Is the media’s portrayal of the Vermont GOP’s “rift” accurate?

by Robert Maynard

On April 7th an article was posted on this site critiquing what had been described as a “re-branding” effort on the part of some within the Vermont GOP.  One question raised by the article was under what authority those who were giving the re-branding presentation were acting:

Besides the substance of the proposal in question, the whole process by which it is being considered is backwards. Our Platform Committee traveled around the state getting input from grass roots Republicans BEFORE creating the Vermont GOP Platform. That input determined the content of the Platform. Now we have two individuals touring the state getting input from Republicans AFTER a presentation has been created. In addition, it is not at all clear what the mechanism was by which these two individuals were commissioned to undertake this task. There is a clear process by which we come up with a Platform Committee and then a Platform. Why on earth are we not following a similar bottom up process of putting this messaging document together?

Since then the presenters came to a Chittenden County GOP meeting and with their effort.  Senator Joe Benning and Representative Heidi Scheuermann made it clear that they were not presuming to speak on behalf of the party, but simply wanted to start a conversation within the party.  That is an important distinction to be made.  Some who have heard of this effort were concerned that any “re-branding” not seek to supplant the VTGOP Platform, which was a product of a bottom up process coming from rank and file GOP members. Until we come up with another Platform, that is our brand. Having a conservation on how to better market our brand is something worthy of discussion. The “re-branding” terminology that has been floating around has given the perception that this effort was an attempt to bypass the Party’s Platform.

With this distinction in mind, the question must be raised whether Peter Hirschfeld is accurately representing the current discussion going on within the party:

“Of course the elections were disappointing to many, and unsurprising to others,” Scott said in an interview Monday. “At the time, I was asked almost immediately what I was going to do to resurrect the Republican Party. What was I going to do to help shape or determine what the future of the Vermont Republican Party was going to be? And my response was always that until the Republican Party and those there admitted there was a problem, there wasn’t much I could do.”

Specifically, Scott said, the emphasis on social conservatism at the national level has sullied the party’s branding efforts in Vermont. And putting some distance between the national GOP and Vermont has become one of the guiding tenets of the new committee Scott helped form.

This, coupled with the argument the article makes that the Party Chairman did not even know of the content of this re-branding effort until he read about it in the TNR article mentioned above gives the impression of a faction of the party enlisting the aid of an elected official to decide what the Party stands for.  Again, the “brand” of the party is determined by rank and file members of the party when they adopt a platform.  It is one thing to discuss how we may better market an existing brand, but quite another to “re-brand” the party.  Before we can even speak credibly about the need to “re-brand” the party, at least some effort needs to be made at marketing our existing brand.  I have seen no such effort over the years as we only go into campaign mode during an election, while the left never goes out of campaign made.

Later in the article Mark Snelling raises the point of whether the party rank and file determine what the party stands for, or whether the highest ranking official does.  That is an important distinction to make and I hope that Lt. Governor Phil Scott and crew are not taking the latter position.  That is the impression the Hirschfeld article gives, but it is not the impression I got from talking to Senator Joe Benning and  Representative Heidi Scheuermann last night.  Is the effort by Phil Scott’s “committee” an attempt to bypass the party’s platform, or is it simply an attempt to get a conversation started within the party?

3 thoughts on “Is the media’s portrayal of the Vermont GOP’s “rift” accurate?

  1. I don’t know the details of the dispute mentioned in this article – the Inner Party tends to be rather secretive (for instance: How did each of Vermont’s 17 Delegates vote on the rule change at the Republican National Convention?) But I do know that Chairman Lindley has driven many people away from the Vermont Republican Party as a result of his shenanigans.

  2. Robert, I need to address your comment: “This, coupled with the argument the article makes that the Party Chairman did not even know of the content of this re-branding effort until he read about it in the TNR article mentioned above gives the impression of a faction of the party enlisting the aid of an elected official to decide what the Party stands for. ” Jack Lindley was invited to our meetings and attended at least two of them and stated that he supported our efforts and direction. I don’t know why he would be telling people otherwise. This initiative was spearheaded by Rep. Scheuermann and Benning with the intention of bring more balance to the state house. This wasn’t an effort spearheaded by the Lt. Gov. with any other intentions.

    • My comments were on the impression given by the Times Argus article. I also commented that both Heidi and Joe said that their efforts were taken on their own initiative for the purpose of starting a conversation within the party. The article gives one impression and my peosonal discussions with the people involved gives another. That is why the title of my article raises the question of whether the media is accurately representing what is going on within the GOP. The media is the one who started the narrative during the campaign last year that the VTGOP is veering too far to the right and it is up to people like Phil Scott to take control of it and move it back to the center. That is exactly the spin they are putting on what is currently going on within the VTGOP. If they are indeed misrepresenting what is happening, then more people in the GOP need to call them on it.

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