Politics & Policy

Rebel State

The old timers in Vermont vote to impeach Bush and Cheney.

The news from Vermont isn’t really news at all. Last Friday, the state senate came out in favor of impeaching both Bush and Cheney. While a reporter for one of the state’s newspapers called it a “shout heard round the world,” most people living beyond Vermont’s borders no doubt saw it as just business as usual, if they saw it at all. “I thought they did that already,” you can imagine most of them thinking.

But, no, that was a town meeting they’re remembering — several of them, in fact. Some people just can’t get enough; especially in Vermont, where a city-owned cable company in Burlington, the state’s largest (and still pretty small) city, provides its viewers with the latest news from Al Jazeera.

Tim Nulty, director of Burlington Telecom, said he was a little apprehensive at first but eventually decided that, “… it looks like BBC. I think it’s more mainstream and more objective than CNN.”

If the impeachment vote didn’t qualify as a surprise, it did seem a little odd that it was voted on without debate. It was purely symbolic, of course, and Bush and Cheney aren’t suddenly out hiring lawyers to handle their cases. But shouldn’t a symbolic vote like this be accompanied by robust debate and soaring oratory? Isn’t that the point?

Perhaps. But people who get their news from Al Jazeera aren’t likely to think that, when it comes to Bush and Iraq, there is anything to debate. You give him a fair trial and then you hang him. It’s like global warming, that way. The evidence is in; no debate necessary.

The outside world has gotten used to this kind of thing coming from Vermont. And the people who make politics in the state have settled into their role. A couple of weeks ago, there was a demonstration — complete with cameras and arrests — at the Burlington offices of Senator Bernie Sanders. The demonstrators were upset with Sanders’s position on the war and impeachment. He was, they thought, too soft. Only in Vermont could Bernie Sanders generate serious opposition from the Left.

Ridiculous as all this is, somehow it seems awfully old and tired. Which may also account for why there was no debate on the impeachment resolution; no ringing speeches from the floor. Everyone has heard it all before — many, many times. Like most of his followers, Bernie Sanders likes to call himself a “progressive.” And, indeed, there is a small, but robust and influential, Progressive party in Vermont. Whatever it is they call themselves, their rhetoric sounds old and almost reactionary.

The state’s population might be called “self-selective.” Hardly anyone’s career path requires that he spend time in Vermont. They come because they want to and many of them came in the ’60s and ’70s. They came, they saw, and they conquered; took over the state’s traditional Republican political apparatus and launched an experiment in expansive, nanny-state government that continues pretty much unchecked, even though the governor is a fiscally-conservative Republican.

The state is close to taking over health care with a single-payer system; spends extravagantly for education; and taxes its citizens remorselessly (only the “rich” ones, of course, for that is the progressive way).

Vermont is an ongoing experiment in the big-government, small-state model. (The foreign-policy stuff is just lagniappe and another reason, perhaps, why the impeachment resolution wasn’t debated.) It is also deeply invested in the therapeutic, nanny-state culture. Everyone has heard of the Vermont judge who sentenced the pedophile to a term that, in some jurisdictions, would have seemed about right for someone convicted of jaywalking.

The progressives, then, have had their way. And as the state leans increasingly to the Left, it also gets older. Young people aren’t coming to make macramé and change the world the way they did in the good old days. And the young people who are here leave, since Vermont is an expensive place to live. The state recently came up with a plan aimed at luring some of its young back to the state, and even gathered some 700 e-mail addresses which it could use in the campaign. The situation is that desperate.

Meanwhile, Vermont has suffered more casualties, per capita, in Iraq than any state in the union. It seems like this should have come up when the impeachment resolution was debated. But there was no debate. In Vermont, we are past that kind of stuff. Which is why nobody pays attention to us … or should. After all, Al Jazeera probably came out for impeachment, too.

 – Geoffrey Norman is a frequent contributor to NRO and editor of vermonttiger.com.

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