Vermont GOP’s woes go deeper than many imagine

by Robert Maynard

With the party reorganization next month, some in the GOP are looking for new blood.  Here is how Terri Hallenbeck, of the Burlingon Free Press put it:

The Vermont Republican Party will hold its reorganizational meeting Nov. 9. Chairman Jack Lindley said it’s too early to say whether he will seek re-election but he could face a challenge from those who want the party to distance itself from national Republicans and who are irked at decisions Lindley made, including paying off $10,000 in debt for 2012 gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock this year. State Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, said Lindley has indicated he’s open to new blood. Benning said, however, “There isn’t anybody else I have heard that has their name in the running. It will probably be a last-minute thing.”

This speculation about new leadership comes in the context of a broader, ongoing discussion about rebranding the GOP.  Part of that discussion has focused on the need to “moderate” the GOP’s message.  One could argue that we have been doing that for a long time now, with a small break from that approach during the 1998 and 2000 election cycles.  What I am trying to get at is that the Vermont GOP’s woes go deeper than many imagine and will not be fixed simply by replacing some in a leadership position.   I see other reasons for the current state of the VTGOP. One clear example is our long time failure to articulate a credible alternative to the Democrats “Health Care is a Human Right” mantra. They have been trying to push for a single payer plan since the early 1990s and the GOP has offered almost nothing in the way of an alternative free market vision that is compatible with the principles you mentioned, despite the mountain of research that has been done on patient centered free market approaches to the problem. I remember being at a Chittenden County GOP meeting in the early 1990’s when Barbara Snelling came and argued that we should get behind Community Rating and Guaranteed Issue. I was the only one in the room who dissented, though many came up top me afterwards and expressed their agreement. The second attempt at pushing single payer through was during Jim Douglas’ time as Governor. He vetoed it but offered nothing in the way of a free market alternative and ended up signing the Catamount Health Plan that the Democrats proposed.

The single payer plan has been defeated twice because of the unpopularity of proposals to pay for it. It is back now because our side has never discredited the idea in principle and offered an alternative. Except for a brief period in the 1998 and 2000 election cycles, there really was not much of an effort made but GOP campaigns to distinguish us from the Democrats. Randy Brock was far from perfect, but when he announced his bid for office, it was the first time I have ever heard a VTGOP political figure critique the health care is a human right mantra on principle and offer a free market patient centered alternative.

Whether we change leadership is of less inportance than whether we articulate a clear vision that differentiates us from the Democratsa and Progressives.  If we do  not do this, we are simply re-arranging seats on the decks of the titanic.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that the Vermont GOP’s problems did not just appear in one election cycle and will not be solved simply by separating ourselves from the national GOP. Look at what happened in 2002. In an election where the GOP was winning races all around the nation, the Vermont GOP lost most of the legislative gains that it made in the 1998 and 2000 election cycles. We had the same “re-branding” arguments back then following what was characterized as the “divisive” elections cycles of 1998 and 2000 with Ruth Dwyer at the top of the ticket supported by the “Take Back Vermont” movement. The Vermont GOP has been losing both its base and its bench ever since then. After more than a decade of hollowing out both our base and our bench we have one election where an attempt at making a clear distinction between us and the Democrats was made and that is the source of our problems as a party???? I’m sorry, but I am not buying it.

Again, I welcome the chance to engage in a debate over how best to market the GOP brand, but am a little weary of talk of “rebranding” because I have heard such talk before and am not at all impressed with the results. Before making a claim that we need to rebrand, a credible effort at marketing our brand needs to be made. 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.

8 thoughts on “Vermont GOP’s woes go deeper than many imagine

  1. There is a “failure [of the GOP] to articulate” anything or to present any alternative to the perpetual dynamic tension between the maintenance of freedom and this government’s confiscation of power, both nationally and in the State. People buy into the argument that health care is a Right about as easily as believing a diet guru on an infomercial telling them they can eat pizza and fried chicken everyday and still lose weight……. because they want it to be true and they don’t understand what a “constitutional” Right is. The GOP has a responsibility to explain the danger to the Republic for such a misunderstanding. The new norm: declare whatever you want, to be a Right; therefore the taxpayer must pay for it. Instead, the GOP says nothing let alone offer any “proper” constitutional solutions. It’s infuriating to watch our legislators impose, year after year further obligations on it’s taxpaying citizens, with little or no wit or opposition from the “Wimpy” Party.

  2. VT Republicans need to effectively market the “Republican Brand”. We don’t need re branding, we need articulate communicators of traditional Republican/Conservative values of limited government, self reliance, and personal repsonsibility.

  3. If Republicans want Democrat Lite then we will become Democrats. We Conservatives want a well articulated choice to Socialism and Crony Capitalism. As Casey Stengel said in frustration about his error prone NY Mets: “Can’t anybody here play this game?!

  4. There are very few Conservatives in VT. Sadly, having one party or a dozen makes little difference since their policies would all be the same (except for the cast of political characters making a lucrative living out of it).

  5. Health care is a Commidity like popcorn,peanuts, gasoline. If you want some you should be able to go out and buy some like anything else on the FREE market! We have got to get the governments, federal and state, out of our lives.

  6. The Republican party needs to get back to our conservative roots–pushing for saving Vermonters money by reducing their tax burden. We can do this by reducing the size of government–and all the services it provides. Yes, I know this is a somewhat difficult sell to the people who receive the government services, but there are a good amount more people who pay into the system and are tired of seeming never-ending tax and spending. (It will get worse, wait until all those retirements have to be paid for.)

  7. I was one of only 3 senators to vote against community rating and guaranteed issue; gave a prophetic floor speech about the dangers of single payer in 1992; authored a full page Sunday Times Argus commentary (4/3/94) on market based health care reform; and wrote no less than thirty seven commentaries since then critical of socialized health care and supporting market alternatives.
    With the honorable exceptions of Tom Bahre (1989-1996) and Frank Mazur (2003-2006), I couldn’t find any “Republicans” in the state house who had any interest in doing battle against the socialist steamroller.
    Maybe I gave up too easily, but I am not at all surprised that “Republicans” do not now seem to have a health care alternative to GMC. They were offered several, but were asleep at the switch.
    Randy Brock was by far the best of the bunch but didn’t get much help.

  8. I was one of only 3 senators to vote against community rating and guaranteed issue; gave a prophetic floor speech about the dangers of single payer in 1992; authored a full page Sunday Times Argus commentary (4/3/94) on market based health care reform; and wrote no less than thirty seven commentaries since then critical of socialized health care and supporting market alternatives.
    With the honorable exceptions of Tom Bahre (1989-1996) and Frank Mazur (2003-2006), I couldn’t find any “Republicans” in the state house who had any interest in doing battle against the socialist steamroller.
    Maybe I gave up too easily, but I am not at all surprised that “Republicans” do not seem to have a health care alternative to GMC. They were offered several, but were asleep at the switch.
    Randy Brock was by far the best of the bunch

Comments are closed.