Clearly, the Covid-19 pandemic does not bring out the best in us, as any purveyor of the news, or social media sites can attest. We’re mean when we should be understanding, judgmental when we should trust, and impatient when taking a deep breath would be the better choice. But that’s what 18 months of the pandemic produces; rattled brains and a rush to blame. No one is safe.
In Vermont, we have avoided most of the nonsense we see elsewhere, which is why no other state has performed as well in figuring out how best to deal with the virus. It’s all about leadership, and the Scott administration - meaning the entire organization - has done what all other states wish they could have done, which is to establish a sense of trust with the people. There was never any purposeful political gain in place. Nor was there any hyperbole, or a needless sense of alarm. There was no panic. What Governor Scott did was to demonstrate a sense of calm and the unchallengeable drive to protect Vermonters’ health. He never played to the peanut gallery.
Contrast that with what the country sees with the leadership in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, etc. and you understand why the country’s vaccination rate is 61 percent and ours stands at 86.
But being too good at something can invite its own set of problems. Look at the rise and fall of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York. His command of the situation when New York was the epicenter of the virus, brought all sorts of acclaim. His fall from grace, and his resignation, came about because of flawed behavior in the years prior. The former devoured the later and he is no longer.
Gov. Phil Scott has no such demons. [If he did, they’d be known by now in
a state of our small size.] Nonetheless, his success is proving too much for Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint. This week both attacked the governor for not being as tough as he could be and not fol- lowing CDC guidance on how to deal with the Delta variant. That was fol- lowed up with the letter from some state employees hewing to the same political line.
Ms. Krowinski and Ms. Balint want the governor to mandate that all students and staff wear masks and point to the confusion caused by not having a uniform policy to deal with the rise in cases. Both politicians point to other states that have imposed stricter guidelines. [All of whom have much, much higher rates of infection.] Both politicians are choosing to sound the bells of alarm.
But, as both Ms. Krowinski and Ms. Balint know, the governor cannot impose mandates unless Vermont is under a state of emergency, which it is not. The last thing he would be inclined to do would be to exaggerate the seriousness of the situation, when it’s yet to be proven. It’s that restraint that has earned him the public’s trust, and trust is a fickle thing, easy to lose and hard to regain.
He was correct in labeling Ms. Balint’s and Ms. Krowinski’s missives as being politically motivated, and not helpful. If the situation in Vermont were as critical as Ms. Balint and Ms. Krowinski imply, then he would be hearing from the medical community in the state - we all would - and he isn’t.
The question from a political per- spective is why have the two Democratic leaders chosen to go on the attack?
Easy. Mr. Scott has the political strength he has because he’s handled the pandemic so well. He’s solidi-
fied his reputation on both sides of the political aisle. Ms. Balint and Ms. Krowinski want what he has. Even just a smidgen. And they are viewing the process as a zero-sum game. Anything good that he has comes at their expense. He wins, they lose. If they can weaken where he is strongest, then they win, he loses.
They are dead wrong in their calculation. The governor has his vulnerabilities, but handling the virus is not one of them. Even if the governor declared a state of emergency and installed a mask mandate, etc., it would be his decision, not theirs. And it would be seen as such. This responsibility also involves a delicate balance. His decisions must weigh not only the public’s physical health, but also its mental and economic health.
Vermont has done a better job handling its response to Covid-19 than any other state and any other nation. We have accomplished this
because we have chosen cooperation over division. We are here because we chose to dilute the effect of politics to a bare minimum.
That’s an achievement that extends to Democrats as well as Republicans. And it applies not only to our state officials, but locally as well. When we read about people screaming at school board members, or pediatricians, because their children are being asked to wear masks to school, our response should reflect the progress we’ve made as a state, and how we got there. Part of that success was being respectful and choosing not to degrade others. Part of that success is realizing that those whose job it is to make those hard choices are doing so with the public’s health foremost in their minds.
Give them a break. Be a grown-up.
by Emerson Lynn