Tag Archives: Triangulation

Phil Scott, blowin’ in the wind

I realize that our universally-liked lieutenant governor is new at this whole “leadership” thing. He’s unaccustomed to taking strong stands and providing firm direction. But if he wants to be Governor, he’d better start practicing. Because right now, he’s displaying the opposite of leadership on the issue of paid sick leave. And the Democrats caught him in the act.

For those just tuning in, paid sick leave almost got through the Legislature in 2015 despite the anguished howls of the business lobby. Phil Scott has been right there alongside them, raising heartfelt concerns about the impact of paid sick leave on small business.

This year, paid sick leave looks certain to pass, with some modest tweaks designed to soothe the tender sensibilities of the bizfolk. And here comes our own Braveheart, triangulating his way to the winning side.

“I like the direction it’s going, and I’m happy to take a position on it once it’s out of committee,” Scott said.

The Democratic Party took note of this and pounced. Here’s a fun Twitter exchange, screengrabbed for your amusement.

Dem/Scott Twitter exchange

Oh, snap!

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Bernie’s victory

Bernie Sanders’ campaign is a rousing success. He’s drawing huge — sorry, youuuuuge — crowds, he’s smashed expectations for fundraising, and he’s making noise in select polls.

None of which makes him a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. He still trails badly in national polls. And the dynamics of the primary system have shifted in favor of the frontrunner: an underdog can compete in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but then the primaries come fast and furious, and you need a strong national organization (and a youuuuuge amount of money) to stay competitive. Even lackluster frontrunners like John Kerry and Mitt Romney can use their “inevitability” to steamroll their opponents. Hillary generates a lot more enthusiasm than either of those legacy admissions.

So no, Bernie’s not winning the nomination. But he has already won a very important victory: he has shown the potential for game-changing enthusiasm on the Left. After Bernie, the Democratic Party will have a harder time taking the Left for granted.

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Lower your expectations, good people

It didn’t sink in until after I’d written my previous post about Governor Shumlin’s news conference, but there was a clear theme running through it all.

Don’t expect much.

Especially you liberals out there.

It seems the Governor was determined to extinguish whatever hopes might still have existed for a small-p progressive administration. Some have argued, like Yours Truly and nanuqFC at Green Mountain Daily, that the real message of last week’s election is that Shumlin lost his liberal base. If he’d simply polled as well as Senate Democratic candidates, he would have sailed to re-election.

But nope. His takeaway was that we need more triangulation, more compromise, and no big new initatives.

On health care, clear signs of a retreat from single-payer. On the budget, admission that a perpetually sluggish economy will force draconian changes. On school finance, crafting a cheaper system will be job one. He gave a preliminary thumbs-down to environmental groups’ expected call for a carbon tax. And, although he personally favors legalizing marijuana, he’s going to defer to legislative leadership on the issue.

Overall, a constant refrain of cooperation, consultation, consensus, listening and learning. (No mention of “leadership.” Or “liberal.”) And do you think the ever-cautious Democratic legislative majority will be in any way emboldened by the loss of ten colleagues? I think that’s a big fat no.

I can’t say this is a surprise. Shumlin’s own instincts and his financial base, if not his electoral one, lead him in a centrist direction. And as a purely practical matter, he emerges from the election in a significantly weakened position vis-a-vis the legislature; he is in a bad position to make demands when he did so much more poorly than they did.

But if anybody was holding out hope that Shumlin would respond to crisis with a new burst of energy and a determination to cement his legacy? There’s no sign of that so far. This could drive a wedge into the already fractious relationship between Shumlin and the liberal base.

2016 might be a good year to be a Progressive candidate.