

And they are free to change their minds at any time.

That is one weak-ass conspiracy.

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