By Guy Page
Tomorrow, at the Delta Hotel on Williston Road in South Burlington, the Vermont GOP will choose a new chair to replace Deb Billado, who chose to not seek re-election due to the demands of her job.
So far, two Essex Junction men have thrown their hats into the ring: Paul Dame and Jim Sexton.
The factions of today’s Grand Old Party of Vermont resemble the Capulets and Montagues of Romeo & Juliet’s Verona. On one side of this long-running conflict are fiscally conservative and socially moderate-to-liberal Republicans, of whom Gov. Phil Scott is a paragon if not a very active party standard-bearer. On the other side you’ll find many fiscally conservative Republicans who also insist party candidates hew to the GOP’s historically pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, and family-empowering platform.
This family squabble is nothing new. But in an era when both a progressive, activist Legislature and Donald Trump influence Republican party politics, patience is wearing thin on both sides.
Amid their bickering are many candidates, party workers, and voters with mixed sympathies and platforms, Mercutios muttering “a plague on both of your houses”
Billado did her best to reconcile both parties for the greater good. Time will tell whether her strategy was sound and her work fruitful. Of the two candidates, Paul Dame more closely resembles Billado as prospective leader. A longtime party worker, candidate and elected official, he is a calm, thoughtful team player who has friends in both camps and will not overturn the status quo apple cart of “how things are done.”
Which is why Jim Sexton is an appealing candidate to some Vermonters who are pro-life, pro-2A, and skeptical of Phil Scott’s claim that Vermont is systemically racist. I’ve known Jim since seventh grade at Colchester Junior High School. Back then, he was a plucky kid who would stand up to the Big Man on Campus when he thought he was wrong. Even if he stood alone. The son of a police officer, he is viscerally pro-law enforcement. He is viscerally a lot of things. You know where he stands and where he doesn’t. If you don’t, just ask, he’ll tell you. Especially if you ask about whether Phil Scott should remain in the VT GOP (he shouldn’t, according to Jim).
Both men are plenty smart. Both have life experiences that have convinced them that big, intrusive government does more harm than good. Both are highly principled and will work hard to do what’s best for the GOP, according to their lights.
The bottom line: Dame is the Insider, seeking to build on what’s already there in hopes of reinvigorating the old and attracting the new. Sexton is the Outsider who will try to energize new candidates and voters for whom the present GOP holds little appeal.
My two cents.
Guy, the case you make for Sexton (subtle and understated as it is) belies some incongruity. Strange that neither candidate bothers to address the ‘faithful’, or the ‘potentially faithful’, by expressing their views here on VTChronicle or on TNR prior to the GOP’s apparently persistent ‘small-tent’ meeting tomorrow.
“Don’t waste your love on somebody, who doesn’t value it.”
― W.S. R&J
I feel the Chairwoman did bring in a lot of alternatives to the status quo or to the liking of Governor Phil Scott. I believe only three to four got elected and Vermont spoke taking Scott over Meg in LT. I feel the attempt has been made during President Trump’s administration and Vermonters have pretty much said no. I feel, to a degree, Mr. Page, you have painted a picture of Paul that is not accurate but you do have the right to on your own site.
We need leadership now on day one to continue the mission of the Vermont Republican Party. I understand that there will never be I guess unity, within the party, which is terrible news for us. Because on the liberal side of things with the progressive and the Democrats in this state there’s unity. Trust me they don’t like each other. Back from Pollina and shumlin days but they realize that they kept splitting the vote and getting Republicans elected so they finally learn to live with each other and look where they are now. We haven’t had a majority since. That’s why they have a supermajority. That’s why there’s going to be a constitutional amendment on a ballot this year allowing all abortions even third trimester. This is why they continue to try to take our guns away this is why they continue to push their social agenda and spending money like it’s falling out of a waterfall. While we continue to bicker among ourselves and fight and not unite to get more Republicans elected that Vermonters WILL VOTE for; they’re over there laughing at us. Until there’s unity within the Vermont Republican Party we will continue to be the minority, will continue not to have the votes necessary to override vetoes if we continue to have the chance. We need to realize and accept and go forward with values that Vermonters do share. Do you want to be right or do you want to have enough legislatures to actually move a Republican agenda forward in the state?
Good assessment. Tomorrow will be revealing.
Interesting description of both candidates Guy. Boiled down I see this as a simple issue. One wants to unite all factions of the party and the other is immediately telling us he is rejecting those in one camp.
History suggests great conflicts are won by forces who have coalesced with others in a greater cause. Sometimes those independent entities have really different views of the world, but recognize a common thread of greater importance. (Think World War II and Russia, China & the U.S. putting aside their differences to fight the greater threat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.)
We are not a coffee klatch meeting for the purpose of reaching “purity.” We are a political organization tasked with getting people elected in numbers that can outvote the Dem/Prog juggernaut . One of these candidates presents with a history of building those coalitions. The other doesn’t appear interested.
Some things never change. Below is a link to an article I wrote some five years ago. It’s worth reading and spells out the case for Jim Sexton’s:
I tried reading it however you have to answer like 10 questions be able to get access to my free article for marketing purposes is there any way you could just post the letter or the article thank you sir
The important points:
“You cannot defeat the ideology of Progressivism without comprehending its philosophic ends nor succeed over them without knowledgeable conviction of your defense.
Progressive ideology derives from the Philosophy of History with its ends in the rational-scientific, near-unlimited Hegelian administrative state. American Constitutionalism derives from the Philosophy of Natural Rights with its ends in the individual and requiring a limited government necessitated by nature. And while these two mutually exclusive conceptions of life take some effort to understand, there’s an indictable difference between ignorance and willing ignorance.
… Other disturbing trends include Senate Minority Leader Benning advocating for a Progressive national single-payer system (“Now What,” Dec. 18, VTDigger) followed by Lt. Gov. Scott advocating a state takeover of schools via a clone of the Progressive “Green Mountain Care Board,” (“Scott Calls for Central Board to Regulate School Costs, Oct. 17, VTDigger). These are the supposed opposition leaders to ideological Progressivism?
… These “disturbing trends” are symptoms of a not well understood civilizational struggle that is as revolutionary as the one it seeks to replace.
John Dewey, Vermont born and educated and probably the foremost Progressive public thinker of early 20th century flaunted contempt for the Philosophy of Natural Rights, writing “Natural rights and natural liberties… exist only in the kingdom of mythological social zoology.” What follows from this Progressive ideology is that intelligence becomes “a social asset” and because it is society — and not the individual or his God-given talents – that makes the mind it is society who is the rightful owner of that human intellect and the property derived from it. This is the philosophy behind today’s “you didn’t build that” dictum.
Without meaningful debate or refutation, Progressivism has successfully delegitimized Natural Rights Philosophy and Constitutionalism to near obsolescence. And on this Dewey was ominously prescient: “intellectual progress usually occurs through sheer abandonment of questions…that results from their decreasing vitality and a change of urgent interest. We do not solve them: we get over them.”
…If the Vermont Republican Party cannot muster the courage displayed by their Progressive adversaries; if they cannot muster the fortitude to defend the underpinnings of Constitutionalism; and if they cannot denounce the totalitarian nature of Progressivism; then Dewey’s prescient message will come to pass and Vermont Republicans will be deservedly known as the “wishy-washy and weak” party.”
Joe Benning loves to talk about “uniting” the party when he is one the top folks in office who maligns social conservatives. He loves ridiculing “those who insist on purity” because his views and votes barely fit the political right. This Democrat turned into a Republican because he lives in Caledonia County. If he lived in the northwest, he would not have had to degrade himself to secure public office.
Joe bends over backwards to win favor with Democrats. Everyone knows Joe has made a deal with the Democrat state senator from Caledonia county so she doesn’t run a D candidate against him. Being a D/R is one of his proudest achievements. He couldn’t get elected as a Democrat but at least now he can put a D next to his name and pretend like everyone loves him.
He has never publicly criticized a Democrat but he will never a miss an opportunity to publicly mock and chastise the base of the Republican Party. It’s his party, he says, and so it’s his personal duty to chastise his party’s people. Make no mistake he looks down upon the Jim Sextons of the world.
Joe hates us Republicans with pick up trucks and no college degrees. Joe writes commentaries telling Republicans to follow the noble examples of Obama and Hillary Clinton. He forgot that Obama said we cling to our God and guns and Hillary called us deplorables. Was that very unifying and dignified of them? I wonder why all Joe’s idols all Democrats.
Politicians like Joe repeat the same broken hypocritical record again and again. Reject ideological purity on the right (because it disqualifies him) and but celebrate ideological purity on the left. Talk about uniting the party while doing everything possible to divide the party.
Ignore this man. Joe’s opinion is the useless as Bernie Sanders commenting on the state and future of our party.
The only “purity” those of us in the non-establishment camp are “reaching” for is an adherence by our elected officials to the principles of liberty enshrined in our United States Constitution and our other founding documents. It is not too much to ask. considering that you, You Senator Benning take an oath to the constitution. I guess I am not as sophisticated as you Joe. I had to look up what a coffee klatch is. Referring to those of us that ask for a higher standard in our elected officials shows me you just don’t get it.
The only “purity” those of us in the other camp are asking for is that Republicans defend the principles of liberty enshrined in our founding documents. Is it really to much to ask? Senator Benning you take an oath to the United States and Vermont Constitution. That is supposed to mean something.
Thank you — even handed.
Just knowing that Paul Dame did not support or vote for President Donald Trump in either 2016 or 2020, doesn’t regret those decisions even in light of the last 10 months of the Biden debacle that has hurt so many Americans, and that he appears to be the choice of RINOs such as Joe Benning, Randy Brock and Phil Scott, is enough for me to encourage those eligible to vote tomorrow, to vote for Jim Sexton. Jim does not have the support of these Benning, Brock, or Scott RINOs and that is a positive for me and Jim is right on the issues that are dear to true Vermont Republicans.