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.