Look at Vermont

Look at Alaska. Senator Lisa Murkowski conceded the Republican primary Tuesday to tea party/Palin candidate Joe Miller. In conceding, Ms. Murkowski criticized what she called distorted and personal attacks against her by Mr. Miller in the campaign. For his part, Mr. Miller accused Mr. Murkowski’s campaign staff of illegally interfering with the recount.

Look at Glenn Beck (I never said this would be easy.) I’m not sure what he was attempting with his rally at the Lincoln Memorial Saturday, but it seems he has ambitions beyond being on Fox News forever. I try to put myself in his shoes. Here’s a guy who used to be a disc jockey and now he’s got a tee vee show, a radio show and his own “university” (however much damage his institution does to our understanding of that word). I’m sure there are people out there telling him he’s a prophet, naming children after him and so forth. It would be hard for me not to get a bit messianic if I was subject to all that and I think my grasp on reality is more tenacious than Mr. Beck’s.

Look across America. The current wave of Islamophobia has given an escape valve to the huge pressure of racism that has run beneath the surface of our continent since Mr. Columbus first made landfall. In Tennessee, western New York, Washington state and Connecticut racists are attacking (respectively) a mosque, a Sufi mosque (Sufis are like the Quakers of Islam, as mild and gentle a people as you’ll find anywhere), a Sikh (who is not a Muslim: what next – attacks on Buddhists?) and a hookah bar (one featuring belly dancers, no less – not exactly Sharia law, dude).

Now look at Vermont. Like Alaska, we had a contested result in our primary last Tuesday. Three Democratic candidates for governor were within two percentage points of each other when the counting was done. The second-place finisher, Doug Racine, called for a recount, as is his right.

Meanwhile, Mr. Racine has joined the first-place finisher, Peter Shumlin and third-place finisher Deb Markowitz in joint press conferences and campaign appearances to express the unity of their positions and to ask voters to support whichever of them ultimately becomes the party’s candidate.

Back in 2002, when then-governor Howard Dean declined to run for re-election, Mr. Racine was lieutenant governor and candidate presumptive. Mr. Shumlin (then and now) Senate majority leader, had hoped to run in 2002, but stepped aside for the good of the party. He ran for Lite Gov instead. Both he and Mr. Racine lost to the current incumbents Gov. Jim Douglas and Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, both Republicans.

Perhaps Mr. Racine should have returned Mr. Shumlin’s 2002 favor and stood aside for the good of the party. For whatever reasons, he chose not to, as was his right. Now the three former rivals campaign together. Two Democratic candidates that finished fourth and fifth last week also pledge their support to the eventual nominee. (Disclosure: I supported Mr. Racine in the primary.)

As for Mr. Dubie, now the Republican candidate for governor, I’ve met him and like him. I believe him to be a sincere man who wants what he thinks is best for Vermont. I disagree with almost all his positions, but that’s politics. (I’ve poked fun at Mr. Dubie, as recently as last week’s post. That’s politics, too.)

I do not like Mr. Dubie’s mentor, Gov. Douglas. I think he has brought an insidiously insincere style of Republican politics to Vermont. I think the people around Mr. Dubie want him to take up Mr. Douglas’s ways. I think they think it’s Mr. Dubie’s best chance of becoming governor.

The general election is still 61 days away. I’m encouraged by the civility and focus on issues and positions we’ve seen so far in Vermont’s 2010 election cycle. I wish the contrast with the rest of the country were not so great. I wish national journalists would pay more attention to the way we conduct ourselves.

There’s a Vermont bumper sticker that reads: “A small state can lead the nation.” Indeed, we must.

© Mark Floegel, 2010

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