by Meg Hansen
What compels one to elevate his amour propre by tearing down others of whom he knows nothing? Bill Schubart formerly chaired VTDigger’s parent organization, admittedly votes for Democrats, and can afford to retire in Vermont. As a self-professed opinion writer, he deigns to read right-leaning Vermonters so that he can cultivate informed views. Yet, all his pontification about the right entails straw man fallacies and a distorted rewriting of the state’s political history.
A web of anti-growth policies have caused systematic de-industrialization (walk around Springfield and Windsor for a glimpse of the devastation), driven out businesses and created crony capitalist monopolies (e.g. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont), and hiked up real estate prices so that there is a perpetual scarcity of affordable houses and near-absent homeownership for the non-wealthy. The left’s six-decade governance of Vermont has borne these fruits.
– Meg Hansen
How many Republican town or county meetings has Schubart attended in the last decade? How many right-of-center grassroots advocates does he know? What conversations, if any, has he had with mom-and-pop business owners, truck drivers, and working class parents that do not vote as he does? Only one with no grasp whatsoever of the right in Vermont would call it a “ragged remnant.” Visiting websites is no substitute for heart-to-heart conservations with Vermonters whose aspirations and concerns are ridiculed or ignored by the chattering classes. Rather than misrepresenting in order to malign, as Schubart does, I urge the Reader to employ the “steel man” technique and consider the strongest form of the right’s positions.
1. Climate change denial is a straw man; the disagreement is over climate alarmism.
While mild climate change has been demonstrated, there is no evidence of catastrophic climate events from anthropogenic causes. Alarmist scenarios, such as the world ending in twelve years, originate from computer models that have failed to predict any catastrophic occurrences. It is easy to post-dict events but earning credibility requires the accurate prediction of climate catastrophe.
Further, climate alarmism conflates all human impact on nature with pollution. The right argues for improving livability and preserving the environment through development. Technological advances enable us to minimize air, soil, and water pollution as well as maximize safety from severe weather – making the world cleaner and safer.
2. Every living US citizen should be able to vote once in an election.
While the talking heads obsess over rights, they overlook the requisite other half – responsibilities. JFK, an independent-minded liberal, challenged us to ask what we could do for our country. Indeed, the right to vote comes with the responsibility to vote. Voting enables American citizens to elect our representatives in our constitutional republic. It is the only avenue through which hundreds of millions of citizens that possess no public platform can make their voices heard. Safeguarding every US citizen’s vote informs the right’s desire to fortify this unique political mechanism.
3. The right advocates for struggling Americans.
Compare the biographies of state legislators on the right versus the left. The right in Vermont represents the struggling middle and working classes by advocating for prosperity. It does not appeal to bureaucrats with cushy state-related employment, the lingering remnants of Big Business, or wealthy retirees and trust fund beneficiaries – thus explaining the right’s minority status. Why portray the goal to uplift American citizens as an anti-immigrant stance?
Vermont is not limited to the growing northwest region of the state. Southern Vermont (my home) and the Northeast Kingdom have been languishing for years. Don’t blame the weather or geography. Alaska, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming are predominantly rural and colder than Vermont, yet these states have thriving economies and record high in-migration. A web of anti-growth policies have caused systematic deindustrialization (walk around Springfield and Windsor for a glimpse of the devastation); driven out businesses and created crony capitalist monopolies (e.g. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont); and hiked up real estate prices so that there is a perpetual scarcity of affordable houses and near-absent homeownership for the non-wealthy. The left’s six-decade governance of Vermont has borne these fruits.
4. Prejudice knows no political party.
The former Waterbury Public Library Director, a white woman, sent me an unsolicited email in which she lauded herself as an ally to people of color, while berating me for having failed my kind. She added that I am unfit to run for public office. Recently, an editor at the Bennington Banner called me a “dangerous” murderer of millions who does not belong in Vermont. His note is tantamount to a call for violence against me. Neither is a Republican.
The Governor’s 2020 primary opponent ran with a lieutenant governor candidate who stooped to sleazy smears because I am not a “native Vermonter.” The Governor’s proxies were not far behind. The RNC Committeeman went beet red in the face and verbally assaulted me for asking him to clarify a professional conflict of interest. It is wrong to paint vast swaths of the population with the same brush stroke of bigotry. Damaged people can be found across the political spectrum. The charge lies not with entire groups, but with the individual who should be held responsible for his/ her behavior.
5. Conservative politics is as old as the hills in Vermont.
Division amongst Vermont Republicans is not a new phenomenon, and that the left has used it to its advantage is not new either. Historically, the pro-growth, conservative Proctor wing and the anti-Proctor wing (known as the Aiken-Gibson wing after World War II) were mired in internecine conflict. The latter was named after left-leaning (“progressive”) politicians George Aiken, Ernest W. Gibson, and Ernest W. Gibson, Jr. Many Vermont Democrats supported the Aiken-Gibson wing and used the open primaries system to defeat Proctor wing candidates.
Members of the conservative Proctor wing played an indelible role in shaping Vermont. Erasing these formidable actors from history to uphold yesteryear’s left-wing Republicans as the only legitimate political right is biased revisionism. The right in Vermont has never been a monolith and has always included conservative intellectual thought and grassroots advocacy. No amount of hateful harangue, fear mongering about bogeymen, or assault from the left and left-leaning GOP politicians will ever delegitimize or deracinate it from the Green Mountain State.
Meg Hansen is a writer and former executive director of a VT health policy think tank. She ran for state-level public office in 2020.