The chair of the Vermont Republican Party has doubled down on her unabashed support for President Donald Trump, penning a blistering critique of his opponents that seems destined to deepen the ideological divisions within the struggling state party.
Deb Billado’s message, sent last week in the party’s official newsletter, derided the president’s critics as “left-wing hatemongers” and a “mob of hate-crazed, fear-driven people who have become deranged” because “crooked Hillary Clinton” lost to Trump. Billado described the president as a “principled man” who “can’t be bought.”
She suggested that former special counsel Robert Mueller was merely a “figurehead” whose “feeble” congressional testimony proved he “barely knew what happened in the investigation and obviously was not the person directing” it. She wrote that instead of blasting Trump for his efforts to solve the crisis at the southern border, Democrats, if they were patriots, would work with him to solve it.
“We know they are not capable of that,” Billado wrote. “Surely makes an observer think that they must hate America.”
Some elected Vermont Republicans immediately distanced themselves from Billado's comments.
“This is not the tone or example we should be setting in Vermont and is an example of the divisiveness that's hurting the country,” Rebecca Kelley, Gov. Phil Scott’s spokesperson, said in a written statement. “Governor Scott is committed to increasing the civility of our public discourse and treating all with respect, even when we disagree.”
Sen. Corey Parent (R-Franklin) tweeted that he was disappointed in Billado’s diatribe.
“Our country is deeply divided and the email sent out only seeks to gain cheap political points based on that division,” Parent wrote. “It’s time we all do better.”
Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) tweeted that she expressed to Billado her “disappointment and frustration.” She posted a link to a piece written by Kenneth Hersh, president and CEO of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, in the wake of the mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. Scheuermann tweeted that she was struck by the “stark difference in message & tone.” Hersh’s message, she wrote, was “Dignified. Unifying. Inspirational.”
Billado said she had received several messages of support for her piece in recent days, and dismissed the criticism with, “That’s politics.”
“I’m doing what I believe my job is, and that is protecting Republicans,” she said. “The Republican Party’s mission is to get Republicans elected up and down the ticket.”
Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) said he understands that Billado has a “very fine line” to walk as party chair in the current political climate, but he thinks the state party would be well served to focus on its core mission: Vermont.
“There is such a battle going on right now about the Trump presidency that I think many elements of the party are forgetting that the main role of the state party is about electing Republicans to the state legislature,” Benning said.
The state Republican platform of limited government can help address issues such as increasing property taxes and health care costs, unfunded state liabilities, and Vermont's slipping credit rating, he said. But stoking divisions within the party makes it hard to keep those issues front and center.
“The shrillest voices are engaging in their self-confirming enclaves on social media, and those folks do not, in my opinion, represent the mainstream of the Republican Party,” Benning said.