This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
This weekend Republicans held our biannual Platform Convention and had one of the largest turnouts we’ve had for a platform convention in years. Since I took over as Chair I wanted to create a more open process that allowed more people to get involved, and this weekend proved those efforts to be successful. We started back in December taking input from people around the state. Then we assembled a platform committee with representatives from every county and various different work and life experiences. The group met almost weekly for two months and reviewed our existing platform, and also considered over 120 suggestions from the public — many of which encouraged us to stay true to language that had been fought for in previous years. So our committee took those inputs and produced a draft platform that Republicans can stand on for the 2022 election.
There were a few challenges to the platform before it was ultimately adopted. The most contentious challenge to it was an effort to kick certain people out of the party who did not hold perfectly on one particular point of it. I was encouraged to see that an overwhelming majority of my fellow Republicans rejected this approach which would only make our caucus smaller and weaker. As a former legislator myself I know one of the great reliefs to me of being a Republican is that our party has always encouraged the freedom of its members to vote in the interests of the people they were elected to serve, and to their own conscience.
This was important to me because in my mind it illustrates a clear and fundamental difference in the way that Republicans and Democrats live their lives individually and run government corporately. Democrats want to impose uniformity through mandates and bans. Republicans want an environment of free exchange where we let the best ideas win on a level playing field. If anyone wants to elevate one particular part of our platform above the other measures, we encourage them as Republican to make their case with logical well-reasoned arguments and speak one-on-one with their legislator, not to use heavy-handed impositions and threats like the Democrats do with their members. In the end that is the way we need to make lasting and effective change.
Three other changes were made which I think clarify and affirm the positions of Vermont Republicans. The first was to repeal the Military Pension Tax. This is something Republicans have been working on for a while and were almost successful last year garnering the support of the Governor and even the Lt. Governor. The second was to clarify that we support the Constitutionality of ensuring that the right to vote is granted to citizens and not to foreign nationals. The third was to advocate for the protection of healthcare workers not to be forced to participate in procedures to violate their consciences.
In the end every Republican voted for the platform as it had been amended. Not everybody got everything they wanted — and that’s probably for the best. But we worked together as Republicans from across the state to reaffirm the things that bring us together as Republicans, with the freedom for our candidates to be more specific about their individual positions on issues that aren’t covered in the party platform. But our platform covers a lot. You can read it for yourself on our web site but the main planks include:
1) Personal Liberty and Responsibility
2) Economic Freedom and Opportunity
3) Responsible and Responsive Government
4) Safe & Health Community Environments
5) Quality Affordable Health Care
6) A Well-Educated Citizenry
These are the things that every Republican can agree on, which Democrats have largely rejected either in principle or in practice. We have had our discussions; we’ve made our decisions and now is the time to take our message to the four corners of the state. As I said on Saturday this platform serves as our job description for the open positions in the state house. We welcome anyone who wants to work together with Vermont Republicans to advance these principles to join us and consider volunteering or running for office. I don’t know if there has been a better opportunity for Republicans than we will have this year.
Already we’ve seen more interest and competition in our statewide offices than we have in years past. Less than 10 years ago we almost didn’t have a candidate for Governor a few weeks before the filing deadline, and this year we already have at least three primary races for statewide offices. After we adopted our platform on Saturday, we held a luncheon where we heard from each of the six candidates in a primary who had already collected at least the 500 signatures they will need to get on the ballot.
But while we are off to a good start — we are a long way from the finish line. There are still only 24 days left for candidates to come forward and to get the signatures needed to get on the ballot for House & Senate races — as well as statewide candidates. There is a lot of work to do to recruit candidates who want to advance our platform and help them get on the ballot and also win in November. So let’s get out there and keep building and growing our party and bringing in more people to help volunteer or become candidates themselves so that we have a strong hand in the law-making process after the next election.