Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

Un-Stealth Conservatives: The Wild Bull of Bennington-1

This… THIS… is the photo that Bruce Busa chose as his campaign portrait. Sadly, it’s a decent reflection of his politics.

Busa is the Republican candidate for Vermont House in Bennington-1, currently represented by Democrat Nelson Brownell. This isn’t Busa’s first run for office; in 2018 he was an independent candidate for U.S. Senate. Bernie Sanders won with more than two-thirds of the vote. Busa finished ninth out of nine candidates with 914 votes, or a whopping 0.34% of the total.

So here he is again. He’s not a “stealth conservative” because he makes no bones about who he is. But his candidacy is yet another stain on the Republican brand in Vermont.

High-, or lowlights. Busa believes that the combination of Article 22 and the Global Warming Solutions Act could lead to state-mandated abortions. He thinks school shootings are the schools’ fault. He wants creationism taught alongside evolution. And of course he’s dead set against the Covid vaccine.

Oh, almost forgot. He attended the January 6 insurrection, and he thinks it was a false flag operation incited by Antifa and Black Lives Matter.

He also endorses the platform of the Bennington Republican Committee which, I didn’t realize they had one. Of course I was curious.

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Soon to Be the Most Powerful Person in the Vermont Democratic Party

Far too early rampant speculation alert!

Becca Balint’s one-sided primary victory leaves only token obstacles in her path to Congress. This is obvious.

What’s less obvious is that it puts Balint on track to become the most powerful person in Vermont Democratic politics. This is the extra dimension of the primary’s import. It was a hinge moment in the party’s progress.

Follow me, if you will, down a wary-too-soon but perfectly logical rabbit hole.

Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch are extremely powerful presences in the Vermont Democratic Party, more so than is visible publicly. (Bernie Sanders is treated with veneration but as a resolute independent, he doesn’t have the same level of influence.)

Leahy is about to exit the stage and take on an emeritus-equivalent position in the party. He’ll have a say as long as he draws breath, but he won’t have the power of the office anymore. His people took a huge hit in the primary. Most or all backed Molly Gray, or even worked on her campaign. They might never recover, especially given how negative Gray went in the closing weeks of the primary campaign. That won’t endear any of them to Balint.

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This is Kind of Hard to Believe

This Just In from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center: a poll sponsored by WCAX-TV that shows a shockingly one-sided Democratic primary for Vermont’s Congressional seat. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint 63%, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray 21%.

Yikes. Double yikes with nuts.

This is waaaaay outside the margin of error or any reasonable disclaimers you could devise. I mean, there aren’t enough grains of salt on the beach.

I mean, I had the sense that the momentum was with Balint. But 42 percentage points?

Considering that Gray has spent much of her campaign complaining about out-of-state “dark money” (from national LGBTQ+ groups, primarily), I expect she’ll release a statement decrying “out-of-state pollsters.”

Or she’ll grit her teeth and try to ignore it.

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Balint Bags Bernie Backing

Well, this is big.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone and endorsed Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint in her bid for U.S. Congress. It’s not technically a violation of the unwritten rule against taking sides in a party primary because Bernie’s technically not a Democrat, but still.

It’s not the first time he’s done this, but it is the most impactful. In 2020 he endorsed David Zuckerman over Rebecca Holcombe in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but he didn’t do so until July 27. The white smoke wafted up the chimney three weeks earlier this time, which is crucial because mail ballots are already in circulation.

I can only speculate on the why. Is this one last shot in the sub rosa contest of ideas between fiercely independent Bernie and loyal Democrats Leahy and Welch? It certainly reads like a power play — a contest to see who really captures the hearts and minds of Vermonters.

The less Machiavellian reading is simply that Sanders sees Balint as an ideological match, and Lt. Gov. Molly Gray as an unacceptably centrist candidate. My guess is that it’s mostly the latter, and the former is the cherry on top.

I don’t think Leahy or Welch will be willing to break the rule for their Chosen One. But I bet they’ll bend it some more by continuing to say nice things about Gray without actually endorsing, and keeping their networks active on her behalf.

That’s a big help, but Bernie’s public support is bigger.

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Lookin’ For Some New Moose

2022 is looking like a critical campaign season for the Vermont Progressive Party, full of peril and possibilities.

The peril is obvious. The two state senators who identify as Progressive/Democratic, Anthony Pollina and Chris Pearson, are stepping out of elective office. Cheryl Hooker, one of three senators who wear the Democratic/Progressive label, is also retiring. (The others are Phil Baruth and Andrew Perchlik.)

If the Progs don’t pick up seats somewhere, that would leave them with fractions of Baruth and Perchlik as their entire Senate caucus. That wouldn’t be good.

The Progs have some possibilities for shoring up their numbers. They have real hopes in the newly created Chittenden Central district, which includes the liberal parts of Burlington and Essex, and all of WInooski. Rep. Tanya Vyhovsky of Essex is running in the Democratic primary, and should stand a decent chance given the political nature of the district.

Other Democrats could pick up the Dem/Prog label, which would help. At least a couple of Pollina’s potential successors, Anne Watson and Jeremy Hansen, seem inclined to do so. Windham County senate candidate Wichie Artu seems cut from similar cloth.

We may also see, for the first time in years, a slate of Progressive candidates at the top of the ballot.

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First Debate: A Truly Impressive Showing

Four of the five Democratic candidates for Congress had their first debate Tuesday night, obligatory sponsor credit to VTDigger, and I have to say, all four of them did extremely well. From start to finish, they put on one of the best debate performances I can recall viewing. Their answers were direct and concise (I only counted one time when an answer went over the 90-second time limit). Each of them had a clear message, in words and in presentation, and they got their messages across. A few jabs were thrown, but there were also expressions of respect. Camaraderie, even.

Maybe this is what we get when the women take the stage. Makes me think we’ve been electing the wrong gender all these years.

So, before I start picking away at this thing, I’ll say it again: I came away with a positive view of all four participants. You have to get down to the nit-picky level to find grounds for criticism. They even handled the “Name one mistake you’ve made” question with aplomb. None fell back on the “I can’t think of one” or “Sometimes I’m too smart for my own good” kind of stuff that you often hear from, well, male politicians. Each referenced a mistake, owned it and explained it, openly and honestly.

The debate was a real display of the importance of representation. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray named paid family leave as her top priority. I doubt you’d hear a man say that. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint made eloquent use of her identity as a gay woman. Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Sianay Chase Clifford showed how their lived experience informs their work on behalf of women and people of color.

I’m going to focus most of my attention on presentation, for two reasons: Voters are more swayed by their impressions than by policy positions. Likeability and relatability count for a lot, and I say that as someone who cares about policy. Second, there simply wasn’t much separation on the issues. Gray took a more moderate position several times, but that makes her a Pat Leahy/Peter Welch type, not some Republican in Democratic clothing. Ram Hinsdale and Chase Clifford positioned themselves in the progressive camp; Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint was, for the most part, right there alongside. She differed more in approach than in substance.

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In Praise of Shithousery

This, friends and acquaintances, is Jamie Vardy, ace striker for Leicester City FC and world-class shithouse. His specialty is the extravagant goal celebration in front of opposition fans. I do believe he’d rather score on the road than at home, just so he can put on displays like this. A former teammate says that Vardy would ask fellow players how to deliver insults in their language so he’d know how to say “Your sister is a whore” to a Portuguese defender.

Shithousery, broadly defined, is behavior designed to get under your opponent’s skin and hopefully disrupt their play. Kicking, grabbing, taunting, egregious overacting in an attempt to draw a foul, that sort of thing. It’s a quality you hate in opposing players but love when they’re on your side.

Which brings us to Vermont politics, especially Democratic politics, which is woefully short on shithousery. You might think we’re better off that way. To be sure, shithousery can be overdone; there are figures on the national scene who are capable of nothing but. (Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan, Paul Gosar, etc.) Vardy, on the other hand, is a topnotch player who once carried his squad to an improbable Premier League championship.

We need us a Jamie Vardy. By “we,” I mean Vermont’s Democrats and Progressives. The closest thing we’ve got is Bernie Sanders, but he’s not active on the home front. We need someone in state politics happy to throw a sharp elbow in the opposition’s ribs, even if they have to suffer the tut-tuts of the chattering class.

Phil Scott, for all his “nice guy” reputation, is an exceptional shithouse. He knows how to fire a sucker-punch when the ref isn’t looking. Say, when he accuses his critics of playing politics or slams the media for creating controversy. Or when he tiptoes around veto threats while refusing to engage with lawmakers.

It’s how he keeps the Dems off balance. They’re always trying to guess how far they can go without triggering a veto, which makes them water down their own legislation. Which results in Democrats looking like fools when they try to convince their voters that really, if you vote for us this time, we’ll deliver on the stuff we’ve been promising for years. Scott also keeps a stable of shithouses in his executive office, just as fellow “nice guy” Jim Douglas did when he was governor. (Names? Jason Gibbs, Dustin Degree, Tayt Brooks. All three have Two have been at Scott’s right hand since day one; Degree joined them eleven months into Scott’s first term.)

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Still the Luckiest Man in Vermont

Today’s State of the State Address was another exercise in Repurposed Content. Gov. Phil Scott is still leaning on the usual uncatchy catchphrases and political shibboleths, and recycling the same points he’s been making since 2015.

There ‘s not a lot new to say about this midwinter summer rerun, so I’m going to follow Governor Nice GuyTM‘s example and repurpose some old content myself. Because as Scott’s address made clear, it’s still true.

Last January, I wrote a post called “The Luckiest Man in Vermont,” which noted that Scott has rarely faced a political challenge in all his election campaigns. He floated to the top due to circumstance and his brand of bland, passive-aggressive charm. On top of that, the pandemic has given him a tremendous political gift.

I’m not talking about the credit he’s gotten, merited and otherwise, for his handling of Covid-19. I’m talking about the ever-flowing Niagara of federal relief funds buoying our economy and fattening public treasuries. Today’s speech re-emphasized that fact.

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Something Stupid This Way Comes

Yep, it’s time again for another round of The Veepies, our awards for stupidity and/or obtuseness in the public sphere. Got a lovely crop of stupid on offer.

First, we have the It Worked So Splendidly Last Time, Let’s Run It Back Again Award, which goes to the folks responsible for exhuming the cold, rotting carcass of the Sanders Institute. Yep, the Sanders clan’s vanity project think tank is once again open for business, thanks to a big fat chunk o’change from… wait for it… the Bernie Sanders campaign! Gotta do something with all those $27 gifts they couldn’t manage to spend during the actual election season.

For those just joining us, the Sanders Institute was founded in 2016 by Jane Sanders and her son David Driscoll, who — mirabile dictu — emerged from what I’m sure was an exhaustive nationwide search to become SI’s executive director. Well, the Institute posted a bunch of essays (mostly recycled from other media) on its website and had one big conference in 2018, but was shut down in May 2019, sez the AP, “amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.” Ya think?

There are a few differences between the original and SI 2.0. Sanders comms guy Mike Cesca told VPR that none of the campaign’s money would go toward pay or bennies for Sanders family members. Which is kind of an admission that they screwed up the first time.

Also, two different spokespeople made reference to “the transition” from winning votes to educating people, which makes you think he’s not running for president again, and makes you wonder whether he’ll run for another Senate term in 2024. The new Institute will also include an archive of Sanders and his family… hmm, sounds like a think tank vanity project.

After the jump: A daycare misfire, a self-inflicted social media disappearance, and incompetent fiber installers.

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Stupid Never Takes a Day Off: The Veepies, Holiday Edition

My friends, just because the rest of you took a nice three-day weekend doesn’t mean that Stupid isn’t on the clock. Yup, we’ve got another full slate for your reading pleasure. This week: A cheap shot on Bernie that doesn’t land, a double dose of Rutland-style racism, and public funds for… lobbying?

First, a pair of “Ha! I gotcha! But Why Are You Laughing? Awards to Fox News and the New York Post, for a wild swing and a miss at our own Sen. Bernie Sanders. Pretty much every media outlet covered last week’s revelaiton of Bernie’s lodging predilections: King-sized bed, 60-degree room, no ice machines nearby, etc. It was good for a chuckle, and quickly disappeared. But Fox and the Post tried to pull an Al Gore on Bernie: Accusing him of hypocrisy because, as a democratic socialist, he ought to be able to sleep on a park bench or somebody’s couch, I guess.

Fox referenced “a long list of diva demands,” while the Post said Bernie’s demands “would make even the most pampered celebrity blush.” All I can say is, apparently they’ve never seen what a real diva’s demands look like. Bernie’s not in their league.

Besides, c’mon now. Bernie was running for president, which is one of the most demanding tasks a human being can undertake. If he wants a big bed and a charter airplane so he can give multiple speeches in multiple different locations every damn day, well, that’s not hypocrisy, it’s doing whatever it takes to keep the candidate grinding away. For comparison’s sake, I’d love to see the travel demands of conservative “populists” like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz or Newt Gingrich.

Next we have a pair of “I’m Not a Racist, I Just Can’t Stand People Who Aren’t Like Me” Awards going down Rutland way.

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