Category Archives: Vermont Republican Party

The Human Dog Whistle

Vermont’s two major parties (sorry, Progs, I don’t buy the legal definition) have chosen new chairs. The Democrats won the big prize with Anne Lezak, an organizer and fundraiser by trade and a successful party builder. (Upcoming post will feature a deeper dive on Lezak.)

The Republicans got… this guy. Paul Dame, financial planner and former one-term state lawmaker. Dame’s party building strategy is two-pronged: Posting commentary videos on YouTube with all the professionalism on display in the above screenshot, and blowing all the dog whistles as hard as he can.

Yeah, while Lezak is actually doing her job, Dame is out here trying to “win the news cycle” with bad videos and cutely-worded statements. Which, considering how many Vermonters actually pay attention to this stuff, is slightly more effective than howling into the void. (He’s posted four videos on YouTube; they’ve averaged 82 views apiece as of this writing. Wow.)

Dame’s first big dog whistle was the first event under his chairship: the “Let’s Go, Brandon” rally, supposedly a nod to his hometown but actually a thinly-veiled callout to the most childish instincts of conservative Republicanism. It worked, insofar as it got him a spot on the Howie Carr Show and some coverage in the Pavlovian political press.

Now he’s blowing the dog whistle for the conspiratorial Flavor of the Month, critical race theory.

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Still a Dumpster Fire

Just in case you thought a new party chair meant significant change in the Vermont Republican Party… just in case you bought those media references to the “moderate” incoming chair… Here’s the first initiative birthed by said chair.

Now, that’s just about the loudest dog whistle ever blown.

“Let’s Go Brandon” is, of course, the juvenile chant adopted by rabid right-wingers as a stand-in for “Fuck Joe Biden.” (Insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here.)

The VTGOP can claim the barest hint of a fig leaf for this nonsense in that (1) Brandon is an actual town, and (2) it’s the hometown of new chair Paul Dame. But we know what’s going on here. We know why the first rally is not in Montpelier or Burlington or St. Albans or Rutland.

It’s in Brandon because Dame’s first instinct — and/or his only option — is to appeal to the base. (The party is selling a wide array of “Let’s Go Brandon” merchandise, too. Cashing in on far-right hatred is such a good look.)

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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Hey Hey, We’re the Veepies!

This being midsummer in a non-election year, things are a little bit show in #vtpoliland. Or maybe there’s stuff going on, but since there are practically no reporters on the #vtpoli beat right now, we’d never find out about it.

As a result of this lack of news, this edition of the Veepies (our awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sphere) roams far afield into the realms of journalistic conflicts of interest, conservatives panicking over nothing, and even sports talk radio.

That’s where we begin. The Please Stop Talking About Something You Know Nothing About Award goes to Rich and Arnie, co-hosts of the afternoon talk show on Burlington’s 101.3 The Game. On Tuesday afternoon, the day Simone Biles withdrew from the team gymnastics competition, the boys pulled down their pants and showed their asses for all to see. (The show is archived on the station’s website and podcast.)

Arnie repeatedly referred to BIles’ mental health crisis as “having a bad day,” and accused Biles of costing her team the gold medal. Rich questioned “the timing” of her withdrawal, and asked, “Was she having a bad day first, or was she having a bad day after she messed up the vault?” (She withdrew after a subpar performance on the vault.)

This happens every time a societal or political issue intrudes on the Toy Department of Life. Sports talk radio is suddenly, horribly out of its depth.

Look, guys. You can’t schedule a mental health crisis. You don’t know what’s going to set it off. When it happens, it can be like a tsunami dragging you down. We know that Biles felt unable to compete safely, so withdrawing was the responsible thing — for her well-being and for the team’s prospects in the competition. So just shut up about issues that you can’t be bothered to learn about, and stop making fools of yourselves.

After the jump: Two cases of conservative hysteria, and a veteran reporter steps in it.

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Today I Learned Something on True North Reports

I don’t make a habit of reading “True North Reports,” the right-wing “news” site bankrolled by the famously reclusive Lenore Broughton. But I do dip my toe in its clouded waters from time to time, just because you gotta keep an eye on those Fockers.

I just did so, and mirabile dictu, I found a nugget of news!

NEWS!

On True North Reports!

What is this nugget? Well, at a VTGOP meeting over the weekend, party chair Deb Billado announced that the party would file lawsuits against the cities of Montpelier and Winooski over their Legislature-approved charter changes allowing resident noncitizens to vote. “We’re not sitting still on that particular issue,” she told the assembled. “We believe that it goes directly against the Vermont State Constitution section 42 and we are moving forward with legal action.”

Yeah, that qualifies as news. Congrats to Mike Bielawski for being the first, and so far only, person to report that fact.

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It’s So Hard to Find Good Republicans These Days

Amidst the endless parade of articles bemoaning the plight of poor businessfolk who can’t find enough workers to fill their low-paying, no-bennies jobs, let us take a moment to pour one out for the group that has by far the hardest time finding a few good people: The Vermont Republican Party.

You almost have to feel sorry for the VTGOP. They’re so underfinanced and disorganized, so out of touch and few in number, that their every ticket features a frightening quantity of blank slots. They’ll take almost anybody with a pulse who’s willing to step out in public with an “R” next to their name.

Two cases in point today. First, we have Christopher-Aaron Felker, the surprise entry into Burlington’s special election to fill the seat of former councilor Brian Pine. Second, Gov. Phil Scott’s latest nominee to the Vermont Commission on Women.

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The Evidence of Things Not Seen

Ah, if only it were so

There is so much to say about the pair of dueling events that took place in Essex last Friday. The first was a cauldron of conservative outrage concerning Their Latest Bugaboo, critical race theory, about which they know nothing. The second was a counter-event across the road, featuring supporters of the school district’s anti-racism efforts.

There’s what it says about the Vermont Republican Party that its chair attended Hate Night. There’s the ideological connection to recent events in the Mill River school district, where conservative outrage has also reared its unsightly head. There’s how the event was covered: Badly by VTDigger, and with manufactured both-sidesism by Seven Days. There’s the complete unmasking of a prominent conservative “journalist,” and the rise of a new contender for Worst Lawmaker in Montpelier.

But let’s start with Hebrews 11:1. In the King James Version favored by many evangelicals, it says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse has multiple applications here.

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Stumping For the American God

Earlier this week, after Liz Cheney was purged by the House’s minority caucus, Gov. Phil Scott was asked about the sorry state of the national GOP. His response, per WCAX: “It appears as there’s a sign that is being placed in the window saying you need not apply and if you don’t adhere to those values or that litmus test, you are no longer welcome.”

A natural follow-up, which went unasked, would have been “In that case, what about the Vermont Republican Party, whose leadership is as intolerant as the national crowd?”

Take, for example, Jay Shepard, Republican National Committeeman and generic Mike Pompeo knock-off. He is one of two VTGOP representatives to the national Republican Committee, which makes him a very big fish in the shallow pool of our conservative politics.

Shepard styles himself a genius of inside politics. He runs Junction Consulting, a conservative firm offering its expertise in campaigns, fundraising and so forth. During the 2018 election cycle, his firm got nearly $200,000 from the Republican State Leadership Council to run ads against select Vermont Democratic lawmakers. Hmm, a Republican committee funneling funds to a Republican committeeman. Sounds a little grifty to me.

Well, Shepard’s got himself a new grift. He’s using the VTGOP email list to pump a national group that he co-founded. So, if you signed up for information about what Vermont Republicans are up to, congratulations. You’re getting Shepard’s fundraising pleas for the group, plus a regular email newsletter from its rhetorician-in-chief.

Said group is the American Council for Education and Knowledge. Named, as is customary in right-wing circles, to apply a mainstreamy veneer on a collection of far-right ideologues. As if that’s going to fool anyone.

And what, pray tell, awaits if you click on the link above?

For starters, how about “The time has come to restore the American God, His natural law, and His code of ethics to their proper roles in everyday life.”

Yep, “the American God.” Just like it says in the Bible.

Not.

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That “Big Tent” Lacks an Entrance or Two

It was probably inevitable that Kolby LaMarche would resign as chair of the Burlington Republicans. A bit less so that he left the GOP altogether. But here we are.

Whenever she’s asked about extreme elements in the party, VTGOP chair Deb Billado resorts to the “big tent’ analogy. The party, she says, is big enough to include all comers.

Nice theory, but it’s not working in practice. The kind of die-hard Trump supporters who still believe he was cheated out of the election are more than welcome in the party ranks and, what the heck, leadership. But people like LaMarche, who believe the GOP must abandon the Trump delusion, are made to feel so unwelcome that they eventually leave. And the party’s rightward tilt gets that much more pronounced.

If the VTGOP really believes in the “big tent,” then Billado and her colleagues would be pounding the phones, begging LaMarche to give them another chance. Somehow I doubt that’s the case. Because to the chair and her allies, including vice chair Deb Bucknam and national committee members Jay Shepard and Suzanne Butterfield, fealty to Trump is a litmus test for good Republicans. Not to mention local party officials like Ron Lawrence of Essex, co-instigator of the CovidCruiser that went to Washington for Trump’s attempted insurrection on January 6. That’d be the same Lawrence who launched a petition drive to get Gov. Phil Scott to abandon his party affiliation.

Yes, the Phil Scott who is the one and only Republican success story in statewide elections. According to Lawrence and the 2200-odd signers, he’s the real problem in the VTGOP.

Did Billado rush to Scott’s defense? Uhh, no. She “declined comment” on the petition, claiming she hadn’t read the thing and wasn’t involved. No “big tent” references this time.

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Running Out of Metaphors Here (UPDATED) (UPDATED AGAIN)

Things just keep getting better and better for the Vermont Republican Party.

The latest eruption is in the GOP heartland of Burlington, where three members of the city party committee are calling for the removal of city party chair Kolby LaMarche because he’s insufficiently reverential toward Donald Trump.

Because being a Trumpster is such a great way to win elections in Burlington, I guess?

LaMarche sinned against orthodoxy by writing opinion pieces saying that the VTGOP needed to move away from Trump and return to “the Vermont Republican roots that formed the basis of our state party,” in the words of a written statement he released Friday. He had also called for a change in state party leadership; most of the VTGOP’s top officials are dyed-in-the-wool Trumpsters.

The three who want LaMarche removed are Ericka Redic, spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for state Senate in 2020; Gus Klein, a weapons tester at General Dynamics who’s best known as the guy whose Trump flag was vandalized by two teenagers back in 2018; and his wife AnnMarie Klein.

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Another Step Toward Irrelevance for the VTGOP

Yet another can of lighter fluid has been tossed on the roaring fire that is the Vermont Republican Party. This time the perp is Ron Lawrence, chair of the Essex Republicans and co-organizer of the CovidCruiser excursion to the January 6 Capitol riot.

Lawrence, whose town is rapidly transitioning from purple to deep blue, has taken to Change.org to post a petition calling on Gov. Phil Scott to leave the Republican Party.

That’s right, Lawrence believes that the VTGOP would be better off without the only member who’s managed to win a statewide office since 2010.

For those keeping score, that’s Phil Scott, undefeated with a 6-0 record running for LG and governor. The rest of the party from 2010 onward? A sterling one win, 29 losses. (Turncoat Tom Salmon is the one. He won another term as state auditor on the Republican ticket in 2010 after originally winning the office as a Democrat.)

That’s a winning percentage of .033. )The 1962 New York Mets, the measuring stick for futility, had a winning percentage of .250.) Any statistician will tell you that’s… not good.

Obviously, there are two separate VTGOPs. There’s the party hierarchy, which is full of Donald Trump loyalists such as Lawrence, and its elected officials. With the exception of a few dead-enders, Republican officeholders realize that to win elections in Vermont, they have to tack to the center. Like Phil Scott.

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