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Sunday, Jan 16, 2022

‘Larger than partisanship’: A Vermont Democrat works with Lincoln Project Republicans to defeat President Trump

“Your daughters are listening and absorbing that message right in front of your eyes,” a female narrator says over videos of President Donald Trump belittling female reporters and political opponents. The ad, titled “Girl in the Mirror,” is one of dozens aired by the Lincoln Project, a super PAC run by current and former Republicans who support Joe Biden in Tuesday’s presidential election.

The project is led by a powerhouse team of self-identified “Never Trumpers” including founders like Steve Schmidt, who managed the late Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, and advisers like Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. To defeat Donald Trump, all hands are on deck including a Vermont Democrat’s

RC Di Mezzo is the Lincoln Project’s national press secretary, a Burlington resident and fresh off a job as the Communications Director for the Vermont Democratic Party (VDP).

Vermont politics

A 2018 St. Lawrence University graduate, Di Mezzo is young but has years of experience under his belt. He was working on the campaign of Letitia James in her successful bid for Attorney General of New York when he got the job offer in Vermont.

“There’s a natural relationship between that part of New York and Vermont,” said Di Mezzo, who grew up in the upstate town of Rome, N.Y.

As Communications Director, Di Mezzo led the party’s communications strategies and relationships with the media. “When you work for a state party, you work for all of the candidates and none of the candidates,” Di Mezzo said. This was especially true of Vermont, the only state besides New Hampshire to have gubernatorial elections every two rather than four years.  

“There is a constant and perpetual state of election in Vermont, for better or for worse,” he said. “I’ll leave that up for others to decide whether that’s good for democracy.”

Di Mezzo’s first dip into the 2020 presidential race was as the Vermont state director for Michael Bloomberg’s short-lived presidential campaign in 2020. After Bloomberg’s exit from the race, Di Mezzo went back to work for the VDP before getting a call from the Lincoln Project.

The Lincoln Project

“When you’re running against Donald Trump, you don’t have the luxury of building out a plan and just hoping that it goes well, because he’s a nightmare,” Di Mezzo said in an interview with The Campus.

Di Mezzo was first hired to cover Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Maine. Over the last few months, Di Mezzo has shifted to a more national focus. “It’s certainly a different beast than handling the press corps in Vermont,” he said.

The Lincoln Project is taking a nearly Trumpian approach to hit the president where it hurts. From their own Twitter trolling to brutal television ads to a team of founders frequenting cable news, their goal is to be visible to the President and to persuade fellow disaffected Republicans to swing over to voting for Joe Biden.

“This isn’t about policy. This isn’t about what Joe Biden’s gonna do once he’s the president,” Di Mezzo said. “This is about making sure he becomes the president and making sure that Donald Trump’s enablers in the Senate are booted out, too.”

Working with Republicans

A Democrat going to work for a bunch of Republicans and independents may seem like an odd pairing, but this job is right up Di Mezzo’s alley. Before his journey to Democratic politics, Di Mezzo grew up as a Republican in a Republican family, so he understands how the Lincoln Project is a microcosm of this moment in politics.  

“This is larger than partisanship; it is larger than one political affiliation,” he said. “Donald Trump is the single greatest threat to our country, to our democracy, perhaps ever.”

Di Mezzo acknowledges that after this election, he’ll put his “partisan cap” back on and do everything he can to elect Democrats across the country.

“But in this moment, it doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is,” he said. “If you’re against Donald Trump, you’re on my team.”

Vermont as an example of bipartisanship

Di Mezzo hopes that if the president is defeated, both parties can tone down their rhetoric and return to a sense of decency.

“Vermonters like to pride themselves on the state of their political discourse,” Di Mezzo said. “As a political communications operative, that can sometimes be frustrating.”

He says his New York style of “snark” with his criticisms of his opponents doesn’t always sit well in Vermont, as the distinctions between Democrats and Republicans are harder to identify. He points to how electing Governor Phil Scott, a moderate Republican, is only possible in a Democratic state with this type of respectful political discourse.

Di Mezzo hopes that this is the politics of the future, where “we can come together around a common goal of making Americans’ lives better, and we aren’t assuming motive, and we aren’t so quick to disagree.”

“To understand where somebody comes from and to understand what they bring to a policy debate is important, and it’s something that has been missing,” he said. “That’s the Democratic Party I hope I can have a hand in building.”

Editor’s Note: RC Di Mezzo agreed to speak with us as a private citizen of Vermont, not in his official capacity as press secretary for the Lincoln Project.


PORTER BOWMAN

Porter Bowman ’21.5 is the Senior Opinions Editor.

He previously served as the Correspondent to the Student Government  Association (SGA) and a Staff Writer for the News and Local sections.

Bowman is pursuing an International Politics and Economics major and a History minor.

During the summer of 2020, Bowman started a podcast called “Why Not  U.S.?” where he interviewed young people in their 20s serving in  political office across the country.

He also worked as a producer and researcher for “Trickeration,” an  investigative sports podcast from iHeartMedia hosted by Campus alum Matt  Waxman ’01.5.

When not watching the West Wing or finishing crossword puzzles,  Bowman plays on the Middlebury varsity golf team alongside basketball,  club tennis, and intramural volleyball.

He lost on Teen Jeopardy! in November 2016.


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