Tag Archives: Jim Jeffords

The “moderate” VTGOP is a mythical beast

A few interesting things came out of the Vermont Republican Convention on Saturday — besides revealing that Phil Scott can’t take a rhetorical punch.

I thought it shone a harsh and unforgiving light on the idea that Vermont Republicans are a breed apart — the last surviving redoubt of moderate Republicanism. That’s largely a fiction created in a desperate effort to appeal to the liberal Vermont electorate. It takes on the veneer of reality thanks to the thoroughly moderate image of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. But the party ranks are full of garden-variety 21st Century Republicanism. Vermont Republicans may have thrown in the towel on social issues like marriage equality and abortion rights*, but they are a stoutly conservative bunch when it comes to brass-tacks issues like government spending, regulation, and taxation.

*Well, let’s say they are withholding the towel. I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts they’d change their tune if they ever achieved political power.

After all, this is a party that eagerly embraced John Kasich, a man whose tax plan would make Ronald Reagan blush with embarrassment. George W. Bush, too, for that matter.

But there were signs aplenty at the Convention that this is a party with a strongly conservative core.

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Scion of Koch-favored candidate to visit Queen City

This ought to be fun.

Dudebrah! Duuuuuuudebraaaaaah!!

Dudebrah! Duuuuuuudebrah!!

The link takes you to an announcement that, yes indeed, Matt Walker will be guest speaker at an Activism Training on Thursday evening at UVM.

Event organizer is none other than American Majority, the “raising up the next generation of nutballs” group whose Vermont chief is Tayt Brooks, former Douglas administration flunky and the guy who blew a million bucks of Lenore Broughton’s fortune on the ill-fated Vermonters First “buy an election” effort. This whole event stinks of the conservative big-money network spearheaded by the Koch brothers. Continue reading

On Jim Jeffords

I don’t have much to add to the outpouring of words, messages, and comments on the death of former Senator Jim Jeffords. I didn’t move to Vermont until his very last year in office; and by then, he had largely withdrawn from the public sphere. But, for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents.

Jim Jeffords was a rare politician: one willing to vote his conscience even if it offended his colleagues. As a liberal, I cheered his decision to go independent in 2001 and tip the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. I could well understand why he did so: the Bush Administration was clearly intent on pushing the country far to the right. W’s definition of “bipartisanship” was “my way or the highway.” Not to mention that Bush was a terrible President, and the more power he had, the worse it was for the nation and the world.

 That said, I can understand why Jeffords was a villain to so many Republicans: after putting up with the Reagan years and the anti-Clinton madness of the 90s, he chooses to leave the Republican Party just when it hurt the most – when it tipped the balance of power in the Senate. It’s not unlike how Virginia Democrats feel about ex-Senator Philip Puckett, who resigned after being offered a cushy job. His departure and replacement by a Republican tipped the balance in the Virginia Senate.

 The two cases are not the same, obviously; Jeffords wasn’t offered a cushy job. But the impact was the same.

 And while Jeffords honestly felt he had no place in the modern-day GOP, his departure was the death knell for moderate Republicanism in Vermont. He served as a powerful example to other moderate Republicans, that the party had nothing to offer them. And for conservative Vermonters, I’m sure he became a symbol of moderate perfidy. I imagine that the antipathy toward Phil Scott’s moderate movement expressed by the likes of Darcie Johnston and Jack Lindley is largely engendered by Jim Jeffords’ apostasy. Honestly, if I were a conservative, looking at Phil Scott (or another moderate) in light of my experience with Jeffords, would I trust him to uphold the values of the GOP as I see them? Might I fairly view Scott as another potential turncoat? There’s certainly been speculation aplenty that Scott might someday run for Governor as an independent.

 I’m not saying that any of this is Jim Jeffords’ fault. He had abundant reason to believe that he was already an outcast in the Bush-era Republican Party. He didn’t cause the death of New England moderate Republicanism; he was just the last and loudest one to go. For that, he will always be a hero to liberals, and a turncoat to conservatives.

It would be fascinating to see an alternative timeline where Jeffords stuck it out as a Republican, and remained healthy and vibrant after his retirement. Could he have been an effective “leader emeritus” of a more moderate — or at least more inclusive — Vermont Republican Party? We’ll never know, but things might have turned out very differently for the VTGOP.

George W. Bush’s education time bomb

Some of our former President’s policies were clearly and obviously dumb, like the two wars that have left two countries in ruins, or his refusal to raise taxes to pay for those wars, or the laissez-faire attitude toward high finance that opened the door to the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.

A few of his policies looked good, at least on the surface. But it seems as though there’s a worm inside every apple. Medicare Part D helped seniors get their prescriptions, but it was unnecessarily complicated and barred the government from negotiating on drug prices; thus it was a huge giveaway to Big Pharma. On his watch, many standards and regulations were relaxed (or ignored), but acceptable cholesterol levels were lowered significantly; again, a giveaway to Big Pharma.

And then there was No Child Left Behind, an idea that actually brought Bush and Ted Kennedy together. But there was a time bomb hidden in the workings of NCLB:

Each year for the past 13 years, the NCLB Act has lowered the allowable percentage of students whose test results suggest they are not proficient in math or language arts. This year, that percentage became zero.

In effect, all it takes for a school to labeled as low performing is for a single student to fail to reach a score of proficient.

This, from a story published in the journalistic Dead Zone of the Saturday papers. The Mitchell Family Organ and the Freeploid both reported on what this means for Vermont schools; I’m quoting from the former.

The focus of the story is a letter written last week by Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe, seeking to explain the fact that virtually every school in the state has been labeled “low performing” by the remorseless federal standard.

Most other states took advantage of a loophole in NCLB; they got federal waivers in exchange for agreeing to use standardized test results to evaluate teachers and principals. Why didn’t Vermont do likewise?

Holcombe said Vermont did not apply for the waiver because research has shown standardized tests to be unreliable for teachers in classrooms with 15 or fewer students, which compose nearly half of the classrooms in the state.

“It would be unfair to our students to automatically fire their educators based on technically inadequate tools,” Holcombe wrote.

Some other states have belatedly realized that the waiver is a bad deal, and are backing out. The problem is, NCLB sets draconian penalties for low-performing schools, potentially including the wholesale firing of school staff, the conversion of a “failing” school to a charter school, or even turning the whole thing over to the state or to a private education company.

Far from a real effort at improving education, No Child Left Behind is a real-life version of the old frog-in-a-pot-of-water meme. If you put a frog in hot water, so the story goes, it will jump out. But if you put it in cold water and gradually heat it to boiling, the frog will stay put and die. If NCLB had tossed the system into a boiling pot, there would have been instant reaction. Instead, it slowly and steadily turned up the heat. Whichever option the states chose — performance or waiver — school systems are right and truly screwed.

Kudos to Secretary Holcombe for pointing out the inherent absurdity in the situation, and how the system “does not serve the interest of Vermont schools, nor does it advance our economic or social well-being.”

It’s just another rotting apple in the Bush-el. Worst… President… Ever.

Postscript. Let the record show that Your Two U.S. Senators, Jim Jeffords and Patrick Leahy, voted “No” on the final version of NCLB. They were two of only ten Senators to do so.

When cold comfort is the only comfort you’ve got

Ah, the sweet stench of desperation is emanating from the Vermont conservative camp.

First, the political consultant who hasn’t won anything since unhitching her wagon from Jim Jeffords more than a decade ago, Darcie “Hack” Johnston has responded to my previous post about her Tweets supporting Dan Feliciano, the Libertarian candidate for Governor. He of the typo-riddled website.

Well, I Tweeted about the post, and the Hack replied:

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.31.05 PM

First of all, let me say I am humbled and honored that the Hackster has taken notice of my existence on this earth. Second, yuh-huh, sure, tons of Vermonters will be joining the Feliciano parade. About the time there’s a snowball fight in Hell. And third, if Feliciano’s campaign had the tiniest hint of hope about it, Johnston has officially given him the kiss of death.

Now let us turn to “Super Dave” Sunderland, occupier of the most thankless job in Vermont, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. With virtually no reason to think his party can unseat Governor Shumlin, he’s resorted to touting the results of a new “poll” indicating widespread dissatisfaction with the Guv:

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.30.19 PM

Mmmm, about that “poll.” First, it was an online survey, and we all know how useless those things are. And second, it was posted on the Vermont Business Journal website, and we all know which way the VBJ’s readership leans politically. Also, while the “poll” was in progress, Sunderland was touting it on Twitter, which further skewed the results. Actually, it’s surprising how many “A” grades the Governor got.

But hey, Vermont conservatives find themselves with nothing but a big basket of sow’s ears, so I can’t really blame them for trying to make a silk purse.