The 2010 United Supreme Court decision may have unleashed a new arms race of campaign cash and further corrupted the political system - BUT - the internet is more powerful. It unleashed the ability of journalism to track the new system. If the candidates for president have to endure this process, a newly empowered journalism will force them to do it in the open. Who knows what good might come of it.

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Some newspapers are dead or dying. But journalism is very much alive with new models everywhere. And there was no better champion for great journalism than the great David Carr. His BU syllabus for undergrads should be required reading everywhere.

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With two weeks to go before the election for governor in Vermont, Republican Scott Milne can’t catch a break.

He is splitting the Republican vote with a determined rookie Libertarian named Dan Feliciano.

He makes his own rookie mistakes – in debates, while campaigning, in running his campaign etc. etc.

The media disdains him. Pundits like “retired Middlebury political science professor Eric Davis” say he has no chance.

He has very little money, which has become the only measuring stick these days for a candidacy.

All of the above statements are true. But they are true within the box of traditional political campaigns of the modern era. What if candidates broke out of the box and defied conventional wisdom? What if they ignored the pundits and their own professional consultants?

Mitt Romney recently bemoaned the political consultants who kept him away from the media and forced him to be someone he wasn’t. To some degree, all the losers say that. But let’s take him at his word for the moment.

Then we have former NY Times reporter Matt Bai’s thrilling reconstruction of the scandal that engulfed Sen. Gary Hart as he ran for president in 1987. No big deal, except the Hart scandal changed political reporting forever, diminished our politics and built the absurd box in which candidates now campaign.

That box consists of the following:

1. You must raise money to buy advertising on TV.

2. Don’t speak openly and honestly to the media or public for fear of looking undisciplined.

3. Don’t propose any policy or say anything that will anger your base in the primary or the vast middle in the general election.

And on and on.

So here is a suggestion for Scott Milne (disclosure – I have known Scott for many years and am huge fan of his late mother Marion and his father Don).

Blow up the box.

You are going to lose to Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin. I say this all the time but people don’t listen. People who get to be governor are professionals. They are really good at politics – both its art and its science. It is hard to beat them.rnrnYou are splitting the vote with Feliciano and are in danger of getting less than 35 percent of the vote.So blow up the box.Fire most campaign staff. Keep a driver (one of your children) and a scheduler.

1. Say whatever you want. Remember, you are going to lose. So be free to say what you feel and believe. You have built a fabulously successful travel business. You are smart. So be that really smart business executive.

2. Write a blog post at the end of each day and send it to all media outlets. Don’t make it too heavy on policy pronouncements that most Vermonters won’t believe. Just talk about the people you met and the fun you are having traveling the state.

3.Talk to media whenever they want. Be the fun guy like John McCain in the early days of his campaigns.


The overall liberalization of the society will continue to drive politics and media in 2014. This is driven largely by technology, which makes us better informed, if not better educated.

The takeover of the society by the millenials will continue and politicians will continue to struggle to understand the needs of this class. They are facile with technology and demand livable, interesting communities, not just on the coasts, but everywhere.

Politicians who fail to understand this demand may survive in office, but they won’t be successful. The millenials don’t think about government the way the boomers did, as a vehicle for positive change. They see it as a slow-moving mass that can’t get out of its way.  (Obamacare website) They will continue to vote Democratic however. And this is a disaster for Republicans, as the face of the society continues to change, driven by technologies that few understand. (My conservative uncle won’t get it. But it will happen.)

With that, some specifics:

1. States will continue to soften laws against marijuana, marriage equality and death with dignity. Millenials don’t fear the wrath of parents, the church or their elders. So they have no problem with liberal social issues. The politicians will follow.

2. Cities will continue to become hubs of innovation as we continue to recognize the importance of good places to live. We will change street patterns, increase recycling and composting at the curb and push back against the tyranny of the car culture with more bike sharing. Take a walk through the pedestrian plaza at 33 rd and Broadway in New York and you will get it.

3. Journalism will figure it out. The issue is not whether newspapers live or die. The question is how to deliver the journalism in a way that makes money. My bet is that The Times, Wall Street Journal and a few others will survive because they are great.  Other papers will fold, replaced by on-line sites that pay for the journalism via subscriptions, ads or a non-profit model.

4. NSA/Privacy. The worm will turn on Edward Snowden. Again, it’s the millenials that lead the way here. While the establishment thinks Snowden is a traitor, I don’t know one person under 35 who does. They see the general running the NSA as an out of touch military guy who doesn’t get the society. He is Jack Nicholson to Tom Cruise in “A Few Good Men.”

5. Watch Michael Powell of The Times cover the new mayor of NYC Bill de Blasio. Powell – like Maureen Dowd before him – has figured out how to do great journalism while getting his personal insights into the story. It makes for great reading. Powell is – along with media writer David Carr – a total pleasure to read and follow.

6. Hillary Clinton runs for president. And something unexpected happens. It always does. She should retire and have fun. But she won’t.


So I attend a gala celebration at the Burlington Boys & Girls Club to celebrate a $1 million gift by a local community leader – 97-year-old Tony Pomerleau. In most states, you would get a state senator or two. In Vermont, you get U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Congressman Peter Welch, the Vermont Secretary of Education and Ernie Pomerleau, the developer whose father is giving the money. The governor is on vacation but sends a letter for Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe to read.

It is not that Sen. Leahy is third in line to the presidency – accompanied by Secret Service – or that he chairs the Senate Judiciary committee. Nope. It is that Leahy is married to Tony Pomerleau’s niece Marcelle. So instead of dealing with the National Security Agency or judgeships or the Republicans, the senator is on a stage talking about the importance of Boys & Girls Clubs in the North End of Burlington because he really wants to do this.

TV cameras and media are everywhere. Sen. Leahy and Rep. Welch wait their turn to give interviews. Everyone has done this drill before. Welch sometimes stands alone, no admirers or groupies, just a Vermont congressman home on break. And there is the president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, sweating in the sun under a baseball cap, talking to the local TV station’s rookie reporter and tiny kids from the club about the importance of early education and going to college.

Then – needing a ride to downtown Burlington – I hitch a lift with the Secretary of Education, who is immediately questioning me on my views of education reform and how we can improve our schools. Most secretaries would do this. But the difference with Secretary Rebecca Holcombe is that she is REALLY listening!

As a trained lobbyist, I am trying to be respectful of her time, feeling I have taken too much of it. But she wants to keep talking, thrilling to the subject matter. I am out the door on the sidewalk and we are still going. One of the best policy conversations ever. No agendas. Just trying to understand a very complicated subject.

And this happens in Vermont, somewhere, almost every day.

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