Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
Thursday night Vermont Republicans from all across the state gathered together, in-person and un-masked, to celebrate the 70th birthday of Gov. Jim Douglas. For many it was the first time that life seemed “normal” in the last year and a half. Over 200 people gathered, mingled, sat down to eat together or stood around sharing a drink. We made small talk, saw old friends, and met new ones.
In one night we both looked back, and thanked Gov. Douglas for his time being the standard bearer for Vermont Republicans, we also had a chance to look ahead past the pandemic from which we have just emerged. Seeing Governor Douglas and his former Lt. Governor Brian Dubie side-by-side again was a comforting reminder that it was just six elections ago when Republicans held the top two statewide seats. A few elections before that we also controlled the House.
It was clear last night that Republicans wanted to get back to normal in more ways than one. While the promise of recovery from the COVID pandemic was being fulfilled last night, many are still looking forward to the day when a greater degree of sanity leads in Montpelier. Allowing foreign nationals to vote, defunding police departments, adding abortion to the Vermont Constitution, these things that were completely unthinkable 10 years ago have become the focus of the Democrat’s veto-proof majorities.
Meanwhile the common-sense pragmatic warnings of Republicans have gone ignored. Our State Employee’s Pension fund is severely underfunded, Act 250 continues to stifle the growth of business outside Chittenden County and education property taxes continue to explode, despite fewer students in our public school system.
But we can’t move forward by looking back. We have to set our sights on the road ahead and roll up our sleeves to do the work, put in the hours and create the conservative infrastructure we need to continue to get Vermont back to normal. The only way to do this is that every Republican reading this — and I do mean every one — has to make a commitment to make a difference by doing something different. If we all keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 10 years, we’re going to keep getting what we’ve had.
It means people who have never volunteered before — they must put in the hours to help their candidates and their party. It means that people who have never donated before — they must become donors. This means that people who have never run for office before — they must become candidates.
It also means that the people who spend most of their time complaining — they must instead become constructive. It means that people who always tear down certain Republicans — they must instead become promoters of the Republicans around them. It means the people who want to kick out certain Republicans and make our coalition smaller — they must instead become recruiters of the next generation of Republicans leaders and voters. It means some people have to stop saying “you should” and start saying “I should.”
One person can’t do it alone. A small group is going to have a small impact. But if we can work together in a way we haven’t before we can be successful. Just as we all survived COVID by making sacrifices, looking out for others, and doing things differently, so too we can turn the tide on Vermont politics by making important but necessary changes so that we can end this Leftist Lockdown of our state and move Vermont Forward.