Hansen: The Fine Line Between Making History and Trouble

By Meg Hansen

In 2022, Vermont will become the last state in the nation to send a woman to Congress. We are finally ready to elect a two-year term Congresswoman (we weren’t in 2006 when the choice was between Democrat Peter Welch and Republican Martha Rainville). As for electing a woman to a six-year stint in the upper chamber, that is a bridge too far.  

Meg Hansen is a writer and former leader of a Vermont health policy think tank. She serves on the Board of the Ethan Allen Institute. She ran for state-level public office in 2020.

Following his retirement, Sen. Patrick Leahy’s seat will be open after 48 years. Octogenarian Sen. Bernie Sanders naturally believes that 74-year-old Congressman Welch should succeed Leahy. But why have Vermont Democrats acquiesced? So long as it is politically advantageous to “Elect Vermont [Democratic Party] Women,” we are besieged with slogans of gender equity and equality. When a once-in-generation opportunity arises, however, women are told to set their sights low. Welch’s electoral popularity and $2 million war chest are insurmountable, period.

That no woman is willing to challenge Welch in a primary ought to dispel any illusion that Vermont is a progressive-left state that champions diversity and inclusivity in politics. The crux here isn’t about the blatant hypocrisy; it is about maintaining hierarchy. Former lieutenant governor David Zuckerman recently lamented, “The frustrating reality is that, in the past, the successor for high-ranking elected officials has often been predetermined by those in power through using a small network of powerful people and money long before the general public even starts to pay attention.”

That small network of king and queen makers has decided that Welch will be essentially crowned. In contrast, a slew of women will compete with lieutenant governor Molly Gray, who recently announced her candidacy, for a seat in the lower chamber. The days when women could only speak when spoken to may be gone, but the era in which women only act as allowed is alive and well.

I am unfamiliar with the practice of requiring permission to pursue my dreams. So, I can only imagine how astute candidates may be reassuring themselves that six years will fly by. What’s six years in front of forty-eight? Vermont women will still make history next year, that is, make history without making trouble. Note that women of center-right political persuasions do not figure in the aforesaid history making calculus. Independent and Republican women do not count to Vermont PBS, VPR, and sundry left-wing activists because our voices undermine their professed monopoly on women and “Vermont values.”

So Few Republican Women in Office

An unprecedented number of women serve in Congress and state legislatures today, but they disproportionately belong to the Democratic Party. In the 117th Congress, women make up 40 percent of House Democrats and 32 percent of Senate Democrats, whereas they account for a mere 14 percent of House Republicans and 16 percent of Senate Republicans. There are 13 Republican women in the 150-member Vermont House of Representatives and none in the 30-member Senate. What explains this disparity?

1. Aversion to Identity Politics

We, on the center-right, as voters and candidates, find ourselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, we do not wish to elect a candidate solely on the basis of gender. We want to judge and be judged on merit. On the other hand, we understand that being a daughter, sister, wife, and mother shapes a woman’s identity and worldviews in diverse ways. A woman’s lived experience informs how she understands problems and shapes the solutions that she proposes.

We can strike the right balance by prioritizing competence, while acknowledging that women bring unique perspectives and make invaluable contributions to public service. Electing principled, capable, and compassionate women is not an exercise in identity politics.

2. Lack of Financial Support

Women and men are equal partners in the human experience. Both deserve equal opportunity to succeed in politics. Left-wing groups like Emerge Vermont locally and EMILY’s List nationally have been enormously successful in recruiting, training, and raising money for female candidates. (EMILY is an acronym for “Early Money Is Like Yeast” – it raises the dough). Similar resources for Republicans are scarce because the right-wing establishment has not made electing women a priority.

3. Grand Old Boys’ Party

Across the nation, women recount the obstacles and abuse from insecure members of the Old Boys’ Club who insisted that they were unelectable candidates. In deep red states, women are accused of not being conservative enough; in deep blue states, they are maligned as too conservative. The political right tolerates misogyny.

At least one Vermont Republican who is considering a 2022 congressional bid will not run if the Democratic Party nominee is a woman. Is it any wonder that such easily threatened men would kneecap talented women on the right who dare to seek higher office? To be sure, well-adjusted Republican men have long served as strong allies and mentors to women in politics.

An uneasy mix of ambition, opportunism, and genuflection-on-demand forms the currency in Vermont politics. Women who wish to bring transformational change by serving in public office can either obediently wait their turn or trouble-make their own way.

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14 replies »

  1. If the VTGOP has not made electing a woman as a priority, this is another opportunity. Democrats decry the fact that Vermont is the only state to have not sent a woman to Congress. Vermonters did show that we put party over principle when we all had the OPPORTUNITY to elect a fine woman with impeccable leadership qualities, Martha Rainville. Meg, if you run for Senate, we will have another chance to reorient our priorities. I will also resurrect my slogan that I had a hand-made sign of when Welch ran against Rainville: “Congress needs another woman, NOT another lawyer”.

  2. Why are we falling into this trap?

    I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman. I don’t care what skin color you have. I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care if you’re a religious zealot or a heathen. I don’t care whether or not you’re a lawyer.

    I care about your policies, why you hold to them, and your ability to be an effective manager.

    Martha Rainville would have been a great representative. But not because she was a woman.

    • I always favor qualification over petty “victimhoods” but the demoprogs have established victimhood and intersectionality over merit so the game rules have been established toward that end to some extent. If the VTGOP runs a white man against any of the house candidates, it will be a waste of time and money. That is the petty status of elections in any state run and mostly-inhabited by ignorant liberals.

      • Re: “I always favor qualification over petty “victimhoods”…

        Listen to what you’re saying. You not so much as make the statement when you contradict it. So, because everyone else drinks the Kool-Aid we all should do so?

        What will determine someone’s candidacy as a waste of time and money will be based on their platform, their ability to communicate, and their ability to manage.

        The irony is that, not only are we dictating that men (and of course we mean old, fat, bald, ‘white’ men, right) shouldn’t run for office, we’re insisting that men now have to declare themselves as women to participate in just about anything – so they can use the lady’s room? So, they can play in woman’s sports? So, they can run for political office?

        No, I say. Just say no!

        If someone’s sex (or sexual preference), or skin color, or age, or spiritual preference, determines whether or not someone’s candidacy is a waste of time and money, the resolution is simple. If the choice is to compromise our principles to justify spending the time or the money on a lie, don’t invest the time or the money in the first place. To do otherwise is to demonstrate that the Kool-Aid crowd is in the right.

        If we can’t stand on principle, we can’t stand. That’s the choice we have to make. My choice, to paraphrase Charlton Heston, when it comes to my Liberty, it will be taken away – ‘only out of these cold dead hands’!

  3. Well, I guess I miss the point. As a Black man who’s a conservative, I disagree wholley with this premise. I tried, last election to reach out to the VTGOP told them “I am a male Candice Owen” all that she has gone thru I too have been subjected to here in VT. Still ignored, never even got a callback. They say “Black lives matter”, to who? Not liberals or progressives, I say this from experience. If you can do the job then fine, color or sex does not matter, but the VTGOP is VERY selective in that they get what amounts to RINOs who are looking for the big payday . I am willing to step up and represent ( which is what you are supposed to do in politics, not lead) but have no money and no support because I am a whistleblower, honest, uncorruptible and what amounts to a headstrong Vermonter. I don’t ask any of these people for permission to do anything. I want to help, I am not asking. I go out in public and tell people how they are and have been lied to. It has been , here in VT, the bigotry of low expectations for quite some time. Not just for blacks but all races and incomes and sexes especially two groups,Foreign and home born(native) Blacks. The elites here ( all politicians and there fans) who DECIDE what happens including letting NON citizens vote to destroy our way of life. Too many of you are too worried about making some payment that you can barely afford or getting approval from some person who really just looks down on you as a “poor unfortunate soul”. Too many want something and are unwilling to FIGHT for it, to not back down, to sacrifice what they have. Remember the wise words of Janis Japlin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”n Well people have you lost enough yet?

    • Where u at???? I want to catch a beer (or a hot chocolate) with you……I’ve been through hell at a former job where the gender discrimination & sexual harassment was so severe over such a long period of time, I actually became physically ill though thankfully once I managed to extradite myself from that hellhole, I eventually recovered. These lunatics who have infiltrated VT society, culture, & now Montpelier et al – aren’t seeking “equality” or “diversity” or any of the other superficial, self-righteous verbiage they collectively fabricate in their quest for this New World Order they believe they will be dominating and the leftist dystopia they are creating.

      I love Candace Owens; possesses exceptional intellect & is so articulate. Like your Janis Joplin reference too….! Keep up the good fight and sadly a genuine fight is what this will eventually come to. Yet “fight to the death” many of us likely will. Give me freedom or give me death & all that….New Hampshire license plates kick it: Live Free Or Die. I’m at the age – while much younger than the walking corpse in the W.H., I’m nonetheless old enough to do just that: Live free or die.

  4. Yes, Ms. Hansen, sexism is very much alive and well in Vermont and thriving within both parties from the right to the left. If you happen to wish to take a quick gander at the Dec.
    10th discussion on this site, you’ll find that not only is the democrat/progressive party eager now to legislate legal prostitution here in VT, but so do, it appears, many of its devoted male followers citing reasons such as “what’s the worst that can happen?” as well as the twisted notion that prostitution is merely but another facet of “free enterprise”. There is no regard for how this has historically detrimentally impacted women by either lawmakers or their devotees no matter how much testimony or factual data is presented.

    We have had candidates of color run for elective office on the Republican ticket as well as women, and both are repeatedly defeated in favor of your aforementioned white, male, powerful politicos. Needless to state this goes on simultaneously as these hypocritical ideologues denounce societal racism & sexism.

    Should you choose to run again, I’m certain you will encounter support you might not have found last time around; needless to state though, we still have that pesky problem of probable voter fraud here as well.

  5. I would love to see you run again, Meg. I think the above commenter is right. You will find more support than last time. Whoever runs for the Republican ticket, needs to not wait to get their name known but get it out there now. Someone from the Republican side NEEDS to run for Leahy’s seat and if Welch is going to run, someone Republican NEEDS to run for his seat. Let’s get our leaders set and their supporters getting the word out.

  6. Balint….a woke nightmare. Gray….at least seems somewhat qualified, but look at her website….like reading People magazine. Hinsdale-Rahm….just scary. For the love of God, someone with kitchen table common sense and grounded in reality, please run.

  7. Well I, for one am sick of the identity nonsense but I suppose I have to capitulate and agree that these ladies are right. We should stick with our gender and ignore all the boring stuff like, you know, competence, history in the state or proposed policies.

    As a man, I I will only vote for males in future. I think they will provide a “unique” perspective. Just as unique as the whining we hear from the wimmins.

    Incidentally Margaret Thatcher was disowned as a “woman” because, your know, reasons.

    It’s all BS.

  8. Vermont was a much better place when the legislature was made up of mostly farmers and regular people who returned to their job after the legislative session was over. Just look at the condition of this state now that these SJWs, lawyers, career carpetbaggers and lefty moonbats have invaded our once self reliant, free state. The voters are to blame for buying the snake oil elixir being sold by these political, showcase, virtue signaling victims of life. Only a few things are needed to straighten out this mess. If we are electing people to represent Vermont’s people and it’s, issues why do we allow political outside money to control our elections. Corrupt political campaign money should be banned as well as universal mail in ballots and dominion counting machines. Only hand counts should be allowed and candidates with common sense. Until these few things happen, nothing changes.

  9. I don’t care what race, religion, gender, color or creed you are. As long as you support God, family and strong conservative values I will vote for you! Many disgruntled ex-Liberals like myself are done with the status quo!

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