VT-AL: How Blue?

Ever since Howard Dean catapulted to the front of the Presidential primary in mid-2003, his home state of Vermont has acquired a label of being the only state more ridiculously liberal than Massachusetts.  And indeed, Kerry's margin of victory in VT last year was his largest gain over Gore (in 2000) of any state in the nation.

But consider this: VT is the only truly rural "blue" state: Burlington, its largest town, is less than 39,000 people.  Dating back to the Civil War, it has voted mostly Republican on the national level.  Until 1992, Lyndon Johnson was the only Democrat it backed for President.  VT has elected only one Democrat, Patrick Leahy (in 1974), to the Senate.  And only one Democrat, in 1958, has won a Congressional seat.  He wasn't re-elected.

Most people assume the open at-large seat in Vermont will go to a Democrat next year, no question.  But just how likely is that, really?

There's more...

Meet Bernie Sanders' Replacement

Guard commander Rainville considers run for U.S. House
- from the Burlington Free Press

The commander of the Vermont National Guard announced Thursday that she is "seriously considering" a run for the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican.

Conjecture and attention have surrounded Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville since independent Sen. Jim Jeffords last month announced his plans to retire rather than seek re-election in 2006. Rep. Bernie Sanders, also an independent, is nearly certain to run for Senate, a move that will leave his seat open.

In an interview, Rainville, 47, couched her intentions with language that leaves open her options.

"I am seriously considering possibly running for the House seat," she said. "The key for me is to determine where I can best make a contribution that really matters to the people of Vermont."

The adjutant general described her politics as mainstream and independent-minded, similar to those of prominent state Republicans: Gov. Jim Douglas, former U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford and the late Sen. George Aiken. Rainville declined to discuss her stance on any specific issue until she makes a formal announcement of her plans.

She intends to make that announcement this summer.

"What I'm trying to do today is lay to rest some of the speculation about what I'm doing," Rainville said. "I wanted to let people know where I may be headed."

Her comments left a wake of reaction through Vermont's choppy political waters.

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Weekly Audit: Sanders Filibusters Tax Cuts, Electrifies the Left

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a self-described socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, became a folk hero to progressives when he took to the floor of the Senate for nearly nine hours on Friday to speak against the plan to extend tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for extending unemployment benefits for millions of workers and extending tax breaks for the middle class.

On the Senate floor, Sanders accused his Republican colleagues of wanting to roll back the New Deal:

And that is, they want to move this country back into the 1920s, when essentially we had an economic and political system which was controlled by Big Money interests, where working people in the middle class had no programs to sustain them when things got bad, when they got old, when they got sick, when labor unions were very hard to come by because of anti-worker legislation.

Senate video servers were overwhelmed as over 12,000 people tried to watch online, John Nichols of The Nation reports.

“Instead of us having to compromise all the time, maybe it’s time of for some of the Republicans to start compromising,” Sanders told host Laura Flanders in an interview with GritTV. (Watch the video.)

Sanders said that over the past few days his office had received 2,000 calls congratulating him for his stance.

Despite Sanders’ eloquent appeal to level the economic playing field,  the Senate seems poised to move on the Obama tax deal, notes Steve Benen at Washington Monthly the plan will fare in the House. The House Democratic caucus rejected the plan on Thursday in an unofficial vote.

Some Democratic House members have voiced their frustrations with the president. Still, Benen thinks it’s unlikely that House Democrats have any intention of scuttling the bill. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats realize they will probably get an even less favorable bill if they wait until the Republicans take over control of the House.

Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger notes that while the two houses of Congress were negotiating, more than one million Americans had already lost their unemployment benefits at the end of November and hundreds of thousands more stand to lose their benefits in the coming weeks.

Roger Bybee of Working In These Times points out that the so-called “99-ers”, people who have been out of work for over 99 weeks, will not be helped by the proposed compromise on unemployment benefits extensions. Approximately 2 million people have already hit the 99-week wall on UI benefits. The so-called Grand Compromise won’t stop their benefits from running out.

The proposed deal, dubbed “benefits-for-billionaires” by GritTV host Laura Flanders, would also effectively end the Build America Bonds program, a program that allows cash-strapped states to borrow to maintain public services. As labor activist and commentator Bill Fletcher pointed out in an interview with Flanders, ending the bonds program is an attack on public sector retirement benefits. If credit dries up, the states will be unable to meet their obligations, such as retirement benefits promised to public sector workers. This is backdoor union-busting. If the state has no money, its contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Taibbi vs. the Vampire Squid

Chris Lehmann of The Nation has a positive review of journalist Matt Taibbi’s new book, Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America. The book is Taibbi’s wide-ranging take on the meltdown of the American economy from the housing bubble to the credit crisis and beyond. The Vampire Squid is Goldman Sachs, to whom Taibbi allots an outsize share of the blame for derailing the U.S. economy.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.




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