Tag Archives: Darcie Johnston

Once again, Darcie Johnston has her finger on the pulse of the electorate

As of this writing, the manhunt continues for Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two escaped murderers in upstate New York and Vermont. Cops on the lookout, distributing flyers all over the place; warnings to campers; constant updates in the local media, a sudden and very real outbreak of fears that Vermonters like to think they’re immune from.

And right on cue, here comes conservative political consultant Darcie Johnston, who hasn’t been on a winning campaign since she left the Jim Jeffords operation more than a decade ago, with the real question that’s on everybody’s mind. Not.

Yeah, really. Those goddamn featherbedding cops, traipsing through the fields and forests at all hours. It’s like a vacation when you think about it. The New York Times:

Those who know the terrain have made jokes that, if the men are in these woods, they are surprised the pair have not turned themselves over to the authorities by now, beaten up by nature and begging for a break. The rain has fallen regularly and hard. The woods are filled with skunks, porcupines and black bears. Then there are the bugs that swarm the forest this time of year: black flies, ticks and deer flies.

Usually, you can count on conservatives to support law enforcement and security as a true core function of government, and express gratitude to those who risk their own safety to preserve ours. But not Darcie, I guess.

I’d like to know her alternative. Call off the search and let the free market sort it out? Contract it to the private sector and hire the lowest bidder?

Hey, I know: send in the drones and bomb ’em out. Might be some collateral damage, but I bet we’d save some precious taxpayer dollars.

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Signs of trouble at the VTGOP

This ought to be a pretty good time for Vermont Republicans, comparatively speaking. They won some notable victories in 2014. The 2015 legislative season began with the Governor abandoning his signature issue, and the legislature facing a big budget deficit and a bunch of tough issues.

The Democratic majority did a pretty good job all told, but they certainly left plenty of room for Republican attacks. The tax increases, the education reform plan, the unresolved problems with Vermont Health Connect, the apparent disconnect between Governor and legislature. Lots of red meat.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

Suggested truth-in-advertising logo for the VTGOP.

But there are signs that the Vermont Republican Party is still in the doldrums: low on funds, poor on party-building and grassroots organizing, surprisingly passive during a season of opportunity, and suffering from a seemingly intractable rift between the True Believers and the Inclusivists.

Some of this is nothing but rumor. But rumor with a consistent, believable storyline that’s reflected in the cold, hard facts of the VTGOP’s financial reports.

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Your First Amendment right to be a complete weenie

A moment of Statehouse drama from Thursday, as captured in a series of Tweets.

First, to introduce the players. Shap Smith, Speaker of the House; Darcie Johnston, political consultant to lost conservative causes; and Shayne Spence, lesser functionary in the Ethan Allen Institute, available for parties and bar mitzvahs whenever Rob Roper has a schedule conflict.

And now, let’s go to the Tweets!

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Let’s briefly note the self-aggrandizing Tweet from Spence. Ooh! Threatened by the Speaker! What a rush!

That brings us to Shap’s reply, which may be a bit unclear because of Twitter’s unforgiving character limit. What he’s saying is that Spence wasn’t just filming the House chambers — he was doing so from the Senate seats, the row of ornately carved chairs with bright red cushions along the front wall of the House.

Of course, filming from there is “not typically allowed.” The video cameras are typically posted at one end of the balcony, far from the House floor and the podium. Bringing a video camera to the Senate seats is a brazen violation of protocol. But that’s what I’d expect from a self-important James O’Keefe wannabe who thinks he’s the living embodiment of everyone’s Constitutional rights.

And if you think that assessment is a little harsh, here is Spence’s rejoinder to Smith.

Yes indeed, Shayne, keeping the People’s House open is very important. But that has nothing to do with a narcissistic operative taking his camera wherever he damn well pleases.

Every legislative body has rules, procedures, and mores. Partly they help things run smoothly; partly they’re antiquated remainders of tradition. But they do nothing to prevent access, and they should be observed out of respect to the institution.

Let’s just hope he tries the same thing in the Senate, which has tighter rules than the House. He’ll be tossed without a moment’s hesitation.

The other Gun Show

Last night’s Statehouse hearing on gun registration didn’t interest me much; the fate of the bill is a foregone conclusion (it’s dead), and the hearing was just a bit of political theater. But there were some entertaining moments on Twitter that I’ve plucked from the everflowing Tweetstream.

The Ethan Allen Institute, for example, got all poetical.

Aww. They’re right, you know. An inanimate object can’t initiate violence. But a gun is one hell of an expediter.

There was this bit of reportage from the Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman, revealing which side of the debate cornered the market on boorishness.

My favorite, though, was a brief dominance display by two of the lesser players in the 2014 election season. First, consistently losing political consultant Darcie Johnston, chief flag-waver for Dan Feliciano’s doomed campaign; and second, Brent Burns, who briefly helmed the Scott Milne effort.

Ooh, scorch! The “4%” is, of course, a reference to Feliciano’s underwhelming share of the vote. Ball’s in your court, Ms. Johnston.

“#navysniper”? A bit of resume inflation, perhaps? Feliciano did serve in the Navy, but according to one source, he “spent six years as a sonar technician.” Yeah, well, sonar/sniper, same diff. Mr. Burns begs to differ.

After this, the two parties adjourned the contest. Burns resisted the temptation to add “[mic drop],” which he would have been absolutely justified in doing. Johnston returned to her lair to, presumably, plot strategery for Feliciano’s 2016 campaign.

Next time, six percent!

Dan the No Longer Libertarian Man

(UPDATE: Per VTDigger, he’s joined the Republican Party. See below.)

Here’s a little piece of political news so shocking that I almost stifled a yawn.

Oooooookay, then. I imagine this will rattle around the Vermont political media for a few hours and then we’ll get back to stuff that actually matters.

Not to disparage the contributions of Mr. Feliciano. But we are talking about a guy who enjoyed a boatload of free publicity, including widespread speculation that he might outpoll Scott Milne, and in the end he barely managed to fend off the bottom-of-the-ballot Nutbar Brigade. He couldn’t even push the Libertarians into automatic ballot status for 2016.

I can see three possible implications. In order of likelihood:

— He’s had enough of politics and will turn his attention back to work and family. 10% chance; once bitten by the political bug, the fever usually persists beyond one election cycle.

— He doesn’t know what’s next, he’s on the outs with the Libertarians anyway, so he’s clearing the decks. 30% chance; it’s neat and clean, but I suspect he has an idea what he wants to do. Which is…

— He’s aiming to run for governor in 2016 as the darling of the right wing. 60% chance. The opening is there, unless Randy Brock re-emerges from the weeds. (Which I doubt.) The right needs a front man with some sort of credibility, and Feliciano was a perfectly cromulent candidate in 2014. He’s got some name recognition, he’s got a foothold in the Vermont political world. He impressed the likes of Darcie Johnston, even if he pretty much failed with the electorate.

There are problems with this scenario, obviously. His “proven appeal” amounts to 4% of the vote, even with all the publicity he got and all the troubles of his Republican counterpart. He’d be aiming to represent a wing of the VTGOP that’s clearly on the outs; if the 2014 election proved anything, it’s that a center-right position is much more appealing to voters than a hard-right stance.

Plus, in a hypothetical primary against Phil Scott, he’d get flattened.

Of course, the fact that the right wing is clearly on the outs makes them desperate enough to see Mr. Four Percent as their knight in fiscally conservative armor.

UPDATE: VTDigger’s Tom Brown reports that Feliciano has joined the Republican Party, saying its larger base would give him a better chance of winning a future campaign. That might be another run for governor; he might also pursue another office:

“It depends on what it is,” he said. “I have to be in a position where I can really influence things and get things done. I would not be good in the middle.”

I think we can all agree on that.

Of course the right wing is still Grubering

Yesterday, I wrote about Neal Goswami’s journalistic self-sacrifice — reading 2,400 pages of government emails so we don’t have to. The emails in question were between the newly-notorious Jonathan Gruber and various Shumlin administration functionaries. And Goswami found a conspicuous absence of scandal. Indeed, the emails painted a picture of some very dedicated people working very hard to devise the best possible single-payer system.

Naturally, though, the lack of scandal hasn’t stopped the right wing from desperately fanning the Gruber flames. This is not at all surprising; in fact, it’s the right wing’s modus operandi. Talking Points Memo:

Gruber-mania has gripped the conservative mediasphere in a way that few stories have, becoming another brand-name controversy like Benghazi and the IRS. An academic who had been little known outside of Washington or Boston has been mentioned nearly 2,800 times in English-language news since news of the most recent video broke last month. Prior to that, across a career that spanned decades and after playing an important role in Massachusetts and national health care reform, he’d been named less than 1,000 times, according to a TPM LexisNexis search.

The lesser members of the mediasphere who operate in this lonely outpost are taking their cues from their big brothers, and trying to make mountains out of molehills.

Take Rob Roper, the Eddie Haskell of Vermont conservatism. He pulled out one brief excerpt from Goswami’s report, which I’d cited as a positive. Key quote from Gruber:

I am really excited to work with you all — I think we have the chance to really make history here.

In Roper’s imagination, this statement immediately disqualifies Gruber. He’s too enthusiastic, see?

So would Gruber mislead Vermont voters because he’d rather make history than not? With over $2 billion at stake, we have to assume the answer is yes.

One little evidence-free assumption, and we can dismiss the entirety of Gruber’s work. Plus any proposal Gov. Shumlin makes because, even if he fired Gruber today, all the work on single-payer has already been thoroughly Grubered.

This is exactly the same rationale used by the far right for ignoring climate science: the scientists have a stake in climate change, so their work can be dismissed.

Look, it’s only natural that an expert would have a lively engagement in her/his field of study. Aren’t you interested in what you do? I hope so. But the academic world — unlike the world of conservative faux-outrage — has ethical standards and principles. Academics have an interest in doing honest work, to ensure that their work has an impact. And, of course, academics who commit fraud see their careers end in shame.

But the Rob Ropers of the world know nothing of this, because their purpose is rousing the rabble. Adhering to the truth is a professional impediment. And fraud is a tried and true method of career advancement.

And that, by the way, is it: The only thing Roper could find in Goswami’s story to yammer about is Gruber’s enthusiasm for his work.

Meanwhile, serial failure Darcie “Hack” Johnston has been busily retweeting stuff from Breitbart.com, one of the sleazier outposts of the conservative mediasphere. For some reason, Breitbart has posted a series of stories about Gruber’s work in Vermont. Seems like small potatoes for a national website, but whatevs.

Johnston is so far out there, she seems to believe that Breitbart is a convincing source of news. In fact, the guy who’s writing its Vermont stories is a proud Tea Partier with no journalistic credentials outside the conservative mediasphere.

But again, I’m not surprised. This is SOP for Johnston: Accept (and broadcast) every conservative source, no matter how shameless, as the Gospel truth.

When, in fact, “truth” has nothing to do with it.

Vermont Republicans adopt the Fox News playbook

I don’t know what the hell has happened to Vermont Republicans. With a couple of exceptions (Phil Scott, Kevin Mullin), they seem to have gone batshit crazy.

And crazy in a very particular way. They have taken up the chief weaponry of national Republicans and the Fox News crowd by distilling a complicated issue to a single word.

The issue is health care and the word, of course, is GRUBER!!!!!!

Republicans have not been deterred in the last by Gov. Shumlin’s renegotiation of Gruber’s contract, cutting off further payments to Gruber and thus saving the state $120,000 — some of which will go to independent checking of Gruber’s work.

But it doesn’t matter, at least not to Republicans. They’ve decided “Gruber” is an all-purpose cudgel to attack Shumlin, the Democrats, and the cause of health care reform. Their entire health care focus is on Gruber.

It was only a couple weeks ago that the VTGOP had a big post-election news conference to call for repeal of Vermont Health Connect. We don’t hear that anymore; it’s all Gruber, all the time.

It’s the first time I can remember that virtually every notable Republican and conservative activist seems to be singing from the same hymnal. Kurt Wright sounds just like Rob Roper, and Heidi Scheuermann’s doing her best Darcie Johnston.

This fact hit home for me while reading Rep. Wright’s opinion piece in the Sunday Freeploid. Wright asserts that Gruber’s work on single-payer “will undermine the entire process and debate going forward.” When there’s no evidence that Gruber has done anything more than provide top-flight economic modeling. No matter; as ACORN allegedly poisoned the electoral process and Lois Lerner allegedly proved an Obama conspiracy against the right, the mere presence of Gruber fundamentally undercuts everything about single-payer.

So I guess, by Wright’s logic, we have to throw out all the work that’s been done on single-payer over the last three years and start over? Or is he arguing that by axing Gruber now, when the work is virtually complete, the entire process will be purified as if by cleansing flame?

Wright’s words are identical in meaning to Rob Roper’s. Over at his Koch-funded nonprofit, the Ethan Allen Institute, he claims that Gruber’s entire body of work is useless and cannot be used at all. And Darcie “Hack” Johnston, Tweeting out her policy stances, pronounes Gruber’s work is “tainted” and…

Just watch him, Darcie.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Benning is clearly intoxicated by his sudden Fox News fame, referring on his Facebook page to Gruber as “the gift that keeps on giving.” Which sounds disconcertingly like naked political opportunism. He goes on to brag that “FOX wants me back!”

Of course they want you back, Joe: you fit right in with their agenda. And I don’t mean that as a compliment.

On another front, House Republicans have filed a public-records request for Gruber’s work for the state and for communications between Gruber and the Shumlin Administration, I’d applaud them for trying to learn the truth, but given all their public remarks, it seems more like a Darrell Issa-type fishing expedition. What they’re really hoping for is more Gruberisms.

And then there’s the proto-Republicans at Campaign for Vermont, still flogging their online petition calling for Gruber’s firing. Too bad that since Shumlin’s termination of payment, CFV’s petition has pretty much stalled out. As of this writing, it’s at 233 signatures, and it’s been in the low 200s for several days now.

This isn’t about the truth. It’s about using a handful of remarks by Jonathan Gruber to try to undermine the push for single-payer health care.

The weird thing about this is, we just went through an election that provided two object lessons (Phil Scott and Scott Milne) in how Republicans can win in Vermont: by presenting a moderate, inclusive image. Now they’re all foaming at the mouth as though the election never happened and “Angry Jack” Lindley is still running the joint.

They would be well advised to rein in their inflammatory rhetoric lest they alienate the very voters they just managed to attract.