Before I launch into this I should say that there are several things- political as well as social (and otherwise)- that make Vermont a simply wonderful, amazing, and truly unique place to live.   I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.   Aside from our mind-numbingly beautiful surroundings, Vermonters also enjoy an almost un-paralleled amount of access to our local government, not only at the municipal level but even up to the Statehouse (even our Federal reps are fairly easy to be directly in contact with and, when they’re in the state, can be found at the same restaurants and coffeeshops as everyone else, sans bodyguards and impossible to breach handlers).   More importantly than being able to get the ear of elected officials, actually becoming an elected official is probably more possible for the average person here than most any place I can think of in the country (and on par with the best and most accessible systems in the world)- frankly, getting elected just doesn’t take all too much money and the money it does require can be raised- or overcome- by anyone who’s vision or platform resonates with the people (folk hero Fred Tuttle and Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders‘ accent to power are two easy examples).  The village of Moretown just elected an anarchist to the select board for Christsake.

More importantly, the spirit of rugged individualism that historically has shaped the libertarian mindset of Northern New England is matched quite well here with a deep- and ever-growing- social and collectivist approach that is beautifully summarized in our state modo “Freedom and Unity”.

But make no mistake, for all the good things Vermont has going for her, there are serious problems here.  Political problems.

Take, for instance, the recent efforts of the legislature to pass a law permitting same-sex couples to marry.

I’ll run past questions about how or why it’s the State’s business to control or regulate marriage (I am, after all, running past questions of how or why the State has any right to exist in the first place).  It is the nature of freedom itself to expand overtime- it always has and so presumably always will- and at this particular junction of space and time one of those newly defined rights of humanity is the freedom to marry who one wants- regardless of pre-postmodernist notions of gender identification and gender roles.  But somehow Vermont Governor Jim Douglas didn’t get the memo about freedom and equality and equal access and treatment being a good thing- and now he’s come out declaring that he will veto any same-sex marriage bills that arrive on his desk.

The real travesty here rests squarely with the Vermont press.

Plenty can (and has, even on this very blog) be said about Vermont’s Fourth Estate- from the good to the bad to the ugly.  At times visionary, at times probing, but more often complacent, short-sighted and lazy (not to mention thoroughly entrenched into the coat liner of the rich and powerful)- the Vermont press is the sole reason that we elect “socialist” Bernie Sanders year after year by sometimes huge margins while simultaneously doing the same for neo-conservative, endorses-Bush-and-McCain (and Palin!) Douglas.  The laundry list of bad moves and all-out class war (conducted on behalf of the rich and powerful) that Douglas has perpetrated over his thirty plus years in public office is far too vast to enumerate here.  Perhaps the best way to summarize the contradiction of Vermonter’s continual re-election of Douglas is to note that he successfully has cast himself in the public eye (in the minds of the voters) as a “populist”, “average Joe”, fighting for the little guy, counter-weight to greed and “politics” and the cold indifference of bureaucracy despite the fact that he has spent his entire adult life as a politician- the very face and practically definition of greed and “politics” and the living embodiment of the cold indifferent bureaucracy.

Yet Douglas continues to be re-elected, primarily because the Vermont press allows him to define the debate and set the parameters of the conversation.  In a State known far and wide as the “most liberal” in the country (a distinction which may be slightly disingenuous though if one spends even the slightest amount of time here you’ll understand where it comes from), where a socialist gets elected to the U.S. Senate, where there’s a third major Party (to the left of the Democrats), where the State Senate and House are solidly in the hands of Democrats and where every statewide office (except the Governor and Lt Gov) are held by Dems- a Bush (policy)-supporting, cut social-programs-and-give-tax-cuts-to-the-rich Republican like Douglas should be driven out of town as easily as a vampire from a garlic festival.  Douglas exemplifies everything that Vermonters don’t like about politicians, and yet he gets elected- easily- by selling himself as somehow “on our side” against, well, people who actually think and act the way he does in office.

On other (liberal and left) blogs I’ve seen a lot of reactions to Douglas’ declaration that he’ll veto the same-sex marriage act with declarations of “now the people will see who he really is” and speculation that he’ll somehow “now be defeatable” in the next election.  But here’s the reality: for at least 98% of the people who feel strongly about this issue, they weren’t voting Douglas anyway.  For the vast majority of people who either passively support or are indifferent to this law, it’ll mean nothing come election time (and the vocal minority strongly opposed to same-sex marriage will continue to vote for him no matter what- including if he allowed the bill to pass without signing it).  Most importantly, the press will not do their job and will not expose Douglas as standing in the way of what’s morally, ethically, socially, politically, or economically right (on this issue or any other).

For everything great about Vermont, there are still serious problems to be addressed.  They will not be- and in fact will just continue to get worse- with someone like Douglas leading the way.  And Douglas will be governor for as long as the press allows him to be; which unfortunately looks like it may be a long, long time.

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