This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
It has long been said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Democrats are now proving that even in the quaint settings of our beloved Green Mountains, the sense of entitlement to power is leading them to abuse the super-majority entrusted to them merely because they are feeling threatened by the minority of the Vermont Progressive Party.
A few weeks ago both I and the executive director of the Progressive Party in Vermont were invited in to testify on a miscellaneous elections bill. The first version of the bill would have prevented candidates for office from getting cross-party nominations. This was a clear attack on the Progressives, and if left in tact it would have eventually led to the death of the Progressive Party in Vermont.
To maintain a major party status Progressives need their candidate to get at least 5% of the vote on a statewide office. Currently they do that by both Doug Hoffer and David Zuckerman running in the Democrat’s primary, and then also getting the nomination of the Progressives. While at the moment of this writing that provision appears to have been removed, the Democrats have already shown their cards. They want to eliminate their competition, and they are willing to use the power of their super-majority to whip votes and make it happen. The fact that the Progressives make up the smallest minority in the House is of no concern to them. Luckily they didn’t have the votes to do that – at least not yet.
What they are still going to do is to stop Progressives from choosing to list their own party ahead of the Democrat’s on the November ballot. It’s always been a little bit of inside baseball in the political realm to care much about which party gets listed first – but Democrats are feeling so threatened by Progressives that they are seeking – like an irritated sibling – to throw in an elbow where they think they can get away with it without too much blow-back. But they will be coming back for more. In the meantime their are going to enforce their hierarchy that their side will be Democrats first, and Progressive second – no exceptions.
Democrats are unwilling to debate Progressives in the marketplace of ideas — so they are seeking to use the law to restrict their competition. Democrats are playing a dangerous game, where they want to capture the votes of progressive-minded voters, but secretly don’t want true Progressives to actually share any of their power.
But it may already be too late. The 2022 primary saw the candidates who were the most Progressively-aligned win all of the primaries, and the old school Democrats were completely shut out. Even now the Democrat’s super-majority is so massive, with so many new faces, that they may not even fully realize how many Progressives are hiding behind under Democrat clothing. Former progressive leaders, like Robin Chesnut-Tangerman were able to get on the general election ballot listed only as a Democrat, despite being the Progressive Caucus leader a few years ago. Democrats in leadership have to wonder where his allegiance truly lies – and the allegiance of many other newer members.
With the Progressive Party officially opposing this bill, many like Chesnut-Tangerman will have to decide if they are going to stay true to their ideals. Will he side with the Progressive Party which gave him his start – or will he turn heel on them and stay loyal to the Democrats who gerry-mandered his district for him, and gave him the financial support to win back the seat from Republican Sally Achey? What about the other new elected-as-Democrats who don’t have much of a history with either the Progressives or the Democrats? Will this naked power grab and unsportsman-like conduct put a crack in the foundations that has joined Progressives and Democrats over the years?
While there are plenty of substantive policy issues that Republicans and Progressives don’t agree on, here on the issue of fairness in our elections, we both have a mutual interest in ensuring that Democrats do not abuse their super-majority to prevent their power from being challenged (from the far-left or the right) in a way that threatens or undermines our democracy or limits the freedom of choice and freedom of expression.