Dear Governor Shumlin: The Base Has Taken You to the Woodshed

Dear Governor Shumlin,

Congratulations on having the Lt. Governor’s race turn out exactly the way you (and Floyd Neese, and Jeb Spaulding, etc.) intended: the Progressives got tagged with the loss, the Democrats didn’t (couldn’t) spend (“waste”) any of “your” money on it because of public financing restrictions, and you got your fair-haired, tame, “nice-guy” Republican for the “we-govern-in-a-bipartisan-manner” photo ops.

Too bad about Corren and the Democratic and Progressive base actually believing in your early “endorsement.” But then again, it's good for politicians and voters to know how much your endorsement is actually worth, since after your early “endorsement,” you went out of your way not to mention the Progressive potential ally on healthcare reform. We also know this tactic as throwing someone under the bus.

While (soon-to-be-former) Free Press political and State House reporters Nancy Remsen and Terri Hallenbeck and Seven Days columnist Paul Heintz have published many pages of election analysis, much of which was likely somewhat reassuring to you, I thought you should hear about the other side of your narrow plurality and the ways in which you, yourself, managed to, as my colleague Caoimhin Laochdha so aptly put it, “suppress [your] own vote.”

There was a split in the Democratic Party between the base that stayed home or symbolically voted ‘none of the above’ for Governor, and the old bulls (and moneyed interests with investments in your campaign fund) who’d rather support a Republican than a Progressive for Lt. Gov. And the pundits (with the notable exception of John Walters at The Vermont Political Observer here and here) are all looking at Dan Feliciano’s five points with “what if” eyes, instead of at the impact of your own faithlessness on voters who would likely have marked their ballots for you, but didn’t.

Just thought you should hear a different message than you have apparently taken away from the too-close election results, and that message is not about pandering further to tax-cuts-for-millionaires Republicans and DINOs. The message I heard in Franklin County — and GMD colleague Caoimhin Laochdha heard in Washington County — was one of disgust with your betrayal of Democratic ideals. Specifically:

==> Most of the folks identified on my call sheets (in a dozen hours of call-time volunteering, about 500 phone calls) as “leaning Democratic” said they would definitely not vote for you, even as they affirmed that they would definitely vote for Congressman Peter Welch.

==> An active Democratic volunteer and member of the County Committee, coming in the door and hearing me ask about Shumlin, demanded, “Shumlin?! Why are you asking about that guy?” with a tone of deep contempt. Answer: because you were essentially funding the operation through the Coordinated Campaign.

==> I talked face-to-face with nearly two dozen Democrats and Progressives over the course of the week leading up to the election, none of whom had voted (if they had voted early) or planned to vote for you. None had/would vote for Milne; most planned not to vote in the gubernatorial contest (with one or two “Let’s throw a few votes Dan’s way”).

This pattern also showed up in Washington County, which is philosophically and economically distant from Franklin County, and it should be concerning to you, Governor Shumlin. After reading the far-fetched post-election analysis from the Burlington Free Press, my Washington County colleague relayed his experience as follows:

It was an undisputed undercurrent in Washington Co. I heard loud and clear from too large a group of people that they either did, or planned to (1) “withhold” their vote for Gov. Shumlin and vote for no one; (2) skip early voting (which I took as uninspired gubernatorial apathy) or (3) vote for Feliciano as a 'safe' protest vote against Shumlin and/or too tweak the Republicans. (Number 3 was the least expressed view, but when you hear it a half dozen times, that's pretty significant). And then let's look at the difference between the Gov. Shumlin and [Progressive Senator Anthony] Pollina and Democratic Senator Ann Cummings, both of whom easily outpolled both Shumlin & Milne in Washington County [Note: the vote totals previously stated here are corrected, below, to reflect a serious transposition error in the number of votes received by Shumlin and Milne in Washington Co. — see vote comparisions in comments below. – cl]. These sentiments, alone, made the difference between Milne barely winning Washington Co. instead of Gov. Shumlin walking away easily with a 2,500 vote advantage

 And as John Walters noted in an email to me:

[Peter Shumlin] got 33,000 votes fewer than Peter Welch, for instance. Between that and the fact that voters returned a very solid D/P majority in the legislature, it's clear that a whole lot of reliably Democratic voters skipped the gubernatorial race or voted for someone else. And that doesn't even count the liberals who stayed home rather than opt for Shumlin.

So the message you need to take away, Governor Shumlin, is not how many Republicans voted for Milne, despite your stubborn protection of the tax-privileged one percent. It’s how many of the Democratic base a) stayed home rather than hold their noses and vote for you or b) voted, but not in the governor’s race (a weird kind of bullet voting that made Milne’s votes count more). It’s how many good Democrats and Progressive allies could not bring themselves to hold their noses and vote for a Democratic incumbent who would rather keep the top-bracket tax payers safe from any tax increase than keep our neighbors and their children from going hungry, shivering under jackets through a cold night, and not getting healthcare or buying needed medicines because they’re in the crack between eligibility for Health Connect drug subsidies and Medicaid or Medicare, and because of the total balls-up mess you’ve made of Vermont Health Connect.

And the message you should get, dear Governor Shumlin, is don’t bother pandering even more to Republicans, who campaigned on some vague concept of “affordability,” knowing in their hearts they were talking about making Vermont more “affordable” for the one percent, not for the rest of us (a version of “trickle-down” economics, which, as we all know, didn’t work for Reagan, Bush One, or Baby Bush, and helped crash the economy). They’re talking about slashing taxes, and thereby requiring cuts in services beyond those you’ve already demanded, resulting in, among other outcomes already mentioned, our neighbors trying to find the money for the property taxes when the Republicans have cut the income sensitivity funds.

The message, Mr. Shumlin, is this: raise the marginal income tax rates two percent for the one percent to fund needed services; stop playing guessing games with universal access, single-payer healthcare funding; and get Vermont Health Connect up and running.



15 thoughts on “Dear Governor Shumlin: The Base Has Taken You to the Woodshed

  1. I wonder whether it’s even possible to blow the wax out of Shumlin’s ears at this point, but we have to keep trying.

    It’s difficult to believe that any one of the other four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls who squared off in 2010 could have turned out to have been a worse choice in the long-run.

    Some of us who worked so hard to elect a Democratic governor in 2010; then again, despite early performance disappointments, to reelect the same guy in 2012, just didn’t have the stomach for it in 2014.

    If Shumlin still doesn’t understand that his near loss this time wasn’t because he was too “liberal” and therefore needs to move to the right by abandoning single payer, there is no hope for him.  That faint progressive hope was probably the only thing that netted him just enough votes to top Milne.

  2. In state and out of state it was not a good week at all for Governor Shumlin.

    Nationally one paper listed him as second of the top five Democrats to blame for the election day debacle. Not sure there was too much he could have done to change it but at least he is in good company.  Obama is number one on the list.

    Time for a gubernatorial listening tour or better yet, and more simply some changes.

  3. He uses his power primarily to serve his wealthy friends which has the result of working class poor to middle class upper & lower to subsidize his grandiose schemes & tax hikes as well as paying all the bills.

    He does next to nothing for his base & is in fact a Dem in Republican clothing and in name only, not much different than a republican. He has triangulated to the point of being a defacto rightwinger by serving their interests before that of his base. This is why I voted Milne as well as the fact that he is not a bureaucrat or mere politician. If his healthcare plan was so wonderful he would have released it. If what is available now were so wonderful VTers would be stampeding to it, not demanding carveouts.

    His vast overreaches and neverending taxations are falling on many of us like a ton of bricks & crushing hs own base. The power grabs by the supermajority as in education will be the undoing of it all including the Dem reign as ppl wake up and start voting the arrogant selfsatisfied out of office – think Fisher for only one. The vetoproof in the house is now gone.

    Website has not been guaranteed to work, many are still being asked to use the postal service & there s still a huge backlog. Out of state contractors are being used to process clams, this could be a privacy concern.

    I was done w/Shumlin a long time ago as we his base exist solely to further his future political plans — we are nothing but mere stones to stepped upon serving solely to hoist him to further goals and higher office, he will do nothing for us and deserves to be sh-canned.  

  4. Sleeping with a clear conscience was reason #1.

    #2 was I don’t think Shumlin has any desire to manage the state he leads.  (See: half a year out of the state)

    #3 was that I can’t trust a guy who screws over his neighbors.  He esd pretty unlikable to begin with.

    #4: No progress moving TOWARDS single-payer

    #5: Broken promises on state-wide broadband (and other corporatist kowtowing)

    #6: He didn’t push the legislature, with a supermajority, to fix any of our statewide problems.  

    Message to Shumlin: Maybe you should pick a different position to run for in 2016, and make it one where you won’t have to win over the majority of people of VT to achieve.  Better yet, resign your position now to start pursuing those dreams, since it’s been obvious from day 1 that was your main focus.  

    We need a top-of-ballot leader who focuses on the state of Vermont.

  5. As in the Gov underestimated the lack of trust we have for him.  Let’s face it, his reputation as a guy who would sacrifice and horsetrade for his own benefit was legend in the legislature, but we hoped after giving jobs to his opponents he showed some change.

    Not so as we soon learned that he had basically put his future competition under the blanket of his thumb.

    Firing Doug Racine for, well, frankly I don’t know what-the DCF thing was the Yackguy, the web fiasco was Larson, corrections continues to be corrections-could it continue to be personal between them?  Probably.  

    But, I think firing Doug Racine put the icing on the cake for a lot of the Democratic base who know Racine to be a stand up guy who is honest first and willing to take responsibility for his actions.  

    When the new secretary of administration is chosen we will really see the color of this administration.  Will it be yet another member of the 1% club in Vermont as the current one is?  

    I was and am frankly amazed at the number of people who said they were not voting for Peter, and those same people who had a moment of regret when they eventually thought they had in stead helped to elect a republican governor.  Still some sweat stains on those shirts from the worry on that one.  Still, it shows the base level of disappointment with the management of Vermont by this governor.  

    Lots of people are waiting in the wings for Pat Bernie and Peter W to shuffle the chairs on the federal level.  I think with this election Shumlin should maybe not consider himself on the front bench to step into that club.   DINO need not apply and it is pretty apparent that Shumlin has more affinity with the monied interests in DC than the folks back here in Vermont.

    Shumlin isn’t a Howard Dean.

  6. In the above post, I was accurately quoted stating wildly inaccurate vote totals. My hastily written email, comparing vote totals in the Washington Co. State Senate races, with Washington Co. vote totals in the gubernatorial race, represented an “apples and oranges” comparison mea culpa. I should have stood with my analysis/explanation of Washington County’s overall results and reserved adding the numbers for another cup of coffee.

    Regardless, the bottom line is that Progressive Senator Anthony Pollina and Democratic incumbent Senator Ann Cummings significantly out-polled both Gov. Shumlin & Mr. Milne in Washington County. This is easily attributed to the loss of a core portion of the majority of voters — specifically, many voters within the Democratic Party’s base.

    The Washington Co. vote showed Democrats and Progressives running up terrific numbers in the State Senate and other State-wide races. These successful Democratic candidates connected with a true “majority,” of the voters. It is a majority built on a far more liberal/progressive block of voters. However, these same liberal/progressive voters (and those who were absent in 2014) made the difference between the Governor easily winning Washington Co. by 2,000 – 3,000 votes as opposed to losing the County to Scott Milne by an embarrassing 41 votes.


    For example:

    Washington County Democratic incumbent Ann Cummings received 11,167 votes.  

    Similarly liberal/progressive, & Progressive/Democratic candidate Anthony Pollina received 10,474 votes. The Governor received only 9,249 votes. Depending on the total number of State Senate ballots cast, Sens. Cummings and Pollina likely received votes in the lower 60% to 56-58% range, respectively.***

    In contrast to the Washington County Senate races, Governor Shumlin received only 9,249 votes to Mr. Milne’s 9,290 votes thus losing Washington Co. by 41 votes (45.4 to Milne’s 45.6%).

    ***The votes received by incumbent Sens. Cummings and Pollina are more significant than they appear because these “down-ballot” contests generally have a lower participation rate than “up-ballot” races. That happened this year. Thus Sen. Cummings and Sen. Pollina’s “true” support is understated in the final results. Several thousand State Senate votes were left blank. Given the large group of votes that were not even cast, the gap in support for Sens. Pollina and Cummings, vs. the Governor, is certainly understated. Given full participation, Sens. Cummings and Pollina would have out polled the Governor by even bigger numbers. (I can further elaborate on this if anyone wants me to, but it is a separate analysis, and I don’t want to make this too disjointed.)

  7. all too well may have had me in my naive stupidity like a one night stand by saying he would still respect me but he will have me no more. I feel had – it’s somethng one doesn’t forget easily. Shumlins whore no more.

    I’m independent, switch gears & turn on a dime w/ease. All of them are merely different breeds of the same animal. I listen to them all.

    Following time tested principals such as not investing good money after bad  cannot support Shummy & ongoing slow motion train-wreck including the bloodshed & gore any longer.

    I do not think outside the box I live outside the box as most VTers always have.I see this same quality in Milne as evidenced by the cold shoulder he has received from the VT republican dummies. He and sensible moderate Scott would make a great team. Most decisions & legislation are crafted by lawmakers, not the guv. VT has a long history of moderates from the right who would probably also be cold shouldered by this bunch.  Not drinking the fool-ade nor a true believer. Not wedded to any party affiliaton. I’m free & I love to be free


  8. But that is what the Democratic Party, both here in Vermont and on the National level do: Pander to the GOP.  It’s why they lose, and they do it intentionally.  

    ALL Democrats know that to win, they need to espouse and uphold Democratic values.  That the Dems NEVER do that is proof that the Dems are on the side of the GOP.  Shumlin panders to the GOP and betrays the base, just like Obama does.  They do it to help the GOP win.

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