Vermont Progressive Party: Shumlin’s Decision to Scrap Single Payer a Betrayal of Working Families

From the Vermont Progressive Party website:

Thu, 2014-12-18 20:31

Governor Peter Shumlin abandoned single payer healthcare yesterday right when political leadership was needed most to push Vermont and the country forward. He broke five years of campaign promises to Vermonters that he would not rest until we had single payer healthcare. Yet when things got tough and politically challenging, he gave up and walked away.

The Vermont Progressive Party did not run Progressive challengers against Governor Shumlin in the last three cycles, in large part because of his unwavering promise to lead on single payer. While we are outraged by Shumlin’s broken promises, we are not terribly surprised. Progressives have long raised the same challenges Shumlin is now using as his excuses for why we can’t move ahead on single payer. We have long pushed for discussions about how we can equitably fund our new system, and live up to our promise of healthcare as a human right. But rather than work through these issues or scale back the project, Shumlin decided to scrap it entirely (and with it, many Vermonters’ hopes of a just and accessible healthcare system).

Governor Shumlin only seems concerned about the projected future economic burden to businesses, not the burden that working people are bearing right now. There are significant and meaningful steps Vermont can take as we transition to a fully publicly financed health system– a system that doesn’t punish working families who can’t afford the high costs of health insurance premiums. We can’t be afraid to examine ways to fund a more fair, more efficient, universal system of healthcare delivery (like they have in virtually every other country in the industrialized world). Vermont needs leaders who aren’t afraid of having these tough conversations, who aren’t too scared to stand up for what’s right. We owe that to the people of our state. Anything less is a betrayal of all Vermont’s working families who struggle with the costs of healthcare every day.

Vermont Progressives have built the strongest third political party in the country over the last 30 years, largely due to our unwavering commitment to reforming healthcare and economic justice. Our current elected legislators remain committed to finding a path forward. We are not backing down, despite this crisis of leadership. Vermont has a proud history of being out in front, despite the risks of opposing interest groups. We should stick with the Vermont tradition of having a difficult but honest discussion with our citizens.

Looking ahead, the Progressive Party will continue to find candidates to run for statewide and legislative office in 2016 who are unwavering in their commitment to comprehensive, universal health care. We increased the number of Progressives in the Statehouse in 2014, and we look forward to building off that momentum.

Vermonters want to see political leaders who stand up for the issues that matter to working people and don’t back down just because the debate heats up. Vermonters deserved better from Governor Shumlin. We aim to give it to them. It is clear that now, more than ever, Vermont needs a third party with a strong spine that will stand up where our current leaders have fallen down.

24 thoughts on “Vermont Progressive Party: Shumlin’s Decision to Scrap Single Payer a Betrayal of Working Families

  1. Johno

    However, the Progressive Party didn’t run someone for Governor. They did run people for other seats. Maybe their reps in the Vermont Legislature will vote for the Libertarian, Liberty Union, the two Indy, or gulp, the R. No candidate won 50+1. So Shumlin shouldn’t get the PP votes.

  2. paulie


    I’m trying to understand your comment. Do you mean the legislature gets to pick the governor now, and that this hasn’t happened yet?

  3. Andy Craig

    @Paulie. That is correct. In Vermont, if no candidate gets 50%+ in the popular vote, the incoming legislature elects the Governor. The results in November where (D)-46% (R)-45% (L)-4%. It is widely expected that the Shumlin will be re-elected, as even with the PP caucus the Democrats have a comfortable super-majority in both chambers.

  4. Andy Craig

    I could be wrong about this, but I think the state constitution’s rules (similar to the Federal procedure for no-absolute-majority in the EC) say that the legislature has to choose between Shumlin or the Republican nominee (or maybe Feliciano, the Libertarian, if it’s top-three instead of top-two). So PP legislator’s only real option would be to abstain in protest, which I suppose would get the point across just as well, but they couldn’t actually vote against Shumlin and for somebody else (at least not if they hope to make the point they want to).

    I think this shows the error of not running a candidate against Shumlin. Any significant splitting of the vote just sends it to the legislature, which is super-majority Dem. So taking another few percent for a PP candidate would not have affected the outcome- once another third-party (Libertarian, in this case) was in the race and neither major-party was over 50%, then the PP couldn’t have possibly spoiled the lesser-of-two-evils (from their perspective, not that I agree with it)

  5. paulie

    I agree, they should have run someone. And should not vote for Shumlin as legislators now that it’s too late for them to have run their own candidate against him.

  6. Dave

    I believe part of the reason the progressives supported Shumlin is because the Democrats did not run anyone for Lt. Governor, and most of them endorsed the Progressive running against the incumbent Republican. The Republican was the heavy favorite and indeed won, so the cynic in me wonders if maybe the Democrat establishment persuaded the Progressives to not run anyone for governor with the promise of them not running anyone for the second spot, knowing full well that they’d lose that race.

    This is exciting news though. I’m excited to see how probably the most successful state party will do in a race for governor. I can already hear the cries of “Spoiler!” from the usual suspects.

  7. Deran

    Yes, the Progressive Party last ran a gubenatorial candidate in 2008, Anthony Pollina. He came in second behind the Republican. In that case the weak Democratic Party candidate was the “spolier”. I was dissapointed that the PP did not push on from their. But I think the idea of not running against Sumlin was that he was on their side with Single Payer. And if they won on Single Payer it would be major victory for progresivsim?

    I think there will be a real fight within the PP abt running a candaite. Especially if Sanders does run for Pres as a Democrat. Sanders has been a big supporter of the PP and also enouraged them to think of Shumin as their ally. If Sanders runs as a Democrat I think that will put the Progressives in a spot as far as running somone against Shumlin in 2016. But if they don’t I think they are sunk. Single Payer has been a central issue for the PP, and if they don’t raise a fuss over this I would think Vermonters would be pretty disillusioned abt them? If they don’t I think this would really encourage the idea of them being more or less like the Working Families Party. Lap dogs for the Democrats, a safety valuve to keep the US Left in line. imo.

  8. Martin Passoli

    I’m sure you’re probably right. But it would be a better use of his time than running for president as a Democrat.

  9. Green_w_o_Adjectives

    If we endorse Democrats or Republicans in certain races, then how do we then turn around and claim the lesser-evil argument is bunk?

    I’m torn on this because I can imagine certain circumstances in local races where it might be useful to endorse a D or R. It is not outside the realm of imagination that electing a D or R in pursuit of a certain policy could be useful.

    On the other hand sticking to principles (in this case never endorsing Republicrats) also has its advantages. We may on occasion not like the consequences of this stance, but overall, taking the stand on principle is probably the better bet with the better likely consequences.

    With such a clear issue as single payer to run on, perhaps its time for the Progressives to abandon working with Democrats and take a clear stand in opposition to them.

  10. Joshua Katz

    GWO – While I agree with your general point, wouldn’t the answer be “The lesser-evil argument is bunk; therefore, we only endorse a R or a D if they are, in fact, not evil?” That is to say, never choose the lesser of two evils, but do choose good even if it has a label usually associated with evil. Again, not something I’d get behind, but I think that would be the answer.

    In fact, a stronger case can be made that voting for a poor candidate from your own party destroys the “lesser-evil is bunk” idea if we take lesser to mean ‘least.’ Does rejecting the “lesser of two evils” argument commit me to voting for a D who happens to be better than my candidate, if that were to happen?

    Take the DLC, as discussed on another thread. It seems that they strongly prefer to endorse Democrats, but will only endorse Democrats who are libertarian-oriented (however they define it.) If there is no such person, but there is a Libertarian, they endorse the Libertarian. On the other hand, if there is a Democrat they consider ‘good’ they will endorse them over the Libertarian, it seems, even if the Libertarian is, in their eyes, ‘better.’ Is this consistent?

  11. johno

    Well, the Progressive Party members in the Vermont Legislature should vote for the Liberty Union nominee or abstain. They shouldn’t back the Libertarian or R because they don’t agree on principles. With Governor Shumlin not endorsing one of the main issues they shouldn’t back him. So, either Liberty Union or nothing in my opinion.

    Sanders, if he joins the D’s, will abandon not only his Indy/Socialist mojo but his so-called principles as well. The D’s may be “liberal” on certain issues but they like Wall Street money.

  12. Green_w_o_Adjectives


    In practice I don’t think we can avoid voting for a Dems or Reps occasionally, as those tents are big and decent candidates are occasionally nominated.

    But on the other hand, it’s critical to actively oppose the 2 party system. So this affects the ‘strategy’ of voting, insofar as even if a Dem or Rep is the best available candidate, the fact that they are running as a D or R stands against them. As 3rd party activists, we should be trying to convince people that voting D or R is as useless as not voting at all.

    A major difficulty for 3rd party politics is electoral reform is never the most important issue, so well-meaning people are structurally inclined to surrender on it in favor of the “greater good”. And this helps the polyarchy control the political scene.

  13. Gene Berkman

    First, it is absurd for Libertarians, who oppose single-payer (actually everybody pays in single-payers, because it is funded by taxes) to criticize Vermont Progressives because they did not oppose a Democrat who has seen that single-payer is not affordable without a huge tax increase.

    As for facts: the Vermont legislature can choose a Governor from among the top three finishers in the November election, if nobody got 50% or more.

    The Vermont Progressive Party has run Anthony Pollina for Governor twice. In 2000, he received 9.6% against Howard Dean, who was more of a fiscal conservative then than he is now. In 2008, Pollina ran for Governor as an Independent, backed by Progressives, and he received 22%, 257 votes ahead of the Democrat. In 2004, long-time Progressive Peter Clavelle ran for Governor as a Democrat and lost.

    The Progressives backed Shumlin in 2010 because Vermont had a Republican Governor from 2002 to 2010. Dave is partly right, the Democrats did not run a candidate for Lt. Governor in 2012 or 2014, in both elections giving the Democrat nomination to the Progressive candidate. In both 2012 and 2014, the Republican Lt Governor was the only Republican to win statewide.

    Other than Bernie Sanders, it has been very hard for the Progressives to pull out a statewide victory in Vermont.

  14. Martin Passoli

    “First, it is absurd for Libertarians, who oppose single-payer (actually everybody pays in single-payers, because it is funded by taxes) to criticize Vermont Progressives because they did not oppose a Democrat who has seen that single-payer is not affordable without a huge tax increase.”

    Not necessarily. I don’t have to agree with someone’s ideology to admire them for being consistent or criticize them for selling out to the establishment corporatocracy. And not all libertarians necessarily see socialist medicine as worse than corporatist-fascist medicine either, even if we are not fans of either one.

  15. Jed Ziggler Post author

    “Not necessarily. I don’t have to agree with someone’s ideology to admire them for being consistent or criticize them for selling out to the establishment corporatocracy. And not all libertarians necessarily see socialist medicine as worse than corporatist-fascist medicine either, even if we are not fans of either one.”

    Bingo on both points.

  16. Joshua Katz

    I agree with Martin entirely. I am one of those libertarians who find socialist/single-payer likely to be better, in practice, than fascist medicine, although neither is, obviously, worth a damn.

  17. paulie

    I’m not sure which is worse, they are both awful. But regardless, I prefer alt parties to not sell out, even if I am not entirely in agreement with them.

  18. johno

    Well, I guess the “Progressive Party” sold out and voted for the D-Shumlin. They should’ve at least made a statement and voted for the Libertarian (Feliciano?) for Governor. Why vote this alternative party when they vote for hack D’s? BORING party. Plus, Shumlin dumped their pet issue, universal health care. HA!

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