Yep, that’s Vermont’s governor Jim Douglas with Dick “Darth” Cheney at a GOP-Youth Confab at UVM in 2003. Fundraising for the re-election of the President who took us to war and got a steadily growing number of Vermonters killed for no good reason at all. That very same arch-Republican Jim Douglas is now running for a third term as governor of Vermont.
My home state is an otherwise solidly blue state, home to Bernie Sanders, arguably the most radical member of the House; and Jim Jeffords, the brave Senator who left the GOP when the stench got too rich. Yet even quite progressive friends of mine merely shrug and seem to think that Republican Douglas is doing just fine, and after having already handed him the reigns twice (after Howard Dean’s five terms, Douglas beat Doug Racine for the job in 2002, and Peter Clavelle in 2004), they appear more than ready to give him another two years.
But they shouldn’t.
Douglas’ position on key issues is fatally flawed, and he’s shown little or no initiative or inclination to improve matters for Vermonters during his four years in office. I’ll borrow generously here from the wonderful Vermont Woman’s candidate assessment:
- Considers parental notification for abortions a “reasonable policy choice”
- “Opposes gay marriage and civil unions, declined to issue a proclamation recognizing Vermont’s Pride Day celebration, and vetoed H.865, legislation banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression in the state.” (From In Newsweekly).
- Vetoed the Farmer Protection Act that would have held GMO seed producers liable for damage caused to non-GMO crops.
- Tepid implementation of the Farmers Right to Know Act (a GMO-seed labeling law)
- Unclear energy policy; failed to seize the opportunity to buy the dams on the Connecticut River.
- Takes a largely hypocritical environmental stance: “It’s important to have tough but reasonable standards about air quality at the national level,” Douglas is quoted as saying; yet he has worked diligently for the re-election of a President who has emasculated the EPA and repeatedly reduced polution control requirements for big polluters.
- He remains embarrasingly silent on Iraq.
David Sirota further builds the case against Douglas (in the context of his possible run for Bernie’s soon-to-be-vacant House seat), emphasizing Douglas’ fervent support of social security privatization. This is particularly striking given how Douglas has refused to take a clear stance on most other federal/national issues, notably Iraq.
First and foremost, Douglas (along with his nasty little sidekick, Dubie — more on him in a later post about the run for Vermont’s seat in Congress) is the public face of the Republican party in Vermont. He’s Bush’s boy up here, and actively worked to get our disaster of a President re-elected in 2004. He apparently performed so well as a GOP loyalist that he’s on the special list of highly favored governors in the White House.
Locally it has been pointed out time and again that what Douglas really does best is ribbon cutting ceremonies where he gets to bask in somebody elses limelight for a moment without actually having to do anything (he’s not nicknamed Governor Scissorhands for nothing). The local Alt Weekly “Seven Days” recently ripped Douglas a new one while lamenting the lack of name recognition and media coverage of his opponent. I can’t think of a single notable thing Douglas has accomplished for Vermont in the past four years.
Most importantly, perhaps, he’s actively stonewalled on healthcare reform, where detailed studies and plans document that single payer healthcare could be introduced as a pioneering initiative in Vermont. Not only has he failed to deliver on health care for Vermonters, he’s failed to meet his own re-election promises from two years ago when he claimed: “My health insurance plan does four things: It immediately reduces premiums by 15 percent for every Vermonter with an individual insurance plan; it decreases the number of uninsured Vermonters by 20 percent; it offers low and middle income Vermonters a premium discount of up to 60 percent; and it reduces, by 50 percent, the cost for a small business to start providing insurance to employees.” His plan did none of that; health care costs have gone up for all Vermonters, including small business owners.
Or to hell with fairness, les me quote his opponent, Scudder Parker: “If you look at the spectrum of issues and say what has [Douglas] done, he has: demoralized state workers; communicated to most non-profits delivering services in the state that he doesn’t trust or respect them, [and] appointed people to the Human Rights Commission that basically just say no. What has he done on energy, on health care, on affordable housing, on jobs, all the issues he talked about? […] He devotes all of his time to creating the image of a governor being present in the communities, but in terms of thinking through, understanding and having the courage to address in a substantive way issues that affect people’s lives, I think his performance is dismal.”
A recent op ed piece in the Burlington Free Press put it thus: “we don’t need more photo opportunities. We need new leadership.”
Vermont can do better and deserves better. There’s an alternative to Douglas this November, and it’s Scudder Parker. More on him in a bit…