Bucknam: Vermont Republican revitalization

By Deborah Bucknam

After the American Revolution, less than a dozen Americans, alarmed about the impotence the Articles of Confederation, began communicating with each other by letter and in person about transforming the confederation of American states into a national American republic. Such an idea was a radical one, since Enlightenment political philosophers had forewarned that democracy was only viable in small states where the people could speak with their leaders face to face. Those communications were the beginning of the second American Revolution which, in a few years, resulted in the ratification of our American Constitution. At the time these conversations began, the vast majority of Americans, including most state leaders, were hostile to the idea of a national republic, but the bankruptcy of the Confederation, the strength of those Americans’ ideas and their perseverance resulted in the first national republic in the history of humankind. 

Michael Bielawski/TNR

St. Johnsbury-based attorney Deborah Bucknam

A similar series of organic communications, on a lesser scale, is happening today among Vermont Republicans, made easier by electronic communication and social media. These conversations are attracting those who are weary of politicians’ disdain for ordinary Vermonters and their families, appalled by the erosion of foundational American principles, and concerned for the lack of respect for all Vermonters. 

Vermont Republicanism is the ideal forum for these discussions. The Vermont Republican Party was founded by those who abhorred slavery and believed in the inalienable rights of every individual. Thousands of Vermont Republicans paid the ultimate price for their convictions. It is no coincidence that the Republican Party in Vermont remained unassailable for 100 years, and strong for nearly a half century thereafter. The “mystic chords of memory” of those ultimate sacrifices shaped the Vermont political landscape for well over a century. 

These communication among Republicans center around renewing the Vermont ideals of individual and family over group or government. Based on my communications with these Vermont Republicans, here is what I see as an emerging consensus: 

The Vermont Republican Party 

Pride in Vermont Republican Party heritage. These Republicans know that the Vermont Republican party is the party of faith, family and freedom—faith in the good sense and kindly nature of our fellow Vermonters, faith that Vermont families know what is best for their children, and faith that every Vermonter has the inalienable right to freedom. 

Dissent and discrimination 

Respect towards every Vermonter, no matter what he or she believes. These Vermont Republicans welcome dissent and disagreement, and understand freewheeling and robust dialogue is the foundation of a vibrant democracy. They abhor silencing, shaming and boycotting dissenters. They believe that all Vermonters want what is best for our country, our state, our communities, our fellow Americans and our children. These Republicans believe we all only disagree on how to reach those goals; therefore we all must discuss with each other the best way to reach our common goals. 

These Vermont Republicans believe that it is the individual, not what group or tribe the person belongs to, is of paramount importance. 

They believe that public policy should be based on empirical evidence, not on rigid and unyielding ideology or pressure from the powerful and well connected. 

They believe that all Vermonters, not just the powerful and well connected, must be able to influence the governance of our state. 

Compassion for kids and families 

Republicans in this group are either pro-life or pro-choice when it comes to abortion. But they all agree that unborn children deserve, if at all possible, a chance at life. They advocate policies that prevent unwanted pregnancies and help mothers who are contemplating abortion to be able to choose the option of life for their unborn children without fear or shame. 

They believe that kids deserve to remain with the families they know and love, if at all possible. They support policies that facilitate family solutions to child abuse and neglect. They believe in supporting families in financial crisis and those families struggling with addiction. 

They believe that a child deserves the kind of education which best fits his or her needs and talents. They believe children and their parents should be able to choose that education, because parents, not the government, know what is best for their kids. 

They support policies that keep kids away from drugs, both legal and illegal, that affect their brain development. 

All hands on deck against the opioid crisis 

These Republicans believe that the opioid crisis is a cancer on Vermont families and on our state. The government’s focus on legalizing a mind altering drug and drug treatment for addicts rather than a robust prevention program, they believe, is disastrous for Vermont children and families. 

They believe this crisis needs strong and sustained leadership from both parties to prevent this scourge from spreading.

Faith in individual Vermonters to do the right thing in their businesses and in their communities 

These Vermont Republicans believe that the vast majority of Vermonters conduct themselves with honor and integrity when it comes to their business, and that Vermonters do not need to be “protected” by the jungle of regulations that impose unnecessary burdens on businesses, and tip the scale in favor of well-connected big business. They agree that regulation is necessary, but there are too many unnecessary regulations which impede our young people and new entrepreneurs from gaining a foothold here in Vermont. 

Government reform and renewal 

These Republicans recognize that Vermont’s bureaucracy is bloated and needs reform. Even though Vermont has nearly twice the number of government employees per capita as New Hampshire, the system works poorly for Vermonters. Although the state is small, it is nearly impossible to reach anyone in state government directly by phone. And, in this age of digital communications, it is actually harder to obtain needed help from Vermont government than in the past. These Republicans believe a robust review and overhaul of state government operations is badly needed. 

These Republicans believe that all politicians and bureaucrats need to be held accountable, no matter what party. 

War on the poor and middle class 

These Republicans agree with Democrats and Progressives that we need to bring our children home permanently to Vermont so our beloved state can grow and prosper. These Republicans believe that the policies enacted by Democrats and Progressives do just the opposite, and amount to a war on the poor and middle class. Fostering individual enterprise and achievement by allowing Vermonters more freedom, they believe, is the avenue to achieving our common goal. 

These are exciting times, with intellectual ferment and spirited discussions going on among Vermont Republicans. It is the beginning of a rebirth in the Vermont Republican Party, and ultimately, of Vermont itself. 

Deborah Bucknam is a St. Johnsbury-based attorney and former Republican candidate for state attorney general.

Images courtesy of Vermont Republicans and Michael Bielawski/TNR

11 thoughts on “Bucknam: Vermont Republican revitalization

  1. No doubt, this modern age has brought us innovations that permit better communication of ideas and beliefs, but the opposition has them as well. Not only that, but they also have the media that muffles our sounds and magnifies theirs. Conservatives are systematically censored on those platforms that hold themselves out as being open to all points of view. We must do something more radical than they do or we will not beat them on the current playing field.

    It is imperative that we show the world that each one of us are real Republicans who do more than just talk the talk but walk the walk. We cannot live on what we were in the past, but we will live or die on what we show ourselves to be in the future. That will take time, effort and courage, sometimes one contact at a time, but we have two years until the next election.

    Those Republicans currently in office who do not live up to the ideals of our party must be replaced. We also must challenge and defeat the liberal Democrats with people who have wisdom, high morals and ideals and who understand the high purpose for which they were called. That is asking a lot, but a lot is at stake. If we succeed, the disengaged Vermonter will then have something true to believe in, will vote, and that will translate into success in 2020.

  2. in the last election the game plan was for all to see, every media outlet in the state also adopted the DNC platform, which had nothing to do with Vermont. There was no counter from the Republican side that addressed any of the concerns, to the average person.

    Take minimum wage. Our side says we’ll lose jobs (true) Many unskilled workers will not be hired (True) Vermont economy will collapse (mostly false, we will suffer).

    Democrats say it’s a living wage. (True) People in the minimum wage category think Republicans don’t care about the poor and don’t want them to earn more money (false).

    Vermont has had one of the highest minimum wage in the country for decades. We have one of the highest minimum wages in the world. Our current minimum wage is higher than 96.7% of all wages in world. We are automatically in the top 3% of all wage earners.

    So what’s the problem? We’re unaffordable. Our inflation in Vermont with respect to our wages is making us poorer rather than better off. Housing, education (primary and secondary), healthcare and transportation are through the roof, they are also the big crony capitalist, good ole boy controlled industries and organizations in Vermont. THAT’S our problem and Republicans have the only answer to solve it. If you say the classic answer…..smaller government…no Democrat will listen, because it’s a trigger word that automatically means people will freeze, people will starve and you won’t get their vote. NO Democrat will ever vote for somebody who preaches smaller government, it just won’t happen.

    If you show them, affordable home owner ship on minimum wage, better education, college education for 70% less,, healthcare that’s better and costs half as much, 5ompg cars that cost $7500 new…..you might get a vote every time. You just raised the standard of living for every single Vermonter, you were green, you provided better care for the sick and elderly. You just beat every DNC division point by doing a better job and adhering to every bedrock conservative principle out there.

    You just healed our state and brought people together on common ground. You did it by not fighting. You did it by not calling people names. You loved your neighbor, you brought joy to politics, you brought peace.

  3. The downfall of VT started in the 60’s when I-91 was built allowing the Flatlanders to invade with their signs “Take Vermont Forward” along with Philip Hoff (MA). He desperately wanted to transform VT and did, followed by squealing Dean (NY) and then et al. VT was great for a 100 years, it took Liberals less than 25 to ruin it. Actually they have been here 50 years, the last 25 has been established as status quo socialists.

    These Flatlanders came from forward states of MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ to escape that ideology to transform VT into a sad state of affairs which they came from with their mega bucks to buy much cheaper properties.

    I proudly back then displayed a bumper sticker “Take Vermont Back” and got many positive waves.

    • You forgot ONE Big Disaster in your list Tom, Madd Kunin first Way left woman and eurotard born ijit who expanded the “Flatlander Policy’s” to
      the new majority Flatlanders who moved in with her. She even prompted
      some otherwise sane conservative voters (mostly women) to vote for her.
      My Mom being one of them. We had many a augment over her
      choice on that one. Mother eventually saw the error of her decision and
      didn’t vote for her after the first run.

  4. Since the state GOP lacks the media mic, exactly how do you broadcast that the new and improved GOP is putting its pieces back together after falling off the wall to champion what the article discusses? How do you begin to capture the hearts and minds of the masses in a substantive way?The current Lords of the Manor are in an enviable position because they have no one in their face requiring any explanation for their policies. Those conservatives in congress need to step out of their comfort zone, put on the gloves, show you can walk the walk, challenge the media to represent conservative viewpoints, and never let up.

    • You’ve got a prime hurdle for us all to review and understand. All the media in Vermont is controlled, none of it really independent except for a few local papers.

      Facebook will censor and keep anything from building, they did it this past election to Keith Stern. Twitter will be no better. We started a platform but it needs support from people, Citizen Reports. Front Porch Forum will not work, they coordain people by location and delete opposing views.

      We need to go old school. Build a group, an assembly of people and use phone and email. We need to build it to 1,000 people minimum , 10k ideally.

      We have to have rallies across our state, supported and coordinated. We have far more in common with democrats and republicans than anyone wants to admit.

      We all want equal pay for equal work. We all want to stop the opiod epidemic. We all want to stop/reduce unwanted pregnancies. We all want liberty. We all want good education, well paid teachers. We all want good jobs. We all want affordable home ownership. We all want to be able to protect ourselves and families from crime. We all want to end racism.

      Those of the DNC, leftist persuasion, not liberals or democrats do not want to solve these problems or work together. They want these as divisive points, argued at a point where people can’t find common ground, keeping the division. Ideally they want to convert our constitutional republic to a democracy which transitions to socialism. Or in Vermont’s case go directly to socialism.

      Some “press organizations” are complicit in the this plan, by censor and topic.

    • I’ve been saying this for some time and agree with you. How are you going to counter the left wing media influence that’s prevalent in Vermont? Many escapees from the urban liberal states are living here now listening to VPR and NPR subsidized by the taxpayers. I travel the state and can barely find any conservative radio. Older VT voters are still believing that mom and dad’s Democratic party is the same old JFK party of long ago. Even that party had a less than honorable history. Am radio stations have signed on to the PC leftist mantra in most cases or they broadcast sports. Even WDEV has folded to leftist programing.

      In central Vermont, WSNO used to broadcast afternoon conservative talk shows now all gone. The only way available to find conservative anything is on the internet, but that requires effort as opposed to just turning a radio on. Our governor, a republican in name only is not a conservative leader. He has brought about the demise of the veto power of his office.
      Three of the larger taxpayer funded schools now fly the Black Lives Matter Flag thus turning those schools into a political indoctrination center for the next generation of activist voters.

      I could go on but the point is that unless the message gets out to mom and pop small town voter nothing is going to change. Our Government is under the control of people who were not born here. I didn’t say all but 23 out of 30 senators are from some other state and have no historical connection to Vermont. Couple that with the fact that they are also ideologically and ego driven to prove that they know how to live your life better then you do. They also know how to make you safe and instill a belief that the planet is dieing and they will heal it if they can get more money from people who are already tapped out. The answer is in the message and how to spread it. That is job one. How do people think that President Trump won his election? It was his message. Like him or not, he got his message to the voters and he won. The people of Vermont are ready for a new message. We just have to figure out how to get it to them.

    • David: the small group of men who changed the direction of the country had far larger hurdles. No email, no social media, no computers, no copy machines, no way to get together except by horse over terrible roads. So, it can be done.

      • there are good points to both. Our ancestors were much better educated about history, general workings of man. They were educated in the classics, they read the bible, they knew the difference between a democracy and constitutional republic.

        It can be done. However, Trump didn’t win his home state, he didn’t win Vermont. If we use the same words, it literally triggers people and they can’t think. I have friends who will physically shake upon a discussion about Trump. This part of our land scape we have to understand, long term we need a better education system or there is no hope.

        If we say Carbon Tax bad, to someone who’s been taught for 22 year the world is going to end, you lose them. Republicans are inherently good stewards of the land and frugal, using less fuel (carbon) is just common sense. The DNC crowd has us arguing on points where there is no common ground and it keeps us separate and our citizens lose the most. Being a good steward of the land is an enviable goal.

        Our platform was in line with every conservative principle and gave up nothing. It was also welcome in the most liberal of groups. You can say deregulate and nobody will listen,, if you say change zoning laws so we can build affordable homes for $600 per month, EVERYBODY signs on the dotted line.

        On EVERY argument point between republican and progressive, you can win votes from both parties if you don’t fall for their trap, it’s their only strength, because their arguments and goals are not stated. They don’t want peace. Ultimately they have very weak sauce, the heart of the their organization is not true, they don’t care for the poor, they like getting rich off the poor, huge difference. If you call their bluff, they have nothing to stand on.

        If we are fighting, than they are winning, they will win again.

        • Neil, No where did I say use Trump’s message. I said get our message out to the voters who are not hearing anything except the liberal mantra. If you don’t counter or fight them at their own game, how will you beat them to win votes? Your friends who shake at the sound of Trump’s name are never going to be persuaded to change and they aren’t the ones to reach out to. If you read what I said it’s get to the voter who is ready for change but no one has told them what the change is and that there party has left them. Also there are thousands who don’t vote because of apathy or ignorance. What we do here is preach to to people who are mostly in our court. By not expanding that court we stay where we are. Develop a winning message and get it out otherwise nothing happens.

  5. Let’s hope for the state’s sake that the RINO’s are in the silent minority from now and we get an elected official at the top of the party who represents the Republican platform and is not indistinguishable from the Democrats and Progressives. Until that happens the party is just the GOP in name only.

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