Tag Archives: Ed Adrian

Health care reform: the election issue with no teeth?

Interesting thing happened last week. Vermont CURE, an advocacy group for single-payer health care reform, cut ties with Tess Taylor, the former House Assistant Majority Leader who resigned from the Legislature to sign on with CURE only about six months ago. In the middle of the 2014 legislative session.

Taylor had been brought on board in the expectation that there’d be some heavy lifting to do in the 2014 campaign, and her political chops would come in handy. Seemed like a good bet at the time, and an even better one after a spring and summer full of trouble for Vermont Health Connect. Surely, went the conventional thinking, the failures of VHC would mean trouble for Governor Shumlin.

Well, maybe not. Bram Kleppner, chairman of the V-CURE board, speaking with VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld: 

“We were expecting a strong candidate to oppose Gov. Shumlin. We were expecting a wave of strong  candidates coming in to run against supporters of (single-payer). So we brought Tess on, obviously because of her deep expertise in the Vermont political process,” Kleppner says. “But it became clear to us after the primaries that that political and legislative opposition that we were expecting really just hadn’t materialized.”

So, rather than a campaigning challenge, V-CURE will focus on a PR effort to convince the general public that single-payer is the best way forward. Taylor’s experience is less germane to that.

This ties in with an email chat I recently had with fellow blogger (and former Burlington City Councilor) Ed Adrian. He wanted to know how my blogposts about health care reform were doing in terms of readership. He’d noticed that anytime he wrote about health care reform, his numbers were “dismal.”

So I checked my numbers and found that, for whatever it’s worth, the same is true for theVPO. Health care stories just don’t attract many pageviews.

Now, theVPO’s audience is a very select, and self-selected, slice of the general public: those with a strong interest in Vermont politics. You can’t safely generalize from them to the entire electorate.

But you’d think that, if anything, my readers would be more interested in health care than everybody else.

Ed pointed out that a sizable majority of Vermonters have never had to interact with Vermont Health Connect because they get their health insurance elsewhere. For them, VHC’s failings are basically an abstract concern.

I wouldn’t have placed much value in the pageviews of a couple of blogs. But combine it with V-CURE’s move, and i have to wonder: is health care reform a lot more sizzle than steak? Is it mainly of interest to insiders and the political media?

It’s hard to tell from the course of the campaign to date. Scott MIlne hasn’t made a dent in Governor Shumlin’s armor with his attacks on VHC incompetence; but is that because of the issue, or because of his terrible campaign?

Then there’s Dan Feliciano, who’s gotten a lot of insider buzz with his devout opposition to single-payer. But his fundraising has been terrible and his 48-hour fundraising blitz came and went without any news — which has to mean it was a complete failure. Is he getting anywhere with a frontal attack on single-payer? It’s impossible to tell, since he hasn’t been included in recent polls. But his fundraising numbers certainly don’t reveal any groundswell of support.

There’s reason to believe that the failures of VHC may not be that politically harmful to Shumlin. I suspect that property taxes would have been a better issue for the Republicans. They still wouldn’t have beaten the Governor; but only a small portion of Vermonters have interacted with VHC, while pretty much everybody pays property taxes, either directly or indirectly.

It’s worth pondering, anyway.

Everybody loves good ol’ Phil

I think I’ve identified the source of Lake Champlain’s outbreak of blue-green algae: last week’s party in Senator Dick Mazza’s Corvette-laden “garage” on behalf of Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott. Enough horseshit was generated to feed an algae bloom for months.

I’m sorry I missed it. Guess my invitation got lost in the mail. Fortunately, the Freeploid’s Nancy Remsen was there, and made the Mazza Tov the centerpiece of her Phil Scott profile in the Sunday paper. From her account, I extract a few gems…

The Republican lieutenant governor glad-handed Republicans, Democrats, lobbyists and business leaders…

I guess Good Ol’ Phil won’t be a supporter of VPIRG’s campaign finance reform agenda. Just a guess.

“It is great to see such a bipartisan crowd,” [former Governor Jim] Douglas observed. He wasn’t surprised, he said, noting, “Phil Scott is the kind of Vermonter who doesn’t worry about someone’s party label.”

Immediately thereafter, Douglas revealed himself to be the kind of Vermonter who DOES worry about party labels:

Douglas urged the crowd to help re-elect Scott to “make sure we don’t have lopsided government.”

As I have observed before, should we be electing people based on affirmative action? Or should the onus be on Republicans to craft a message that actually resonates with the Vermont electorate?

Oh wait, here comes Senate Penitent Pro Tem John Campbell, who was on hand to offer his almost-not-quite-nudge-nudge-wink-wink non-endorsement.

“I’m here to support a friend,” Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell, D-Windsor, said as he stood near Scott in the Corvette showroom. Campbell qualified his support, saying, “I’m not raising funds for Phil.”

Isn’t that nice. I guess I shouldn’t think of this as treason.

No, I guess not, because as Campbell says, he’d support a real actual Democrat for Lieutenant Governor, but he won’t support Progressive Dean Corren even if he wins the Democratic nomination. Campbell just can’t overlook Corren’s long-ago “bashing” of Democrats, even though today’s Corren has definitively foresworn any and all Dem-bashing, promises to work hand-in-hand with Democrats, and is much more politically aligned with Governor Shumlin than is Phil Scott. But I guess Campbell, like Jim Douglas, is unfortunately obsessed with party labels.

Also on hand, making excuses for their Phil-anthropy, were State Senator Dick McCormack and Burlington Democrat Ed Adrian. McCormack “acknowledged that his views on many issues are probably closer to Corren’s, ‘but what I’ve done with Phil really counts for a lot.'”

Awwwww, how thweet. As for Adrian, well, he offered his own variation on the VTGOP’s affirmative action theme: keep Phil around as the token Republican.

If Democrats occupy every position of power, they are just going to fight among themselves. What is wrong with having a moderate, token Republican who would frankly be considered a Democrat elsewhere in the country?

Sorry, Ed, color me unconvinced. What’s wrong with having a “token Republican” in the Lieutenant Governor’s office is that, as a member of the Senate Rules Committee and the tiebreaking vote on legislation, he could become a significant roadblock in the push for single-payer health care and campaign finance reform. And I am unmoved by the fact that Scott would be considered a Democrat in West Virginia or Nebraska. It’s like Roger Allbee running for a Democratic Senate seat in Windham County: he may be a liberal Republican and he might make a really good Senator from, oh, Rutland County or the Northeast Kingdom, but he’s too centrist for the Windham electorate. Same with Scott: he’d be a fine Lite-Gov if it were entirely a ceremonial position, and he’d be a breath of fresh air in Montana or Wyoming, but as Lieutenant Governor of Vermont he’s a potential obstacle to Governor Shumlin’s top priority. Which is why Shumlin has all but endorsed Dean Corren.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never had the chance to fall under the up-close-and-personal spell of Phil Scott’s charms*, but I don’t get the Scott fetishism among so many of our Democratic officeholders. It’s reminding me quite a bit of the Vince Illuzzi fetishism of two years ago. Nobody gave Doug Hoffer much of a chance because he was a Progressive, and a rather abrasive one at that, while Everybody Loved Vince.

*Maybe it’s his private-label cologne, a bi-attractant blend of pleasing moderation with rich, manly undertones of racing fuel and asphalt. 

Except when it came Election Day, it turned out that the inside-the-Dome crowd didn’t represent the electorate as a whole. I’m hoping the same thing happens with Corren, for the sake of single-payer’s prospects in the Senate, and in order to drive another stake into the heart of the old-boys’ network, go-along-get-along atmosphere that beclouds our Most Stagnant Deliberative Body.