Peter Welch is no longer the man for the job
At top, the old guard: retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who will seek Leahy‘s seat. Below, state senators Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Becca Balint are eyeing potential runs for the U.S. House of Representatives, but will they split the progressive vote?

Peter Welch is no longer the man for the job

Our U.S. representative still has faith in congressional institutions that are broken, but his $2 million war chest will likely make him Patrick Leahy’s successor in the U.S. Senate. It’s time for a new generation of politicians who understand current trends and who are prepared to act, not dither.

NEWFANE — St. Patrick - U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy - is resigning, and the great realignment has now begun.

The question is: Do we want to continue the current model of feckless, middle-ground maneuvering that is laying the groundwork for a radical right-wing takeover of national politics? Or is it time to support candidates who recognize that the times have changed and that our politicians need to change with them?

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who has announced his candidacy for Leahy's seat, is an honorable man who believes in progressive values and usually votes accordingly. During his many years in the House, Welch, a Democrat, has forged bipartisan agreements and initiated the Problem Solvers Caucus. He has always eschewed anything but the middle of the road when it comes to passing legislation.

But the U.S. Congress is no longer an institution that functions on compromise.The national Republican party has made it clear that not only will it not encourage any compromise with the Democrats, it will, in fact, attack and oppose in primaries any Republican who would deign to consider bipartisanship in Washington, D.C.

But Welch still has faith in congressional institutions and in his “esteemed colleagues across the aisle.” He is Charlie Brown, never losing faith that maybe this time Lucy will really hold that football and let him kick it.

He is, alas, no longer the man for the job.

However, $2 million in his campaign chest might just be all that it takes to make him the inevitable winner and Vermont's next senator, where he can continue to say nice progressive things while watching Republicans systematically dismantle the last shredded vestiges of our democracy.

* * *

What Welch (and Leahy) don't realize is that our democracy, as represented in D.C., is not under siege - it is thoroughly broken, and not just because of Trump and the Republicans.

The Democrats' acquiescence to corporate and banking interests has effectively reduced them to Band-Aid distributors helping out at the scene of a major disaster.

They want to “Build Back Better,” but they can't raise taxes on the richest 1 percent to pay for it for fear of losing funding from the 1 percent.

They want to engender a green future for the world, but they can't stop subsidizing fossil fuel corporations or declare that we need to end coal and oil extraction for fear of losing funding from Big Oil.

They pretend to think that Americans are still living with a patriotic, rational mentality about government and bipartisanship. Therefore, they are unwilling to support any initiative that really tackles wealth inequality, climate change, or systemic racism for fear of straying too far from the mythical middle where they believe Americans are.

They haven't noticed that one of the largest voting groups in America are those who don't vote.

This is for a reason: Why vote when your interests always take a back seat to the interests of those with the cash in hand?

Why go to the polls just to have your champions buckle and bow to every glancing blow delivered by the radical right, no matter that those attacks are often based on lies and misrepresentations?

Why bother to vote for Democrats when they can't frame their way out of a wet paper bag?

Why vote for a party that spends all its time in a lame defense against specious arguments and neglects to even understand what it wants, let alone be able to make a case for their side?

* * *

Imagine the Republicans holding the House, the Senate, and the presidency. Imagine them launching a legislative bonanza rewarding the rich, screwing the poor, and ignoring climate catastrophe. (That's not so hard to imagine.)

Imagine that one of them - say, Sen. Lisa Murkowski - had reservations about abetting the destruction of our planet or our democracy.

Would Mitch McConnell wring his hands and say, “Aw, shucks, we hope Lisa will come around someday”? Or would Mitch and whoever the president would be use all of their considerable power to bring the errant senator into line with the rest of the party?

Republicans would unite and frame Murkowski as an outlier, a RINO; hell, they would probably label her an enemy of the state if that's what it took to get her to come around.

But the Democrats are used to being held hostage. At this point they should all be examined for symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome.

* * *

Vermont has several important political voices who deserve a chance to serve at the national level.

What a shame it is that Becca Balint and Kesha Ram Hinsdale may end up running against each other for Welch's House seat, each cognizant of the difficulty of going up against $2 million in a state that, so far, is rarely willing to vote out our long-serving politicians.

If these two state senators split the progressive vote, then we'll be likely to end up with Lt. Gov. Molly Gray - another establishment Democrat who will continue to be part of the problem - who has formally announced her candidacy.

Welch says he is running to fight for democracy. Other than voting yes on a House bill that the Senate refuses to consider, what has he done so far?

Has he (or Leahy) gone to the airwaves to put pressure on senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to pass the voting rights bill?

Has he organized citizens to apply pressure?

Has he called out his fellow Democrats for their refusal to put the nation above their own financial interests?

He will assure us that his work is “behind the scenes,” where it really matters. Well, it might have mattered once upon a time, but the modern Republican party will make sure that “behind the scenes” means “out of the picture.”

End of story.

* * *

Is it hubris that makes politicians stick around so long without changing with the times? Is it a desperate attempt to make a successful Hail Mary pass, even though they have never completed one before?

No matter the reason, they should know when it's time to quit and make room for a new generation that understands current trends and who are prepared to act, not dither.

If we continue to vote for the Peter Welches and the Molly Grays of the political world, then we have become Charlie Brown, ever hoping that the Democrats will just hold that football still so that we can kick a field goal.

We know better than that.

Our disillusionment with the establishment Democrats is a bitter pill to swallow. But if we continue to give them our votes while they are held tightly in check by the very powers that are destroying the economy, the planet, and the hope for equality under the law, then we are only hastening our own demise.

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