All politics is local, right? Or do I have that backward? Maybe "all locales are political." It certainly seems like it whenever I drive along that particular stretch of Spear Street in South Burlington where, over the last dozen years, all those recklessly developed, hideously designed, overblown, tacky, tasteless, gaudy, showy, in-your-face "McMansions" have been thrown up on razed and flattened lots. Each and every one of them now sports an American flag and a campaign placard for "TARRANT: SENATE." I call this place "the Tarrant Patch," and I warn you to keep away from it if you value your lunch.
For the uninitiated: I'm talking about that part of Spear Street that stretches roughly between Swift Street to the north and Pheasant Way to the south. Any number of horrid red-and-yellow "TARRANT" signs are wrecking the landscape all over Vermont, but the bulk of them seem to be concentrated here, like a bad outbreak of acne just before the prom. Past Pheasant Way, as you get to Shelburne and Charlotte, they seem to taper off, popping up like boils on the back that are more easily concealed.
As it happens, Pheasant Way connects to something called Quail Run, but there are no quails or pheasants in sight. Goodness - as Donald Rumsfeld might say - there weren't even any ducks on the ponds at the country clubs this year! My guess is that they put something in the water to keep them away, which is typical of the McMansion mindset: Let's get rid of all the wildlife and then name our cute little streets after them. If they could throw up gates around this whole "community," believe me, they would.
Well, all right; this is America, and you can do what you want. You can even buy an election, as Republican Rich Tarrant is endeavoring to do in his effort to defeat Bernie Sanders, Vermont's "Socialist" congressman and the lone Independent in the House of Representatives. Both are racing for the seat of the retiring (in every sense) Sen. James Jeffords, a Republican penitent who in 2001 turned against the Bush regime and is now the lone Independent in the U.S. Senate. Big scandal, as I recall.
Anyway, class, see if you can connect the dots: Vermont - Independent. Vermont - Independent. Vermont - Independent. It's true that we have one Democratic senator, Patrick Leahy, and that both Sanders and Jeffords normally vote with the Democratic caucus. Given the small remaining difference between Democrats and Republicans, however, all this really means is that Jeffords and Sanders don't vote for Bush. They don't vote for torture and "extraordinary rendition" and imprisonment without trial and environmental calamity and more tax breaks for the rich. And they don't buy the "unitary executive" notion, either - for which skepticism, as all good Germans say, Gott sei Dank.
Now, class, compare: Tarrant - Republican. Tarrant - Republican. Tarrant - Stinking Rich. Tarrant - Former Head of IDX Systems Corporation, a medical software company that was sold about a year ago to General Electric for $1.2 billion and is now part of GE Healthcare. That organization, according to its website, is "renowned for innovative information technology that truly transforms care delivery. Our laser-like focus on improving patient safety, efficiency, productivity, and business performance has yielded GE Centricity®. This suite of proven, advanced solutions spans the entire care spectrum - from independent physician practices, to academic medical centers, to large and complex integrated delivery networks."
Correction: GE Centricity® spans the entire care spectrum except the care part, which, as anyone who's recently been in a hospital knows, is getting worse and more expensive all the time. Tarrant's TV commercials insist that he believes "we can lower the cost of health care" - but not, I expect, at the expense of the shareholders. There are limits to "working together," after all.
In any case, Tarrant believes in anything that'll get him elected, including the complete and shameless distortion of Bernie Sanders' record, and especially the $6 million of his "own money" that he's so far popped into his campaign. And there's a lot more where that came from. Just ask GE Centricity® or any of Tarrant's neighbors in Lighthouse Point, Florida, where he keeps his primary residence. (Note to flatlanders: Florida is not Vermont.)
Now, I don't believe Tarrant has a chance in hell of beating Bernie Sanders for Congress. I don't think he could beat him in a race for dog-catcher. But the fact that Tarrant enjoys even the amount of support he does leads me to wonder if Vermont, too, is slowly succumbing to the national bamboozlement of Republican money and filthy attack ads. As of September 23, Tarrant had already "spent more money than any other office-seeker in Vermont history," according to the Rutland Herald, and he "has created more television ads this year than any other U.S. Senate candidate in the nation."
Historically, Vermont was a Republican state, but it was "working" Republican. Live-and-let-live Republican. Honest Republican - a category that no longer exists. I might even say that, in the past, Vermont Republicans were gentlemen, not dollar-drenched ex-CEOs airing TV commercials that depicted their opponents as dirty Jews in favor of child molestation.
What, do you think I go too far? Try watching one of Richie's ads with the sound off, and you'll see what I mean. Tarrant wants you to think this is a contest between Captain America and Shylock, when it's really a match between slime and a proven record of public service. You can quote me.
EMAIL THE AUTHOR  // LETTER TO THE EDITOR