This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Historically flags were an indispensable part of military units which guided soldiers between their allies and enemies in the fog of war. The reason flags were found on the battlefield were to unite the forces of one side, and to send a signal, or a message to your fellow soldiers whether we are to advance, to retreat, or to hold the line. Flags can unite or divide — depending on the eye of the beholder.
Since flags are important symbols, the people of Barre City have decided to be careful about what they do with flags and where they put them. There had been so much conversation back and forth about a particular flag that some felt was divisive, so a second group responded with their own request to fly a different flag that united their group — but caused division among others. So the Barre City Council, with approval from the voters, decided to get away from pandering to the loudest or most active or organized members of the community and to create one simple policy regarding flags flown over any municipal property. They chose to limit their city’s use of flags to four basic options that tended to unite rather than divide. Specifically, they chose the U.S. Flag, the Vermont State Flag, their own City Flag and finally the P.O.W. & M.I.A flag.
This new ordinance would only affect the land publicly owned by the city. Every individual resident of Barre City still has the right to fly whatever flag they like over their own private property — no matter how divisive or unwise it might be. Groups can still organize and hold parades down the streets of Barre City to display whatever their flag of choice is. But the City decided, wisely in my opinion, that in those public spaces where the people of Barre come together to do something in a unified way, ought to permit only the flags that actually bring us together.
But Progressive Democrats in the legislature have now actually gone out of their way to prohibit the common sense of this policy in one of the most unique displays of absolutely everything that is wrong with their control of the legislature. In summary they have put the interests of the most extreme elements of their party ahead of a common-sense bottom-up solution to a problem that unnecessarily divides Vermonters.
Initially the proposed charter change came out of the Government Operations committee on an 11-0 unified non-partisan vote. Republicans, Democrats, Progressives all approved — including Barre City’s own representative, Peter Anthony. But the unseen elements of the Progressive Activists went in to action. On the day the bill was scheduled for a vote, suddenly and unexpectedly a delay was requested — and the fix was in. Immediately following that, the Democrats on the committee completely blindsided their Republican counterparts and came together to propose removing the flag provisions from the bill which they had just previously devoted for — with no debate, no discussion ad new additional testimony. Only the Republicans opposed this shady operation.
So the House stripped Barre City of their solution to a problem that has divided their community — because that’s better for the agenda of the Progressive Democrats. It is truly a shame that those representatives allowed their arms to be twisted on such a simple issue. Our municipal flag poles are supposed to be enduring reminders of what holds us all together — they’re not supposed to be a billboard for the political whim of the day that is driving us apart.
I still believe that if you get outside the Golden Bubble, Vermont’s greatest natural resources is our common sense — and when given the chance we will put it to good use. But the problem our state is facing now more than ever, is that we have an increasingly radical Progressive Democrat super-majority that will prevent Vermont common sense from moving our state forward — towards Freedom and Unity. They do it by getting their members to change their votes when leadership tells them to — even in Peter Anthony’s case when it violated both his own conscience and the will of the voters who sent him there. This was a particularly terrible example, but leadership has done similar things to prevent common sense reform on things like Act 250, affordable energy policies and education. Democrat representatives seem to regularly confide to their Republicans colleagues “I wish I could vote with you guys on this” — but they never do.
I hope this serves as a warning to any respected community member who is being recruited by the Democrats to run this fall. Be warned: you may need to vote against your conscience and your constituents if your party calls on you. By contrast, Vermont Republicans have a proud tradition of our members putting their conscience and their constituents ahead of the party. As Progressive Democrats go further and further to the extreme left, the pendulum for voters may be swinging in a new direction in Vermont. People who have never voted Republican in the past may considering doing so for the first time, because these “Donut Democrats” have lost the middle.