Turning away from the portentous spectacle of national politics for a moment to focus on our regional races feels somehow reassuring today; yet there is a bit of drama and controversy to be found even close to home.
A couple of days ago, Vermont Conservation Voters ( VCV) released their list of early endorsements and some were disappointed to see that a favorite candidate didn’t make the cut.
It is important to remember that these are only the early endorsements, and they were reserved for legislators with demonstrated leadership on environmental issues, whose voting record on key legislation identified by the VCV was over 90%, both in the current session, and for her or his legislative lifetime. Further endorsements will be forthcoming in the fall and will extend to many more individual legislators.
As a former board member for the VCV, I thought I might use the platform of GMD to explain how the sausage gets made, when it comes to endorsements.
Early endorsement from VCV would carry no weight if it was easily won.
In Vermont, we are blessed with a legislature that is, to a large extent, accepting of climate change science and supportive of responsible environmental safeguards. But even within that general consensus, opinions differ on how best to achieve those safeguards and where priorities should be established.
Clearly, Philip Baruth is one of the good guys; and his contributions will certainly be celebrated in the next round of endorsements. That being said, how fair would it be if, having forewarned legislators on what bills would be scored and, therefore, would figure into the early endorsement metrics, VCV made an exception for Philip? How much credibility would VCV have if they held him to a different standard than every other lawmaker?
Philip is an experienced legislator who, I am sure, has a pretty good grasp of strategic politics. I doubt that he is particularly surprised or crushed by the early pass. Every now and then, even the good guys, who are just doing what makes strategic sense to them, end up on the wrong end of the equation. It’s called ‘taking one for the team,’ and Philip is no stranger to the experience. He’s a courageous legislator who probably doesn’t need bouquets just for doing his job to the best of his ability.
Odum has well explained the minutiae of everyone’s voting records, so I won’t go into that all over again. Suffice it to say that Sen. Baruth’s score on just the votes that the VCV identified as critical for the current session ended up falling short of the 90% mark.
Informed by research and education, the VCV must pursue the environmental advocacy
positions that they feel best suit their mission, regardless of occasional awkward moments with their usual allies. Environmentally responsible legislators, like Philip, must also follow the course of their best judgments.
Mutual respect should be understood to be in effect, and mutual interest in what is best for the environment remains the goal in each case.