Margolis: The candidate waltz

Randy Brock

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Randy Brock outside Central Vermont Medical Center. VTD File Photo/Nat Rudarakanchana

Editor’s note: Jon Margolis is VTDigger’s political analyst.

Not exactly the way it intended, Vermont Public Television performed a valuable public service in its debate among the five candidates for governor of Vermont last night.

Yes, that said, “among” and “five,” as opposed to “between” and “two,” as the race is usually described. The “two,” obviously, are Democratic incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin and his Republican opponent, Sen. Randy Brock of St. Albans.

At the Vermont Public TV studio, though, these two (the only two wearing a suit and tie) were the bookends, not the entire cast. Between Brock on the left (of your screen, not the ideological spectrum) and Shumlin on the right were three other contenders invited for the most sensible reason – they all qualified to get their names on the ballot.

In theory, then, they are the equals of Brock and Shumlin. Putting them all on the panel was no doubt the way Vermont Public TV did intend to perform a valuable public service, even though including the three also-rans threatened to – and most likely did – diminish the size of the audience.

In reality, though, the other three are not the equals of the major party candidates. Well, as human beings, they are. But not as candidates, and not only because Dave Eagle of the Liberty Union Party, Cris Ericson of the U.S. Marijuana Party, and independent Emily Peyton are unlikely to get five percent of the vote among the them.

It’s also that they don’t have very much to say, or if they do they don’t know how to say it. Neither do they seem to know much about government, politics, economics, or, from what could be gathered during the debate, much of anything else. The two women appeared to be unfocused, angry, and on some kind of personal quest. Eagle, full-bearded and dressed in a short-sleeved checked shirt, spoke in comprehensible, rational, and even grammatical sentences. But even he offered voters no coherent case for choosing him. Like the other two, he does not know how to be a candidate.

So no matter how many names are printed on the ballot, this is not a five-candidate race.

Segueing, as the TV folks say, to that valuable public service the debate inadvertently performed: On reflection, this isn’t a two-candidate race, either. It’s a one-candidate … well, “race,” wouldn’t be right word, would it? It’s a one-candidate waltz.

Reporters, including this one, have been reluctant to say this. First of all, the election is not until Nov. 6, and as political observers are (overly) fond of observing, “anything can happen.” A high-ranking official of the Shumlin administration could be caught embezzling from a fund designed to help handicapped children. The governor himself could be found walking down Montpelier’s State Street at 2 a.m. conversing with someone who is not there.

Or perhaps a comet … oh, well, this is now in the realm of the absurd. None of this will happen.

The other reason for the reluctance is that Randy Brock is neither irrational, inarticulate, ill-informed or marginal. He’s a former state auditor, a respected member of the state Senate, a successful businessman, and an energetic candidate. He is also, by all appearances and by the common consent of the office-holders, lobbyists and reporters who hang around the Statehouse, a decent, kind and affable fellow.

But he is not going to be elected governor, and at some point the reluctance to declare the race over has to give way to the fact that this race is over.

It was over before last night. It may have been over as early as August, when the Castleton Polling Institute Poll showed Shumlin ahead 62 to 25 percent. A lot can change in two months (or two days; check the latest presidential polling), but there are no signs that much has changed here. Shumlin has also raised much more money than Brock, and has support from more political organizations.

Brock has gotten some help from the new super PAC called Vermonters First, which has run commercials critical of Vermont Democrats and of Shumlin’s health care plans. But they aren’t very effective commercials. They lack restraint. Their alarmist tone is as likely to repel as to convince an undecided voter.

And for all his strengths, Brock may not know how to be a candidate, either, at least not in Vermont. That was evident Monday when Brock announced his economic plans, which included giving unemployed Vermonters a “business in a box,” which he described as “a homegrown, state-sponsored, state-assisted franchise opportunity for people who are unemployed.”

Using the “box,” Brock said, the unemployed could buy themselves a franchise.

The unemployed? Buy a franchise with what?

Brock’s basic appeal is ideological. He explained that ideology in his closing remarks Thursday night, calling the election “a clear choice” between what he called Shumlin’s support for “centralized management,” and his view of a state where “people make their own decisions.”

Like any ideology, this one can be defended, and in some states it might be effective. But there is precious little evidence that in this state, where the economy is in better shape than it is in most of the other 49 and life – even in these hard times – is relatively pleasant, very many Vermonters to the left of “movement conservatives” worry that they are being centrally managed and unable to make their own decisions.

In Vermont, movement conservatives are a decided minority, and this campaign is over.

Jon Margolis

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  • Josh Fitzhugh

    This reads a lot like the ESPN reporter’s story last Saturday which said that there was no way the Euros would come back and win golf’s Ryder cup. “It’s a done deal,” he said. He was wrong and it is now known as the Miracle at Medinah ( at least to the Europeans).

  • Pat McDonald

    Jon, to appear to discourage people to participate in the process does a real disservice to us all. I am voting whether you say the election is over or not. Why, because as I recently read on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s website “your vote is your voice as an American citizen. It’s your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions and to have a say in important issues that affect your community. On Election Day, every vote matters.” Just remember as Yogi Berra once said, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over”.

  • It’s got nothing to do with “appear[ing] to discourage people.” It has everything to do with a political analyst — who gets paid for, well, political analysis — expressing his views on the campaign. Journalists and pundits are usually far too reticent to state the obvious, if it might come across as one-sided. But they do their profession, and the public, a disservice when they do so.

    And if Mr. Margolis is wrong (he isn’t), then Republicans can enjoy a big horselaugh on the day after the election. But in the meantime, don’t complain about a guy doing his job. Complain, if you must, about a lackluster effort by a lackluster Republican party and candidate.

    • Kay Trudell

      Randy Brock is HARDLY a lackluster candidate. He is articulate, energetic, knowledgeable, and respectful of our Founding Fathers’ principles of limited government and shared power. He is running against a sitting governor and power structure that is determined to try to create a socialist utopia here in Vermont. Witness: the state government takeover of our Vermont healthcare system. Many concerned Vermonters can see what you are doing. We know that progressivism is merely another word for socialism. As you cause Ethan Allen to roll over in his grave, along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, etc. remember that socialism never brings the utopia it disingenuously promises. It merely results in dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator on the misery index. It creates a class system (the controllers and the serfs), and it will destroy the freedoms guaranteed to all citizens under the U.S. Constitution. If you want socialism, vote for Shumlin. If you want limited government and shared power, vote for Brock. Vermonters are in reality choosing between two visions of government and how much control they are willing to give said government over their lives. It is not merely a race between two political parties. It is a race between two visions of Vermont government. Vermonters are perfectly free to choose statism if they wish. But not all Vermonters choose that. Certainly not me. I don’t live in Canada. I don’t live in England. I don’t live in Cuba. My father did not serve in Europe in World War II in the U.S. military to fight for socialism. Remember the famous maxim that he who surrenders eternal liberty for temporary security will end up with neither.

    • The Constitution has been undermined the most by the press, moreso than any arm of government, and here the VT Digger acts as a political action committee for Shumlin. This reporter and Anne Galloway acts with total disdain for the efforts of my campaign and my platform, as if I am retarded, unprofessional and not one to wear a suit and tie. It is clear from the statement about the only two wearing a suit and tie that had I worn a suit and tie, i would be quickly labeled a dominatrix or some disparagement. Not only do I know a great deal about economics, the VT digger uses its power to abuse the election process and remove the people from their capacity to reform government. This writer does his best to paint me as a person without an ounce of common sense of purpose or anything beneficial to offer. Yes, i did have an off night at the debates, it is such an unfair and discriminatory process, where the press, and this is a perfect example of it, is not allowing discussion of new policy to come forth. Did anyone from VT digger speak with me directly ? No, in fact, after a hard won interview on WDEH after being shut out of the debate, Anna Galloway treated me with such palpable disdain, though I was there in person and about to be interviewed directly after the debate with party personnel, Shumlin and Brock, nonetheless when i introduced my self and asked who she represented, she walked away in disgust, and had a personal air as if I had committed something wrong to be in the race. Of course she didn’t stay and cover the platform, which included important policy that will benefit all so more people should understand its potential, public monetary systems, food security, tuition exchange for service, hemp………

      • Ryan Chase

        A) I saw the debate and thought that you did a good job of representing your viewpoints.

        B) Vtdigger has no power to “undermine” the Constitution. They have the power to represent a viewpoint – but they actually do better than that by providing a forum for many viewpoints. Margolis has one viewpoint. Others published here have express very different viewpoints. Try submitting an op-ed piece to Vtdigger. I’ll bet that they publish it.

        C) Thanks for running. You brought some important issues to the table that might have been overlooked otherwise.

        • Dear Ryan Chase,
          I followed our advise and sent this in, it has not been published. Do you think that VT digger is going to publish my views in any form? I don’t have the feeling they will, and frankly I can’t think of a good reason for their attitude towards me. Thank you for the support.

          I sent the following a week ago:

          I am very thankful for the thousands of people who supported that work with their vote. This weekend, F-35’s will fly over Burlington, and none of our elected or press-designated electable participants on a statewide and federal level have offered the people of Vermont an opposition to them. There is good reason to be opposed to them, likely the reason that these elected do not. The US military has gone way beyond it’s moral and ethical obligations, and is far too “convincing” in the wrong way. If you want jobs, I wouldn’t go with military ones where we know the wars have been for naught, and the risk of suicide is greater than ever. We are also seeing the many veterans who have been hired after their tours into our police force. Many of us fail to keep in mind that our police force is the most unstable of our population, much more likely to experience depression and suicide. As we have incorporated more veterans, we are coping with police who are coping with their own trauma. No one has done any vetting of the affect of noise levels on the animal population of the people, with these F-16s, it is not unlikely that 6 minutes a day at those levels will cause hearing damage in those with more sensitive hearing. Why no one elected cares ? They are afraid to, I would guess. We are so much less safe now that the F-16’s are here, and with the added knowledge that they can carry a nuclear payload.
          But why beat an idiot? It won’t make him smarter. Yes, I am in court, I had filed for an injunction to be included in the debates at a cost of $510.- some odd dollars. I wanted to speak to the issues of F-16’s, environmental remediation and industry with industrial hemp, and to the economic engine of public banks, and the VT credit card and a VT coupon system. I wanted to share really hopeful and reasonable policies so people could at least know they exist. Most people haven’t the time to do the research I have done into successful policy, so whether or not Vermonters think I would make a good Governor, people deserve to know about these policies as they compare to existing ones. The Court failed to rule on the emergency injunction in time for the debates; an example of the Court serving the status quo via neglect, for after the election the Court and the Defendants both suggest it is a moot point. However, because of my persistence the Court has allowed me to amend the emergency injunction into a complaint for damages.
          We need to describe the difference between a corporate person/private entity, and a flesh and blood person, this relates to many of our issues nationwide. The Defendants, who are incidentally the Heart Empire and the Gannett Empire ( USA today), claim they are a lowly private entity who should not be told what to say by government. Of course, this is shape shifting at it’s clumsiest, these Empires are not the subjects of Government, quite the other way around, they are the shapers of government, they have the power to make or break the reputation of any one politician or individual person (been there, done that). Why then is it so important to measure the freedom of speech of a singular person with a greater value and weight than that of a gargantuan cyclopean private corporate press entity ? For one very good and single reason. Only the flesh and blood person can be a conduit of spirit. Societies have been greatly uplifted by one single flesh and blood person contemplating the nature of our existence and relationship with the Source of Creation. Mark Twain and William Shakespeare are obvious examples. The private empires of these Defendants can only (legally) contemplate moneyprofit, and that makes their freedom much less significant and less worthy of our attention.
          Though they are monstrous, these Empires’ freedom were derived from the individual’s freedom, first. Using their freedom to suffocate another’s is hardly the original intent of law. Nothing in allowing my freedom is forcing the Defendant to actually say anything at all, it merely means giving me room to say what I have to. Of course there are constitutional issues, and the fact that our democracy depends on our capacity to reform it.
          My work going forward will be in mobilizing those who want to help Vermont become food secure, and to create zero waste eco-villages for that on those farms that are otherwise failing financially.

          Emily Peyton
          Putney Vt
          802 579-5524

  • Stuart Lindberg

    I don’t know where Mr. Margolis travels but It would serve him well to get out and about the state more often. In my work I travel about 1000 miles per week around Bennington, Windham,Windsor and Rutland County. I know of six yard signs with the name Peter Shumlin on them. I see hundreds and hundreds of Randy Brock signs along with Wendy Wilton and Phil Scott signs dotting the landscape. The people I talk with on the street are worried about high taxes, no jobs and a governor who spends much of his time outside of the state of Vermont.

    • Jason Farrell

      I suspect you should talk to more people, or a more diverse subset of Vermonters, Stuart. Mr. Brock is in for a very short night on November 6. This one’s over no matter how many anecdotal sign-spotting reports to the contrary.

      I predict that Governor Shumlin will roll to re-election with 56% of the vote; Randy Brock will follow with 40% and Annette Smith 5%.

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