By Don Keelan
The Vermont Republican Party has a long way to go before its flag graces the top of the “political mountain.” And based on recent events in Burlington, Vermont Democrats could see their flag replaced.
An event took place at the Echo Center in Burlington on Nov. 29 through Dec. 1, sponsored by the Sanders Institute. According to a report in VTDigger, “For three days, left-leaning leaders from around the nation have come to the Queen City for ‘The Gathering’ at the behest of the Sanders Institute, a progressive think tank founded Jane O’Meara Sanders.”
I wonder if any of the “leaders” attending took the time to visit Ms. Sanders previous undertaking, Burlington College?
If the mainstream Democratic Party is near the center of the political spectrum, what took place in Burlington a few weeks ago can best be described as extreme far left-leaning, bordering on socialism. Speaker after speaker promoted the idea that the government owes its citizens free health care, free college education and a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour, if not a guaranteed income. These demands are on top of insisting that there be free food, heating fuel, clothing, and housing available.
And while the progressives are pushing relentlessly for the above, they have also added to their platform that the billionaires pay the cost to reverse the damage done to the world’s climate, as well to the injustices created by a corrupt judicial system that promotes racial injustice.
While none of this is new, what is new and should be alarming to the Democratic Party is that many of its members are moving over to what is known as the progressive movement. This is especially true for those Democrats who have recently been elected to positions in the legislature and individual state offices.
The Sanders Institute knows that Vermont is a small state and change can be made here that can resonate throughout the country. While officially he is not a part of the Institute, Sen. Bernie Sanders is its unofficial spokesperson. It was no coincidence that he was chosen to be the event’s keynote speaker.
For now, Sen. Sanders is the pied piper of the progressive movement. There are others who are in a race to outdo what he has consistently advocated for the last 40 years. A close runner-up would be fellow Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. A newcomer looking to plant her flag on the mountain is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, congresswomen-elect from New York City. She, along with her city’s mayor, want to push the agenda for the movement beyond that of Sanders.
At one time, these progressive wannabes considered themselves Democrats, but not any longer. They want to be at the forefront of this elitist movement. And isn’t that what it is, a movement spearheaded by the country’s elitists?
Based on the spirited and vocal reaction the Sanders Institute gathering received from leaders of Vermont’s African-American organizations, I may have been premature in suggesting the requiem for the Democratic Party. My rethinking is based on media coverage given to the black leaders’ comments about how they were excluded by the Sanders Institute’s gathering.
Patrick Mcardle, reporting in the Dec. 4 Rutland Herald, noted Tabitha Pohl-Moore, president of the NAACP’s Rutland Area Branch, comments, “(she) called the forum an ‘elitist event’ that excluded Vermonters who worked diligently with marginalized people to create Vermont’s reputation as a progressive state.” Frankly, I am somewhat surprised over the reaction of the Vermont organizations that were excluded from the three-day conference.
For nearly five years the Sanderses have placed their focus on the national stage. And to stay on the stage they don’t require the assistance of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools, Social Justice Center, Justice for All, and a dozen more of the organizations that signed off on a letter of protest that appeared in the Rutland Herald. Billionaire donors and Hollywood notables are what the progressive movement is seeking.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.