John de Bruin: Citizen protest and the effect on Vermont lawmakers

Editor’s note: This commentary is by John de Bruin, founder and director of 802VT Alliance. He is a resident of Mt. Tabor.

We have all seen it on TV, heard it on the radio, maybe you have even participated in a citizen protest rally or two of some kind yourself — American citizens have been granted the right to assemble and to let their voices be heard. The First Amendment of our Constitution gives us the authority of free speech as well as the privilege to use it anywhere at any time.

Lately it seems the radicalized left has decided to push back against our First Amendment right and violently oppose free speech. They fight on any subject or anything they don’t agree with. The unfortunate part of this whole scenario is that some of these left wing radicals also happen to be elected officials. One recent example of this was Vermont Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, who during public testimony concerning S.169 (gun purchase waiting period), stifled free speech by demanding that people stop waving small American flags. The House of Representatives also tried to silence free speech in the chamber by attempting to pass a law forbidding Vermonters from “outbursts” during a public session. They attempt to stifle free speech by holding “closed door sessions,” or by hiding important issues deep inside another, unrelated bill, such as placing language restricting hunting in a bill protecting wildlife.

John de Bruin

John de Bruin

Think about where that leaves the majority of center- and right-leaning citizens. Do elected officials seriously believe they have the authority to silence the majority? Any group wishing to assemble at the Statehouse must jump through hoops in order to be given a permit to assemble on property the taxpayers pay for. If your group is considered a “public nuisance” in their eyes, your protest will not be allowed. That’s a violation of our First Amendment rights.

Let’s jump back to the dark days of 2018, when Gov. Phil Scott demanded that the legislators put gun bills on his desk because he felt “concerned.” His concern stemmed from a foiled single person incident at Fair Haven High School. He was bound and determined to make the people of Vermont pay the price for the actions of one person.

Protest after protest formed in every corner of the state, as thousands of people rallied against the proposed gun bills. Dozens of videos were posted, and dozens of pro-gun articles published. Ultimately, legislators and the governor chose to ignore the wishes of the majority and pass three of the first-ever gun laws in Vermont. They chose to restrict citizen rights instead of protecting citizens — the exact opposite of what the people demanded.

Apparently 2018 set a precedent for things to come. There have been many public protests concerning various bills presented for debate during the 2019 session, and many more expected for the 2020 session. There have been bills such as total abortion rights up to full term, carbon taxes, more anti-gun restrictions on law abiding citizens, and adding more business restrictions with additional Act 250 regulations. All these bills have something in common — they have been protested by the general population of Vermont, yet supported by progressives.

At this point I just smile when I hear of a group organizing a protest somewhere in this state. I would never try to discourage them in any way, but the reality of their efforts escapes them. Granted, Vermonters have always exercised their free speech. During a public gathering they display signs, voice their concerns, write a thousand letters, swamp the switchboard with phone calls and send hundreds of e-mails — but the reality of it is that the efforts will be in vain, since lawmakers have already made up their minds on the bills they are seeking to pass.

So how much effect does protesting really have? Simply put, very little to none at all. It seems to me that not a single effort by the citizenry of Vermont has made enough of an impact to sway legislators from their destructive agenda. No amount of argument has been successful, and it never will be, as long as liberals and progressives are in power. Legislators sit for hours while listening to testimony, not because they want to but because they have to, according to law. They are unmoved by facts and will vote to go forward to pass dangerous bills into law. What Vermonters want is irrelevant to them.

At the end of the day, does protesting have any effect on what the dome-dwellers do in Montpelier? You can protest until you drop to your knees, you can talk until you are blue in the face, and you can hold up signs on the Statehouse steps for months. When your arguments fall on deaf ears, you have lost the battle; when a left-wing bill becomes law, you have lost the war.

Does protesting do any good? The answer is a big, fat no. I would never discourage people from protesting against dangerous bills, but I base my opinion solely on what I have seen and experienced. Bottom line: we talk, and they choose not to listen.

The only solution is to let your voice be heard at the voting booth. Vote out the enemies of free speech. Vote out the violators of the Constitution. Vote out those who violate their oath of office. Vote for conservative, Republican or Libertarian legislation, where values are important, fiscal responsibility is encouraged, and smaller government intervention is applauded.

Image courtesy of John de Bruin

8 thoughts on “John de Bruin: Citizen protest and the effect on Vermont lawmakers

  1. The majority will only feel pressure to heed the advice of the minority when the disparity in their numbers is narrow. So, there is a simple solution to this problem on November 3, 2020.

  2. John, you stated, ” Ultimately, legislators and the governor chose to ignore the wishes of the majority and pass three of the first-ever gun laws in Vermont.”

    If they did defy the wishes “of the majority”, then why were they all re-elected? If there is a moderate to right silent majority in this state, why do liberal/socialists continue to be elected and control the legislature?

    Sounds to me like people the moderate – right leaning Vermonters are not showing up on election day. Shame on them.

    • John LaBarge to answer your question “why were they all re-elected?”: Have you ever heard of voter fraud? Yes it happens here in Vermont, more then your can realize. College students who aren’t Vermonters voting here and in their home state and people who have a place up here but don’t live here who votes by absentee ballet ..That’s how they keep getting relected. oh they want illegals to be able to vote too..

      • Many races have gone uncontested for lack of an opposing conservative candidate, so the opposition wins by default.

        We must give the people a choice by putting forth a candidate, then that candidate must run on principles of founding that voter recognize as in their best interest.

        Avoid issues that force the voters to choose sides, there will be time to deal with them after we are elected.

  3. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    C. S. Lewis

  4. John, your observations illustrate the reality of life in Vermont and it is sad those sent to represent us do not understand their charge. The fact is they do not understand our founding principles, so they are easily distracted from their responsibilities as legislators because of that ignorance.

    Most of them behave like zombies wandering aimlessly in search of a good cause to hang their hat on, consequently that makes them easy prey for the power brokers that control their activities. Why else would a global climate crisis become their obsession.

    For some time now I have believed our state has been placed under a spell, or what I call “The Curse of a Benevolent Cause”. This is when we prioritize work for a good cause, only to find the effort we make has bad results in other areas of our economy effecting all of us in a negative way.

    In large part I believe legislators justify this by a balanced budget rather than measuring it to a standard of founding principle that recognizes its impact on all individual Vermonters. But worse than not measuring their efforts against a standard of principle for everyone, they frequently seek to favor of one group above another distorting our founding even more.

  5. All 100% true. As long as they are allowed to possess power, leftists will consider themselves the moral authority on everything. They must be removed from having any ability to control our lives or property in any way.

  6. Protest all you want, however, if you have an issue with pending legislation, you’ll be ignored if you oppose it. Further, all who support will be picked up by limousine and driven to Montpelier.

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