The Republican Hall of Mirrors

I thought I found a way to enter,

it was just a reflector.

I thought I found the connector,

it was just a reflector. Just a reflector. Just a reflector.

— Arcade Fire, Reflektor

So, last November the Vermont Republican Party turned the page. Under the leadership of Everybody’s Buddy, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the VTGOP “chose to follow a moderate path.” VPR’s John Dillon said so; it must be true.

Yeah, well. As I wrote back then, the moderation of the new party leadership was a dubious proposition at best. Vice Chair Brady Toensing and Treasurer Mark Snelling were holdovers from the “Angry Jack” Lindley administration; Secretary Jackie Barnett had the backing of both factions; and At-Large officers Wendy Wilton and Randy Brock were Lindleyites through and through.

As for the “moderate” choice for party chair, David Sunderland, he’s a pretty darn conservative fellow himself. The whole thing left me skeptical about the party’s new direction.

And things like this don’t help: A couple days ago, Sunderland put out one of those “obligatory party chair press releases”… and it’s completely indistinguishable from the most partisan rants ever penned by Angry Jack. Which leaves me asking: what new direction?

Sunderland wrote a predictable attack piece, blaming “Governor Shumlin and the Democrat supermajority” for a factory closure in Bennington that will cost 36 jobs. And yeah, he used the innacurate, pejorative, provocative “Democrat” in place of “Democratic,” which, as he damn well knows, is the party’s real name.

I tell ya what, Dave. You stop using “Democrat” as a hacky little elbow-jab, and I won’t start referring to your party as Repugnant. (Although, given GOP reactions to the freeing of Bowe Bergdahl, “Repugnant” certainly fits the bill.)  

The substance of Sunderland’s release, such as it is, blames “Democrat” policies for any and all job losses, without any actual evidence that Shummy et al. had anything to do with it.

Yes, he rolls out “Democrat” again in reference to “the unbalanced Democrat supermajority.” This is another feat of rhetorical contortionism: he wheels smoothly from those darn anti-business Democrats to the Repugnants’ favorite motto of recent years: “Restore Balance in Montpelier.” This is still the legend on the VTGOP homepage, and it obviously remains a top talking point — despite the fact that, through years of repetition, it’s completely failed to convince any voters. “Restore Balance” is, in fact, yet another holdover from the sad, bad Lindley years.

And then Sunderland pirouettes to an attack on Shumlin’s out-of-state travel and fundraising success. He references the Governor’s absence last week on “a two-day junket in Connecticut.” (Yeah, that’s everybody’s idea of a great vacation getaway.) Shumlin was there as chair of the Democratic Governors Association, doing exactly the same thing that Chris Christie did last December when he made a fundraising trip to Vermont as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Excuse me, “Repugnant.” I don’t recall any outrage from Sunderland or his colleagues about Christie’s abandonment of his home state for a bit of political money-grubbing.

After returning from his bonne soiree in the Nutmeg State, Shumlin had the sheer audacity to host a fundraiser for his own campaign — something I’m sure Repugnants never do. They are too pure in heart for any of that. I’ll bet Jim Douglas never took his eye off the gubernatorial ball for a single moment while he was in office. I’ll bet he never sullied his gubernatorial fingers by grabbing campaign cash from eager donors. I’ll bet he never “put politics first,” as Sunderland accuses Shumlin of doing.  

Sunderland’s final paragraph hails his party’s “fresh ideas and new energy,” which is a goddamn hoot after four paragraphs of recycled, warmed-over rhetoric that was already old when Jack Lindley used to say it.

Which brings me back to Arcade Fire. The Republicans keep thinking they’ve found a way to enter the minds of voters. They think they’ve found a way to connect. But it’s just a reflector of their own beliefs, an endless repetition of their tired old tropes. They’re still caught in their Hall of Mirrors, and the only faces they see are their own, reflected back at them. It is, as WIn Butler sings, “A reflection of a reflection of a reflection of a reflection.”

And to switch rock lyrics in midstream, Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.  

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