by Paul Dame
Last week’s passage of S.5 the Clean Heat Standard was a demonstration of the corruption of the representative process in Montpelier. The vast majority (over 90%) of Democrats chose to listen to their party leadership and their favorite lobbying firms instead of listening to the voices of their constituents in one of the most overwhelming displays of citizen engagement we’ve seen in years.
Democrats have become emboldened to not only ignore the voices of the Republican minority, but they have now decided that they do not need to listen to the very voters who elected them to office.
Vermonters do not want to go down this road of severely punishing rural, poor and older Vermonters for heating their homes with the only means available to them. Vermonters do not want to eliminate local family-owned fuel dealers and put 100% of our energy needs in the hands of Quebec’s Gaz Metro, who owns both Green Mountain Power’s electricity company, and Vermont Natural Gas. Vermonters are independent and we want our energy options to be independent too. Vermonters do not want a new expensive program administered by unelected bureaucrats who are unaccountable to voters. Nor do they want a system which favors foreign-owned energy suppliers instead of locally owned distributors.
The fact that House Democrats claim they are taking us down the road slower than the original senate bill does not mitigate the fact that they are taking us in the wrong direction. This policy centralizes more of our energy out of the hands of local operators and into the hands of large foreign-owned corporate conglomerates.
The other aspect of the corruption of the process comes from the fact that this bill could be outright unconstitutional because it is taking away power from the people’s representatives in both the legislature and the Governor’s office, and gives that power to an unelected, unaccountable group of bureaucrats who don’t have to care whether what they are doing is good for the people of Vermont. Ironically Democrats are undermining the principles of democracy and self-rule, instead replacing it with an insulated oligarchy.
One legislator recently said they had received more email and phone calls about S.5 than any other bill in over a decade of service. The people of Vermont are doing their job: telling their representatives not to vote for this bad bill. But one has to ask, why aren’t Democrats in leadership doing their job in listening to people on the one issue they’ve been more outspoken about than anything else before?
The real reason, although they’ll never admit is, is that they think they know better than the people who write to them. The have a fundamentally flawed view of their role in Montpelier. Democrats have gotten into the habit of ignoring voices that disagree with them, calling them racist, homophobic, fascist, and many more. Too many listen only to their own party leadership’s echo chamber and ignore everything outside of. But when they ignore even the people they represent – then the system may be corrupted. I have a more optimistic view that the system isn’t corrupted yet, but some of the people in it may be. And just like a corrupted part of any system, it will need to be replaced.
As a former legislator, I completely understand taking a position because a lobbyist has explained their side to you, and it sounds pretty convincing. But if overwhelming contact from their constituents is not enough to encourage their legislators to think and act independently, voters have to ask themselves “Is there anything that WILL encourage Democrats to do the right thing in the future if they ignore us here?”
The author is an Essex Junction resident and chair of the Vermont Republican Party.