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.)
Two weeks ago, the troubled relationship between the Vermont Republican Party and its most successful politician — Gov. Phil Scott — was, for all intents and purposes, formally terminated. At its biannual reorganization, party delegates re-elected chair Deb Billado to a second two-year term. Billado is an earnest soul, but a staunch conservative and devout Donald Trump fan. And she has had zero success with the admittedly tough task of pulling the party out of the doldrums.
She ran without opposition, which is the real point. Two years ago, Scott came up with a nominee of his own: Michael Donohue (not that guy), a very conservative fellow but a realist with a respectable track record of political organizing in other states. Donohue lost narrowly to Billado, in a result that reflected the party’s Trumpward orientation.
This time, Scott didn’t bother. He didn’t even attend the meeting. (He had a good excuse; Vermont was reeling from a weather disaster, and he was visiting affected areas. But I have a feeling he would have found an excuse to stay away. “Had to walk the dog” or somesuch.)
Delegates elected a slate of far-right Trumpers to top posts. Former attorney general candidate Deb Bucknam is the new vice chair; she replaces Brady Toensing, who resigned last spring to take a position in the Trump Justice Department. (He’s the son of Victoria Toensing, frequent promoter of right-wing conspiracy theories on Fox News along with her husband Joe DiGenova. Brady was a longtime member of the family law firm.)
Other officers include Deb Bucknam’s hubby Charlie as party treasurer and Deb Ricker, re-elected as secretary. Two at-large spots on the executive committee went to onetime state representative Paul Dame, who periodically shows up in my mailbox touting “retirement seminars” with a free dinner at the Steakhouse in Berlin*, and Zachary Hampl (not that guy), a Castleton University student and founder of the local chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty. (Young Zach also endorsed Bruce Lisman over Scott in the 2016 primary battle.)
*If that doesn’t work out for him, maybe he can try hawking timeshares.
None of those worthies is on the same ideological continent as Our Governor. Who, again, didn’t even try to offer alternative candidates more suited to his politics and style.