By Kristen Vrancken, Organizer, Women’s March Vermont and PJC member
Many Vermonters are proud of what they see as the state’s uniquely progressive politics. To be sure, it has earned some of those bona fides: Vermont was the first state in the nation to introduce civil unions, and later, the first to introduce same-sex marriage as a right. More recently, Vermont DMV incorporated a third gender option on drivers’ licenses so that non-binary folx won’t be forced to choose between two wrong options.
The state should be applauded for taking these measures. Yet, despite these progressive accomplishments, Vermonters still elected Republican governor Phil Scott for a second term in 2018. And although Governor Scott has given lip service to some progressive policies like gun reform, and has not stood in the way of others, like the Ethnic Studies bill, he is still a product of his party, and the vast majority of his policies reflect that. So, it should come as no surprise that on May 30th, Scott will be hosting the disgraceful former Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, at the Hilton Hotel for a GOP fundraiser in downtown Burlington. The price for a VIP ticket? $1000 a piece. Certainly not something that your everyday Vermont worker can afford and definitely not after Scott vetoed a modest increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Ask the average Vermonter how a progressive-leaning state could twice elect a Republican governor, and many will shrug and point out that Scott is a “Vermont Republican”—more akin to a moderate Democrat than a standard-issue Republican (to say nothing of a Trump Republican). Or you’ll hear some variation of “our Republicans are different.”
This localized variety of exceptionalism is not only distorted, it keeps Vermonters from seeing Scott—or our state—clearly. It’s through this same rosy lens that Vermonters will deny that racism is a problem in the state. Indeed, a recent poll revealed that 79% percent of Vermonters either do not think racism is a problem or believe it’s only “somewhat” of a problem—when both empirical data and anecdotal evidence prove that racism is as prevalent in Vermont as any other state.
So, while some Vermonters have expressed shock that Governor Scott would support such a hyper-conservative figure, this is all to be expected: Any moderate policies Scott purports to support are nothing more than a cynical ploy to wield the power of elected office in Vermont (see also: Mitt Romney in Massachusetts). Hosting Scott Walker lays bare Governor Scott’s true loyalties. It also showcases the governor’s hypocrisy.
Here are some things you should know about Governor Scott’s guest of honor:
He’s anti-family: Walker was a key enabler of Donald Trump’s family separation policy, sending Wisconsin National Guard Troops down to the southern border at the height of the administration’s cruelty.
He’s anti-worker: Walker decimated collective bargaining rights for public employees, which has proved catastrophic for Wisconsin public schools.
He’s anti-choice: Walker does not believe in a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, defunding Planned Parenthood and placing onerous requirements on women seeking to have an abortion.
He’s corrupt: $750,000 in dark money was funneled into Walker’s campaign from a Texas billionaire in exchange for favorable legislation that would prevent children severely damaged by lead paint from holding a corporation accountable.
He’s homophobic: Walker fought in vigorous opposition to same-sex marriage and endorsed a constitutional amendment prohibiting it.
He’s racist: Walker actively pursued policies that would have a disproportionate impact on people of color, such as voter suppression, eliminating reporting requirements for law enforcement to track racial profiling, and opposing public school integration.
He’s anti-democracy: After losing the election for governor in 2018, Walker quickly went to work passing “lame-duck” legislation in an effort to strip power from his incoming successor.
Even by current standards of the Republican party, Scott Walker is on the extreme end of Trumpian politics: virulent and proto-fascist, racist, anti-family, and anti-democratic. Yet Governor Scott is choosing to valorize a man who should be shunned by anyone with a moral compass or some semblance of political principle. By hosting Walker, the governor is using state resources to confer legitimacy upon a shameful record and provide a platform from which he can advance his reprehensible positions. Scott would rather do this, it appears, than stand up to his own party’s extremism or for the values he purports to espouse. In doing so, the governor is not only revealing the fallacy of the “Vermont Republican,” he is showing us exactly who he is—and confirming something we’ve all known for a long time: The “moderate” or “principled” Republican does not exist.