Category Archives: Vermont Democratic Party

Minter’s haul

Endorsements don’t generally move the needle much. They’re mainly of note to the political media, good for a quick space-filler on a slow newsday, quickly forgotten.

Labor unions are an exception to some extent, because if the endorsement rings true with the rank and file, the union can deliver a batch of votes — especially important in a low-turnout primary.

But when one politico endorses another, it’s not much of a deal.

(It’s a bigger deal when one politico fails to deliver an expected endorsement, as in numerous Republicans not backing Trump.  As commenter David Ellenbogen pointed out, Bernie Sanders has not endorsed David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor. Bernie’s open support for Chris Pearson was a financial windfall for Pearson’s Senate campaign. But no love for Zuckerman. Interesting.)

A limited exception to the no-big-deal rule can be found in the case of Sue Minter’s announcement yesterday that she has the backing of dozens of current and former state lawmakers, including many key players in the Legislature.

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Progressive Party: sovereign entity or barnacle?

Here’s an interesting factoid. Voters in the August 9 primary will have their choice of three ballots — Democratic, Republican, and Progressive.

The latter will be available statewide in printed form. And in most of our precincts, the entire Progressive ballot will contain precisely one name: Boots Wardinski, Capital City Farmers Market stalwart and Progressive candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s run for Lite-Guv twice before, both times on the Liberty Union ticket, with minimal result.

We are all paying (by one account, $80,000*) to put Boots Wardinski’s name on ballots that will be largely ignored by voters. Most Progressives won’t take a Progressive ballot because so many Progs are running in Democratic primaries. Like, for instance, real live actual Progressive David Zuckerman, running as a Dem for lieutenant governor — in a tough race against Democrats Shap Smith and Kesha Ram. How many Progs are going to pass up a chance to influence that race just to cast a vote for Boots Wardinski?

*According to the Secretary of State’s office, the total cost of this year’s primary ballots is roughly $160,000. One-third of that would be $53,333.33. So there’s your Boots Tax.)

Beyond the unfortunate use of public funds for all those straight-to-the-shredder Wardinski ballots, this raises an existential issue about the Progressive Party.

Is it gradually ceding its sovereignty, and turning into nothing more than a barnacle on the Democrats’ underside?

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The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

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Kill the caucuses

I was chatting with a Bernie Sanders supporter recently, and (of course) the subject of superdelegates came up. He, of course, sees them as anti-democratic, a tool for the party hierarchy to exert a measure of control.

I see them as a reasonable way for the party to give weight to its most successful and most stalwart figures, but I have no problem with the Vermont Compromise: allow superdelegates if the party wants ‘em, but tie their first-ballot votes to the result of their state’s primary or caucus.

We also discussed primaries, open vs. closed. He favors open primaries, as the most (small-d) democratic way to choose a candidate.

This is all in accord with the general proposition that more voter participation is better than less. So, fine.

But then we get to caucuses. The Sanders supporter hadn’t given them much thought, but felt that there was a place for them because they reflect the level of “passion” behind a candidate.

This isn’t just one person’s view. Generally, the Sanders camp seems unconcerned with the potential unfairness of caucuses. When, in fact, a caucus is one of the best voter-suppression tools around.

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About that Shumlin approval poll

Bit of a surprise came to us late last week, with news of a survey showing Governor Shumlin had suddenly enjoyed a surge in popularity.

The results were released by Morning Consult, a national polling agency that gave Shumlin a 55 percent approval rating after collecting data online between January and May. Shumlin jumped nearly 10 points from the last time Morning Consult polled Vermonters, in November, when 46 percent of respondents gave him a thumbs up.

"What should I do now, Scotty?" "Ya got me, boss." (Photo from VPR)

“What should I do now, Scotty?” “Ya got me, boss.” (Photo from VPR)

The results are also at odds with a February poll from the Castleton Polling Institute that put the Governor at 37 percent approval, and the previous two Castleton surveys: in September 2015, Shumlin was at 40 percent; in March 2015, it was 41 percent. That’s awfully darn consistent.

The Democratic Party was quick to promote the Morning Consult number. Understandable; it would be the best possible news for the party and its gubernatorial candidate. It would prove broad support for the Democratic agenda, and it would mean the candidate wouldn’t have to create distance between her- or himself and Shumlin.

As for me, well, color me skeptical. After all, what has happened since February — or November — to bolster Shumlin’s popularity? He didn’t score any high-profile victories in the Legislature. And he’s taken quite a hit from the EB-5 imbroglio, since he’d associated himself so prominently with the scandal-plagued developers.

Is there some other counterbalancing factor — some political “dark matter” exerting a positive gravitational pull on Shumlin’s numbers? Or is it just an outlier?

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A possible compromise on superdelegates

For those looking forward to shouting, fist-shaking, and furniture-heaving at Sunday’s state Democratic Convention, well, there’s a chance that good sense and a common carrot-topped foe may carry the day.

A group of folks affiliated with Rights and Democracy, the lefty grassroots organization, have put together a resolution on the contentious issue of superdelegates. And surprise, surprise, it doesn’t demand immediate action and it doesn’t demand that the four Hillary Clinton superdelegates switch over to Bernie Sanders.

The resolution notes the “inherent unfairness” in changing the rules in midstream for this year. Instead, it calls on the state and national parties “to require that superdelegates be bound on a first ballot to cast their votes in the same proportion as the popular vote in their home state primary election or nominating caucus” … “beginning with the 2020 presidential election.”

That strikes me as eminently reasonable. It would allow the party to reward top officials with delegate seats, but would tie first-ballot votes to the express preferences of the electorate. The supers could cast subsequent ballots, and conduct other party business, in accord with their own consciences and beliefs.

As for this year’s four supers who have promised their votes to Clinton, here’s the key passage of the resolution:

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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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