by Aaron Warner
The first bit of harsh winter weather showed up just in time for much-anticipated Let’s Go Brandon (LGB) rally Saturday in Brandon, VT. The pretty town north of Rutland saw a near freezing rain much of the day that saturated the crowd of some one hundred fifty participants.
The village green was the scene where red, white and blue clad LGB supporters were flanked by fifty or so “partiers” ensconced in the gazebo adorned with rainbow flags, political signs and loud music we’re told were not there to counter protest, although their timing and presence said otherwise.
Newly elected chair of the Vermont Republican Party, Paul Dame, himself a native of Brandon, saw this as an opportunity to take the nationally recognized LGB message and channel it in a positive direction.
“What happened today was exactly what I had planned from the beginning. We want to take the irritation people have and push it into a positive direction, and I think we did that,” said Dame, who illustrated the benefits of the day’s events for local businesses and the charity food banks.
What is the impetus behind the Let’s Go Brandon rally cry? It’s a euphemism for a more strongly worded chant (“F**k Joe Biden”) made popular around the US in football stadiums, music concerts and even food courts in malls. The spirit behind it is critical of the Biden administration for a variety of reasons. The mishandling of energy policy that cost American’s jobs while increasing prices at the fuel tank, the Afghanistan withdrawal that stranded American’s behind enemy lines while turning over billions of dollars of American armaments to sworn enemy the Taliban, and the attacks on healthcare workers, who were last year’s heroes for fighting the SARS-COV2 virus yet this year’s pariahs if they don’t want to get the experimental vaccine, also costing thousands their jobs. Biden currently has the lowest approval rating in US history.
LGB attendees came from as far as New York City, Maine and Rhode Island to stand in accord with LGB. Two young men visiting from a nearby university wanted to listen to what the speakers had to say. Tom, a computer science major, and Jacob, a finance major, seemed to echo some of the concerns raised by the LGB movement. Both volunteered having been vaccinated against SARS-COV2 yet feel the requirement for Americans to do so is a violation of basic human rights.
They also expressed dismay that conservatives seem to be targeted for violence and intolerance from the party who claims to be tolerant. They cited a young Republicans event sponsored on their campus received threats of violence to the point of death for those wanting to share their party’s political views.
One attendee expressed grave concern that American is headed in the direction of communism. Having grown up under it in his native Romania, Victor listed that absence of respect for basic laws and law enforcement, as well as growing control over one’s political speech on social media as elements reminiscent of those used in formerly communist Romania.
“They want to keep you poor,” he exclaimed is the aim of communist regimes. “This is how they maintain control”.
Standing in the gazebo next to the competing sound system was relatively new Brandon resident Joseph Collier. Collier moved to Brandon about four years prior with his spouse where they are raising their young family. Collier, who explicitly stated to me his group’s presence with BLM, rainbow Brandon pride, and F**k the GOP signs was “not a counter protest”, smiled widely despite the lackluster weather. Collier, a classically trained opera singer, carries an impish bellicosity as I try to dialogue with him about his group’s purpose for holding a gathering on the same day, at the same time, in the same location.
“We’re here to celebrate Brandon. Anything else isn’t worth talking about” his voiced raised to carry over the exceedingly loud Van Morrison song otherwise drowning out all ambient noise. Within moments it was clear, despite his claims, his motivation was to disrupt the LGB event.
When asked about his thoughts on the current state of the nation, the concerns expressed by the LGB crowd and the growing discontent among Americans who were told they voted in record numbers for a president who now has a record low rating in less than 10 months in office, Mr. Collier is skilled at deflecting my inquiries. The conversation is forced and uncomfortable like the weather. When asked how this not a political counter point Collier gleefully obfuscates then admits to gas-lighting me.
In his defense he mentions his willingness to let Dame and company use a pop up tent to keep their gear from getting wet. He also boasts his merry-makers raised over $1,000 for the Vermont Food bank. All this despite parading into perceived hostile territory and, at one point in the evening, getting shoved around by a man who raised issue with his party’s tactics.
“It’s their right to express themselves,” Collier says without a hint of irony given the chicanery.
Clearly, by nightfall, mother nature was refusing to be a party to either campaign, and both camps packed up early. However the two hundred or so participants either went home or hunkered down for some local dining. I took my bodyguard (re: wife) into the Ripton Mountain Distillery where I was able to ask the locals a few questions as well as a nice couple who’d made it all the way from western Massachusetts.
Dianne and Gary are recently retired after forty-five years running a sheet metal business. Dianne refers to their area as “the valley of the liberals”. Gary nods in agreement while sipping on a beer. When asked about their reason for coming they recount a bygone Sara Palin rally they attended in Boston some years back. Both make mention of the local professors sending students down to harass them, similar to what they felt happened here in Brandon.
“When we left there wasn’t a wrapper on the ground, not one piece of garbage,” Gary announces pointedly. “Not like these BLM riots where they’re burning down cities, and leaving garbage everywhere”. Similarly cheerful like Mr. Collier, Gary’s face shows his years stretched out under his Vietnam Veteran ball-cap.
Dianne asks if I know who Howie Carr is. I do. Apparently Dame was on the Howie Carr show the night before, and Gary and Dianne seem to the type to always be up for an adventure. As they finish their meals, they bemoan the polarizing methods of modern media to divide everyone, as they speak fondly of their liberal relatives who live up the interstate in the town of Williston.
“We just can’t talk politics with them,” she says as matter of fact. “We all love each other and get along just fine, but if anyone starts talking politics it gets real quiet, so we just don’t talk about those things.” I ask if they’re staying with relatives that night and they say they’ll be staying in Brandon.
Equally non-plussed by the current president and the tactics of their liberal neighbors, they explain how they don’t feel they can speak freely about their political views for fear of retribution. Dianne recounts an incident following the Palin rally where their business was targeted by their neighbors who knew they had gone.
“They told people not to do business with us,” she states somewhat sadly. After forty-five years of working with metal, she probably doesn’t need to be told the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Although these days the squeaky wheel might lead to a grease fire.
Though not a classically trained political meteorologist, I think this seems to be the current climate. If the left and right can agree on anything, it’s that the climate, like the weather in Brandon, can use a change for the better.