Governor Scott Did What He Should Have. Is That Exceptional?

It’s true that, given the limited extent of impact and damage in Vermont from the virus, Scott has done a proper job. However he only did what any of us would do. If you recall, one of his earliest public statements was that he was in completely uncharted territory with the pandemic. He didn’t know anything more about it than any of us in the state. So he called the state’s medical team together, got a bit of an education and followed their advice. I’d like to think that all of our governors would have done the same. He was very lucky in this particular crisis to have had the federal government step in fairly quickly with a huge cash infusion that gave us all time to understand and assess the situation and choose our actions under less stressed conditions.

The real test of leadership would have been if the Feds had not stepped in. FDR showed that kind of leadership in 1933 when he began his presidency at the absolute depth of the Depression, by far the worst economic collapse in our history. He did not have a sugar daddy smoothing the way. It is true that he had a big boost within five years when, observing Hitler, it became increasingly apparent, by late ’37, we were headed for another war and the US began cranking up the war industries. B u by then most of the New Deal that pulled us back from the brink was almost fully in place.

Back to Vermont… Scott’s leadership was really only mildly tested. He did nothing exceptional. He did what was right. I suppose that in this country at this time doing what is right politically and economically is rather remarkable and unexpected. We accept that every act of leadership is born of one self-serving motivation or another unless demonstrated otherwise. Of course this is a gubernatorial election year and this was probably one time Scott was pleased that the Democratic majority in the legislature was divvying up the Federal largesse in ways pleasing to the population. This would reflect well on him even if his only role was to forgo his usual veto.

Comments | 3

  • Forgoing the veto

    This is an odd year, but the middle of a major life-upending pandemic is no time to put on your Republican miser hat. Scott clearly knows that. So, apparently does Donald Trump who now wants the stimulus to go through immediately, as long as he can put his name on it.

    I can’t say that I’ve paid that close attention to state politics recently, but I feel like Scott hasn’t done anything actively bad and he was a moderate when it came to pandemic handling which has so far worked out ok. We were lucky and our mild warnings on various health precautions were heeded, mostly because the majority of Vermonters followed (and still follow) them scrupulously. Travel went on unabated, into and out of the state, but our case loads stayed low. That’s all good. How much of it was Scott’s doing is anybody’s guess but it happened on his watch.

    My guess: he’ll win the election because there’s no compelling reason to unseat him and he’s doing a pretty good job on the #1 issue for most people — the pandemic and all matters relating to it, including health and safety, the economy, tourism, and the rest. Sometimes, it’s the circumstances that make the man. Could be that Scott falls into that camp.

  • Eh,

    In the weekly press conference/campaign events he comes across much like Mister Rogers, and I mean that in a good way. But do we want Mr. Rogers for Governor? I’d rather he be my neighbor.

    He has vetoed more legislation than other recent governors, which sort of wastes the time of the legislature and us. He’s dragged his feet on taxing and regulating cannabis, for example.

    I think we can do a bit better. I’m not certain a traditional conservative approach is what is most needed right now.

  • Not Exceptional?

    The cardinal rule for any journalist is, “check the fact.”

    When my fellow citizen journalists go into print to report that Governor Scott’s pandemic response was a cake-walk which “any of us would do;” that, “Travel went on unabated, into and out of the state,” and Scott was just lucky that “our caseload stayed low;” or that all Scott offered was a soft-spoken style but no real leadership: I cannot help wishing that citizen journalist would take their credibility more seriously.

    In March, Vermont real estate abruptly stopped when the Governor’s “Stay Home/Stay Safe” order closed offices, and forbade agents, buyers, appraisers, and inspectors from entering a house.

    Yes, any of us could sit down at a keyboard and create orders, but who could get compliance without police-state enforcement?

    One of the problems with being a great negotiator, is that success looks easy… as though you did nothing. Undramatic. Mr. Rogers. Governor Scott did not simple draft proclamations, he was able to get agreement, buy-in, and bring people together.

    To do that, Scott did not merely issue orders: He developed the plan in concert with those who would be affected. Simultaneous with the real estate shut-down, and then again a month later when the industry began slowly, with baby-steps, to re-open: The Vermont Association of Realtors® together with local Realtor® boards and managing brokers kept members informed and let everyone know that any agent who tried to ignore the rules would lose their license.

    With reopening in late April, the number of people entering a house was restricted to one agent, and one buyer, or two buyers from the same household. Masks and gloves. A half-hour from the end of one showing until the start of the next in any home.

    Out of state buyers from a county with more than 400 active cases per million population were and still are barred unless they quarantine for 14 days (or 7 days with a negative test). Realtor® leadership made sure to warn us that we may not enter a home if any resident objects to the visit.

    Without a massive army, Governor Scott would find enforcement impossible. But when out-of-staters from quarantine counties tried to bullshit Realtors®, my colleagues refused to do business with them.

    In one case I heard about in a Realtor® Zoom meeting, a buyer from a non-quarantine county on his way to Vermont, had to turn back when the agent called him because the updated list had just been published and his county’s status had changed. Quarantine Map:

    This is not about Realtors®, it is an example of the buy-in and cooperation for which our citizen journalists think Scott deserves no credit. Certainly Vermonters get a lot of credit — Scott’s success depended on our intelligence. But he does deserve a lot of credit for incredible people skills necessary to get buy-in, not just from one industry, which would have been challenging enough; but for his remarkable achievement with the challenge of bringing together multiple players, and doing it so smoothly that some of us now think it was nothing.

    Do not take Governor Scott’s accomplishment for granted. In New Hampshire, I found mixed reaction from my colleagues: Some strictly enforced safety practices, others were like Trump.

    In Vermont, we have so far had 9 deaths per 100,000 population, even though we are surrounded by states with much higher casualty figures. New Hampshire: 33 per 100,000. Massachusetts: 139 per 100,000; New York, 171 per 100,000. Covid-19 state rankings:

    Just Scott’s good luck?

    The ability to make a complex challenge look easy, is the mark of an outstanding administrator. My problem as a voter is the vetoes. Just about any Democrat or Progressive would end the roadblock of minimum wage, paid family leave, and other initiatives which put people first. My dilemma is that I do not know of any Democrat or Progressive who could do more than just get by, as Shumlin did, as an administrator, especially in a major crisis.

    I can respect anyone’s endorsement of Zuckerman based on an honest evaluation of his positive qualities. But whichever way anyone decides to vote, I find it difficult to find polite words to respond to the lack of appreciation for what our Governor has done.

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