By Guy Page
Two very different Republicans are firing back at a provocative anti-Republican op-ed written by the former head of VT Digger’s owner.
“The Sad Remnants of Vermont’s Republican Leadership” was published Friday, September 24 in VTDigger.
The son of a Navy officer who died in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, Schubart was born in New York City and raised in Morrisville. The Hinesburg resident co-founded Philo Records and is the former chair of Vermont Journalism Trust, formed in 2012 to publish VT Digger, online news outlet founded in 2009 and now boasting 700,000 monthly readers.
Schubart is a prolific author of op-eds on Vermont politics and culture. A confident left-of-center perspective, rarely absent from his writings, is on full view in Remnants:
“The ragged remnants of Republicanism in Vermont largely follow the playbook of the national party and its titular head, former President Trump. It defines itself by what it opposes: Any tax increases, even against the wealthiest decile; any regulation of unchecked and often criminal business monopolies; broadening voter participation, as they openly admit that broadening voter participation reduces their chances of retaining power; women’s rights over their own bodies as it relates to abortion and even family planning; mitigating climate change, which many still deny; immigration, which in most cases conceals a racist fear of further diversifying this nation of immigrants; and even the honest and open teaching of history in our schools and colleges.”
Schubart hit a nerve. A day later, two very different responses by two very different authors appeared.
Russ Ingalls is a plain-speaking, straight-talking, self-made son of the Northeast Kingdom. The 1983 Lake Region (Orleans) Union High School grad has been a dairy farmer, worked in a dairy supply business, sold cars, and now operates a successful real estate firm. Ever since emerging from political nowhere to win a senate seat last November, he has been perhaps the most vocal spokesperson for the conservative, pro-Trump wing of the Vermont GOP.
A frequent guest speaker at citizen gatherings opposing Critical Race Theory, Ingalls was recently accused by a North Country Union Superintendent John Castle of “McCarthyism.” Even more recently, he published the publicly available work-email address of a middle school teacher espousing CRT-based ‘equity and diversity’ doctrine in the classroom. The teacher cried “doxxing” (even though the address was easily available on the school district website, an important fact that went unreported by VTDigger). Senate president Becca Balint scolded him for supposedly intimidating the teacher.
Here’s an example of Ingalls’ assessment of Schubart’s op-ed: “To be so wise must be a gift passed down through generations of liberalism told by elders around the table at Starbucks.” The entire response is published today in Vermont Daily Chronicle.
By contrast, Meg Hansen is a soft-spoken resident of the ‘Southwest Kingdom’ of Bennington County. She holds a master’s degree from Dartmouth College and two medical degrees from India, her native land. The healthcare analyst ran for lieutenant governor and Bennington County state senator in 2020.
Hansen, too, has been knocked around by VTDigger. During the 2020 campaign a political writer oohed an ahhed over her ‘bulbous cheekbones’ and other physical characteristics. Meanwhile Digger lauded her (older, white, male) centrist GOP competitor for his experience and ‘patrician’ bearing. Digger seemed to imply [falsely, given Hansen’s education and experience], “Hey Republicans – do you want a real candidate, or just another pretty face?”
Hansen’s popping of the Schubartian balloon reveals what fair, astute political observers already know: her sharp mind and pen place her – in those categories anyway – in the first rank of Vermont’s candidates for statewide office. Her first paragraph she calls out Schubart’s “pontification about the right entails straw man fallacies and a distorted rewriting of the state’s political history.” The rest is an articulate takedown of her facts over Schubart’s political fiction.
Conservative Vermont Republicans may be outnumbered. But their numbers are growing in town and county organizations. And like Hansen, Ingalls, and many others, they are not silent.