Oh, I do love a good Republican slap-fight

This morning’s edition of my Times Argus brought a smile to my face. Followed, as I perused the lead story, by more smiles, chuckles, an incredulous snort, and some outbreaks of laughter that prompted Loyal Spouse to look up from our Eggs In Purgatory* with a quizzical expression.

*Some kind of tomato sauce in a frying pan, eggs cooked on top. Today it was Mexican style: sauteed onion, canned tomatoes, and salsa under the eggs.

The source of my amusement was entitled “Vt. GOP spurning ‘vitriolic’ strategy.” (The online version, behind the Mitchell Family Paywall, has a more benign title.)

Yeah? Huh. Is this the VTGOP whose chair, “Super Dave” Sunderland, disgorged a pair of awfully darn vitriolic press releases in the past few days? The more recent, previously dissected in these virtual pages, was a slam at the Shumlin Administration for a scattering of job losses around the state, that read like it could have been written by the King of Vitriol, “Angry Jack” Lindley, on a particularly bilious day.

The first slammed Bernie Sanders for unfounded allegations of complicity in the Veterans Affairs scandal. It was a classic Republican/Fox News attack: pose a damning question (“What did Bernie know and when did he know it?”) and leave it hanging. No need for evidence, see?

If indeed we’re entering a new era of vitriol-free Republicanism, a nice first step would be a press release congratulating Sen. Sanders on his statesmanlike deal with John McCain for a bipartisan bill to fix the VA.

Anything, Super Dave? No? Well, we continue.

The gist of the Times Argus piece (by Neal Goswami) is that the VTGOP is looking to “rebuild and rebrand” in 2014, after sinking “to a new low” after the 2012 election. The rebuilding, Goswami reports, will take a while; he quotes Sunderland as saying the strategy “over the next several election cycles will be to return the Republican Party in Vermont to a position of influence in public policy.” Which is a nice way of saying “We’ve fallen into complete irrelevance.”

This year’s effort aims to make some “incremental gains” in the legislature; three seats in the Senate and perhaps a dozen in the House. Sunderland as much as admits that the GOP’s statewide ticket will be full of holes, with perhaps only candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. But even so, he says 2014 can be a positive first step:

The policies of the past in the Vermont Republican Party failed and we lost elections and it got us to where we’re at now with 45 seats in the House and seven in the Senate.

… We are going to demonstrate to Vermonters that the new direction that we’re headed, the direction of a broader base, the direction that listens to Vermonters and responds to the needs and concerns of Vermonters, that’s a direction that will win.

Goswami takes the easy way to including a voice of dissent, calling upon Darcie “Hack” Johnston, strategical uber-failure. And she is more than ready to defend the discredited tactics of the “Angry Jack” years. She claims that “Vermonters are frustrated, and are at the end of their rope with Peter Shumlin’s policies.” Which just shows you that she’s still listening only to Vermonters within her social circle. Certainly Shumlin’s numbers have declined since the heydays of the  post-Irene recovery, but “at the end of their rope” and ready to support hard-line conservatism? Not at all.

Johnston also, presumably without irony, laments the fact that “the party lacks candidates and lacks resources to fund the candidates they have,” without mentioning that it was she and her like-minded colleagues who reduced the VTGOP to its current parlous state. It’s because of the Republican dead-enders that so many business leaders have lined up behind Shumlin. It’s because of her tactical twin brother from another mother, Corry Bliss, that Brian Duble crapped out on his bid to succeed the popular Jim Douglas.  

Super Dave has a nice rejoinder for Johnston’s backseat driving:

“I recognize that there’s a small faction of people who want to cling to a negative, angry, vitriolic strategy that I don’t believe is good for our party, for our candidates or for the state of Vermont,” Sunderland said. “I believe that this is a group that is small and getting smaller and I don’t believe that they represent the majority of Republicans in Vermont.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, I’m still waiting to see actual evidence of a new, changed, more moderate (or at least inclusive) Vermont Republican Party. But the prospect of an intra-party slap-fight, ending with Johnston et al. slinking off into the darkness, made my eggs taste that much sweeter this morning.  

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