A vote is a choice, not a protest

November 14, 2014

Brattleboro Reformer

"You're so sharp you'll cut yourself," the old saying goes, and a lot of people post-election think that applies to Peter Shumlin. He withheld his single-payer plan until 2015, the reasoning goes, to avoid taking a political risk, and doubting his resolve, the left stayed home, or cast a protest vote.

I don't know the true reason for Governor Shumlin's actions. He says the plan isn't ready yet, and that the Vermont HealthConnect experience has taught him not to bring something out until it's ready. Could be. Could be that the calculation was purely political, and it could even be that Shumlin's right. Trotting out a tax plan in election season might be the equivalent of going into the woods in a Bambi costume the first day of deer season — fatal for Shumlin's career, and fatal for single payer.

But Vermont voters were also a little too sharp, and came near to achieving a result they would have bitterly regretted. Remember what it was like having a Republican governor? Remember what it was like when we had a Democratic governor whose support for single-payer ended abruptly the day he unexpectedly came to power?

A vote is not a protest, it's a choice. A choice among the people actually on the ballot, not imaginary ideals. It's a moment for adults to put other concerns aside and soberly consider which person seeking the job has the greatest likelihood of acting in their interests, and the interests of the community.

If you wanted single payer, if you cared about climate change, your vote should have been for Peter Shumlin. Disagree with him on details, or ways and means? Say so loudly. Influence the debate. But the other candidates either did not share our values or stood zero chance of winning, and we came close, friends, to cutting ourselves quite badly. Aren't we better than this?

Jessie Haas, Westminster, Nov. 14