Democrats for Vermont
I read with great interest two recent opinion articles by prominent members of the Vermont Republican
Party. The articles were misleading on the facts and adversarial in tone. But in politics that is to be expected.
The bigger surprise, however, was just how starkly both articles displayed the central difference between the Vermont GOP and the Vermont Democratic Party and laid bare the clear choice Vermonters will face in this fall’s election.
Both opinion pieces — one by Vermont GOP Chairman David Sunderland and one by former gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Heidi Sheuermann — are full of negativity about Vermont and Vermonters. The writers try to paint Vermont’s future as one full of doom and gloom. An ethos of “no” is pervasive in Sunderland and Sheuermann’s writing, echoing the roots of dysfunction afflicting Washington, D.C. And despite the aversion both express to the current direction of the state, neither offer any concrete ideas or proposals.
The question I have is why is the Vermont GOP so focused on being down on Vermont? After all, many Vermont Republicans joined Vermont Democrats and Gov. Peter Shumlin in making great progress for our middle class families this legislative session.
A majority of Republicans in the House voted with Democrats to raise the minimum wage to help working Vermonters struggling to get ahead. Vermont Republicans also joined with Democrats in passing universal pre-K education, GMO labeling, a jobs package to retain and attract well-paying jobs in our state, increased funding for Vermont downtowns, expanded renewable energy investments, beefed up penalties for drug dealers and increased help for Vermonters struggling with opiate addiction as well as provided up to two years of tuition-free college for Vermont students.
Why no mention of those things from David Sunderland and Heidi Sheuermann?
The answer gets at the fundamental difference between the Vermont GOP and the Vermont Democratic Party. For the Vermont GOP, moving Vermont forward and making progress is detrimental to their electoral prospects. Their success depends on Vermont and Vermonters doing worse, not better. Their strategy hinges on more Vermonters struggling to find a job, make a living or afford things like education and health care. Success for Vermonters doesn’t fit into the Vermont Republicans’ electoral game plan.
For the Vermont Democratic Party, the opposite is true. We succeed when Vermonters succeed. For us, good policy that creates jobs, expands opportunity and preserves quality of life is good politics. Rather than seeing a political advantage in opposing progress, we see advantage in being for things that benefit working Vermonters. For the Vermont Democratic Party, the incentive is to continue taking steps forward for middle class families. That’s what drives us.
If you think about how the Vermont GOP has acted this past year, you see their strategy in action. There has been no positive agenda from the Republicans whatsoever. None. Think about it: When was the last time you heard a pro-active Republican proposal for helping Vermonters get better, more affordable health care? What’s their plan for our energy future, other than saying no to renewable energy proposals like wind and solar? Other than being against things Democrats propose, what is their plan for growing jobs and creating economic opportunity?
Politics can be cynical. You can view it as a zero-sum game where one side wins and one side loses — where one side’s success is the other’s failure or vice versa. That’s clearly the calculation being made by the Vermont GOP this election year. For them to succeed, Vermont must fail.
But there’s another way to approach things. We can be clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, spending our time and energy figuring out how to meet them head on rather than pillorying the other side just for the sake of it. In this election year, that’s what Vermont Democrats will be focused on. I hope you’ll join us.
Dottie Deans is chairwoman of the Vermont Democratic Party.