By Guy Page
Earlier this week, Jim Sexton of Essex Junction announced a protest gathering on the State House lawn today. In many ways it didn’t go as hoped — few people showed (bad weather, some unfavorable media coverage) and some people who did were loud, unmasked, not socially distanced, and just plain rude.
For his part, Sexton — who last month respectfully asked the State House police and Sergeant-at-Arms to remove legislators sponsoring potentially gun-confiscatory legislation for violating their oath to uphold the Constitution — was masked, thoughtful, and (as always, for him) focused on individual freedom.
“It’s pretty silly that you can’t get your haircut, but you can get an abortion,” Sexton said toward the end of this one-minute, nine second Vermont Daily interview. “It’s pretty silly that you can’t buy grass seed or clothes. It’s pretty silly to threaten people with thousand dollar fines.”
Sexton couldn’t know at the time, but his rally and comments spurred discussion at Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference, which also began at 11 a.m. Wednesday. A WCAX reporter, noting she was subbing for Avery Powell who was attending the rally, asked the governor what he thinks about Vermonters showing concern for getting the economy going. (Vermont Daily was unable to retrieve the video to provide his answer. Typically the governor has answered this question by saying he hopes they behave appropriately and that he wants to get the economy going again, too.)
Sexton’s comment about abortions also prompted this reporter to ask the governor an hour later if, due to sharply declining revenue, his 2021 budget recommendations would reduce spending for Planned Parenthood (estimated $1.4 million this year) and as electric vehicle purchase subsidies ($2 million). Scott responded: “There’s going to be a number of initiatives on the table, as we try and prioritize and live within our means and get through next year. … I don’t know which areas. There are going to be a lot of difficult choices to be made.”
That’s a careful answer, of course. But Sexton’s initiative and willingness to take one on the chin started a chain of events leading to our state’s decider-in-chief answering direct questions in front of the media and tens of thousands of Vermonters watching and listening live.
So when you see the people waving flags and yelling on the evening news tonight, just know that’s not the whole story. It rarely is. Some good civics took place today because one person was willing to stick his neck out and do what he believes is the right thing.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports.