Finally, Governor Shumlin has begun campaigning for re-election. For those of us who’ve yearned for the relative brevity of a parliamentary-style campaign, the Governor has delivered the closest thing we’re going to get.
Given the state of the opposition, this should be more victory lap than competitive contest. But still, there’s a lot he needs to accomplish in order to set the stage for a productive third term. Here’s my short (and probably incomplete) wish list.
— If he really wants single-payer, this is a crucial election. He’ll need to show skeptical Democrats that he still enjoys broad public support. The bigger his margin of victory, the more agreeable the Legislature will be in 2015.
— He also needs to stump hard in marginal constituencies and elect as many pro-reform lawmakers as possible. That includes money: he has more than enough, not only to fight this election but for a solid foundation for 2016. He should tell some of his deep-pocketed supporters to give to House and Senate campaigns. Or make some donations himself.
— He should have a very clear explanation for the failures of Vermont Health Connect and the slowness of his Administration’s response. Honesty is better than defensiveness, even if it hurts. And as I’ve written earlier, he might need to fire some folks to show he’s unhappy with the results so far.
— He should present a convincing case that single-payer would be simpler than Obamacare, which was a cobbled-together compromise package. (Accompanying cartoon by Jason Yungbluth, provided to theVPO by the estimable Dr. Deb Richter.)
— He should get strongly behind Dean Corren’s bid for Lieutenant Governort, including a lot of joint appearances. And he should urge the Democratic Party to do whatever it can to help Corren. A vote on single-payer in the Senate may well come down to a tiebreaking vote from the presiding officer. If you favor single-payer, do you want that vote cast by Phil Scott or Dean Corren?
— Turning, finally, from health care reform, the Governor needs to present ideas and show he has the energy to tackle other issues that are actually more pressing in the minds of voters: economic growth, school governance and taxation, and the general tax burden.
— In gubernatorial debates, he needs to press Scott Milne (and Dan Feliciano, when he’s on hand) on the issues. He shouldn’t try to float above the fray, as if his opponents don’t matter. This is not so much for his own benefit, as for the cause of liberalism. He needs to remind people why they should vote for Democrats and Progressives. Too often, he has invoked conservative talking points to justify his moves to the center. He needs to cut that out.
I think that covers it. I don’t want to see any prevent defense, and I don’t want even a hint of lofty entitlement. No taking the voters for granted. I want a strong, cogent, and relatable message that upholds the principles of modern liberalism and addresses the needs of Vermonters.