Two Competing Visions

by Tom Licata

“Historian Henry Steele Commager asked how it was that the British colonies in North America could have produced such a galaxy of leaders: a generation that made a revolution and established a new and enduring nation. In talent, he argued, the leadership rivaled that of the Athens of Pericles and the England of Elizabeth I, a florescence of wisdom, character, virtue and vision that has not since been equaled. …

In our time of [economic] crisis will another generation bring forward men and women of the same métier as those of the Revolutionary and Second World Wars? The answer expected is a red-blooded Of Course We Will! But the culture of palliatives – – in which virtually all minor encumbrances of imperfect health, physical and psychological, can be erased by drugs, in which most avenues of advancement rely less on the actions of self-reliance than upon the legions of aids (human and material) that are gathered to smooth their way, … this is not a culture that cultivates the qualities most needed.”

So there you have it. Two paragraphs from the most insightful op-ed I’ve ever read (“The Anxiety of Influence” by Josiah Bunting III, WSJ, July 3, 2006).

The economic and social events unfolding before us are increasing in speed and intensity, as we witness economic turmoil upstaged by social upheaval. Yet this turmoil is merely a symptom in what will likely become the most divisive battle since our nation’s Civil War. And this war will be elusive, as the color of one’s skin is more identifiable than the true content of one’s character. In his superb book, “The Battle,” Arthur C. Brooks outlines this war:

“This is not a fight over guns, abortions, religion, and gays. Nor is it about Republicans versus Democrats. Rather, it is a struggle between two competing visions of America’s future. In one, America will continue to be a unique and exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations. … This is about whether America will move toward social democracy (aka democratic socialism) like many other developed nations, or remain the America of entrepreneurs, individual opportunity, and limited government.”

The necessary gradualism toward democratic socialism (think “fusion” progressive/democratic Chittenden County State Senator Tim Ashe) has been ongoing in Vermont for more than a decade, and its speed and intensity increased with the election of Peter Shumlin and an overwhelming democratic socialist legislature.

Traditional democrats (think Grand Isle County State Senator Dick Mazza), whose values are in the free enterprise system, haven’t fully distinguished their values from their “fusion” progressive/democratic rivals, as traditional democratic party faithful continue to gullibly fuel the fire that is Montpelier’s socialist ruse. Electing “progressive” democrats over “free-enterprise” republicans, Vermont’s “traditional” democrats scratch their heads in bewilderment as they continue to vote party label over party values.

In Vermont, this adult conversation of gradualism, from democratic capitalism to democratic socialism is often quickly extinguished as derisive; ridiculing anyone or any institution who dares to expose these political and economic realities.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks volumes to these realities, this from his Wikipedia page: “Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist and has praised European social democracy.” Bernie, one of the three Presidential electors for the Socialist Workers Party ticket in 1980, is an influential standard-bearer to what is now Vermont’s “fusion” Progressive/Democratic Party.

Will Vermont’s current “galaxy of leaders” bring forth the “culture that cultivates the qualities most needed”? Do they not represent the “culture of palliatives,” relying “less on the actions of self-reliance than upon the legions of [government] aids”? Do they not stifle merit, free enterprise and individual opportunity for the sake of their “bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations”?

Whether Vermont and America continue to move toward coercive democratic socialism or return to our Founders’ vision of a free people and a meritocratic society, is before us.

Tom Licata is the President of Vermonters for Economic Health