Charlie Brown in Vermont and Elsewhere, (II)

by Martin Harris

Unless you’re in the US as a fresh-off-the-saucer undocumented Martian, you’re keenly aware of the substantial governance-view gap between, as the newly-dominant Left (Chicago-Left, mostly; Gentry-Left in Vermont, for example) now openly hopes, a vanishing traditional electorate composed of individual-initiative minimal-governance personal-responsibility folks, and their hoped-for new-majority electorate, composed in varying percentages of a feckless underclass dependent on (and voting for) a range of government hand-outs funded with Other Peoples’ Money; government employees similarly voting their paycheck; private-sector employees in sectors dependent on government intervention (think General Motors and the latest Federally-funded “green” widget instant-corporations not yet in bankruptcy); and, of course, the upper-income-quintile G-L’s who vote ideology over personal pocket-book (after, skeptics say, their wealth has been cleverly tax-sheltered). In George McGovern’s day, it was a three-part coalition of somewhat overlapping categories –minorities, youth, women– and now it’s a new four-part coalition comprising a perhaps-permanent Leftist majority replacing the (they hope) obsolescing Jeffersonian notions of free yeomen pursuing their own preferences for vocation and governance. Actually, there’s a fifth part, racial-loyalty voter percentages ( 93 to 6, for one such demographic) which your cowardly Humble Scribe dares not comment upon.

Against this statistically-proven background, there’s a statistically-unproveable one as well: the widespread sense, among traditional voters, that rational debate on issues has vanished, by intent of the New Majority, and that “we-won-you-obey” has now contaminated the once-sought middle ground at the national level, just as manure (in the Vermont media, coyly called compost) throwing has replaced discussion of nuclear subjects and shout-downs have been the cause of Australian balloting widely enabling traditionalist avoidance of the once-quite-amicable Vermont Town and School meetings-with-voice-votes. Equally probable, albeit unproveable, is the un-planned and un-orchestrated phenomenon of Withdrawal (Secession) petitions circulating among conservatives in all 50 States (an impotent minority in some) triggered by (ask them) a grass-roots sense of frustration, exhaustion, and futility. These are based equally on recent failures in national majority-minority accommodation regarding budget and regulation, and on past histories of promised accommodations subsequently dishonored by “winners” after the “losers” had actually surrendered some of their points: think Reagan and Bush presidencies where tax increases materialized but spending cuts didn’t. Maybe the Tenth Amendment movements and the petitions are evidence of the no-longer-gullible Charlie Brown phenomenon, the football having been removed by the duplicitous and untrustworthy Lucy one time too many. Nationwide the disillusioned Charlie Brown’s are a voting minority, possibly permanent, but presently not deeply submerged: the election results went 50-to-48, percentagewise. In Vermont, the numbers were substantively different: 67-to-31, percentagewise, in the same range as the stats for different regions of larger States: coastal and southern California vs the hinterlands and north, western Tennessee vs the east, or “down-East” Maine vs Millinocket and beyond, where the fairly close State-total results obscure the intra-State regional Vermont-like chasm between tax-and-spend Left and “leave-us-alone” (Grover Norquist and Louis Brandeis lingo) Right.

Where Progressive Left and Traditional Right are in near-balance, Statewide, majority crude-over-ride treatment of minority is possible but, long-term, unlikely; but what about such small blue States as VT and RI, where the conservatives can muster a mere 31 and 35 percent, respectively, of the electorate? The usual answers, with rare exceptions like the Ruth Dwyer campaign, have been Republican accommodation in Nelson Rockefeller mode: moderate the platform, accede to most Leftist demands, field non-challenging candidates, and for traditional citizen-taxpayer-voter types, grow intellectually and become a more sophisticated Progressive, accept continuing defeat, or depart. Your Humble Scribe can recall several instances of school board chairmen (and women) admonishing bond- and budget-resisters to “sell and leave, so that your places can be taken by more enlightened people who understand the wonderful things we’re trying to do for the children.” It’s evident in Montpelier’s raise-the-cost-of-stay actions (working quite well, stats show) aimed at a dissident middle class.

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In an alternate universe, a State like Vermont might (willingly or otherwise) enable disaffected citizens to exit the governance without exiting the State, so that they could stay and, like any passing-through visitor, enjoy the scenery without using the services. They’d have no claim on government for education, police and fire protection, or health care; government would have no claim on them for income or property taxes. They’d contract privately for whatever insurances or services they want, and (State government would like this) they wouldn’t qualify to vote in State or local elections. Unless they leave US governance, they wouldn’t escape Federal taxation, and so they’d not lose national-election voting rights. These semi-seceders could then watch the Montpelier-driven taxation, spending, and regulation, and be no more subject to it than any non-Vermont citizens visiting from Elsewhere. Yes, they’d pay sales tax on goods (and maybe, soon, services) purchased, and, like through-truckers, they’d buy a Vermont vehicle-plate, but no, they wouldn’t be forced to send their kids to a school that won’t (it could, if staff so wished) teach then to read and write competently or to buy a health-care policy under community rating rules where their premium subsidizes unhealthy behavior next town over. A detached amusement would replace enforced tax, favoritism, regulatory, and social-policy tummy-aches.

A critic of the HS alternate universe theory argues that Montpelier’s Leftists want to keep their (they hope) permanently politically-impotent minority around as a torment-target (think Nixon’s press good-bye) and maybe so. Conversely, the present move-out vs move-in pattern shows wealthier folks replacing less wealthy ones, so maybe the growth in tax revenues would trump the joy of majority-tyranny. Unlike larger States where Leftists and Rightist are geographically distinct, and physical separation is feasible (think State of Jefferson) it can’t be said any more that the once-red Northeast Kingdom, or the rural farm towns around, say, G-L Middlebury, show noticeably different voting patterns. In the last election, not a single Addison County town went conservative. All 23 went liberal, 70-to-30%. What’s the future for that 30%?