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Adrian: 2016 is Coming

Two well-known Vermont politicians looked to 2016 this past week. Senator Bernie Sanders formally announced he’s running for President. And Lt. Governor Phil Scott announced that he’s starting to think about possibly… maybe… running for Governor.

Sanders is a self-declared socialist in a nation that on the surface appears to be moving en masse to the right of the political spectrum. And as a moderate New England Republican, Scott is somewhat of an endangered species in a sea of conservative colleagues. In fact, Sanders and Scott might be described as the anti-heroes of Vermont politics – archetypes that by displaying strong heroic qualities balanced with notable flaws reflect all of humanity and therefore us.

The Senator is well known for his exuberant hairstyle, in stark contrast to the well-coifed manes of his colleagues. The Lt. Governor appears to be torn between a desire to govern and the urge to join the professional auto-racing circuit. The quirks of both men are minor, but underlie a genuineness seldom seen in the upper echelons of politics, and both men are viewed as trustworthy and consistent.

Sanders’ political positions have been mostly the same for nearly four decades. Scott has said and demonstrated time and again that he’s unwilling to compromise his values for political expediency. Both have original ideas essential to moving their constituencies forward, but their popularity can be attributed to honest predictability, rather than to questionable boldness.

The popular television show Game of Thrones is replete with anti-heroes. Despite their flaws, characters Brienne of Tarth and Arya Stark are well regarded for their moral strength and strong sense of justice. The foibles of Tyrion Lannister and John Snow give way to the notion that they are usually trying to do the right thing.

Game of Thrones is also chock full of political maneuvering and multiple layers of strategy including fragile alliances, double-crossing and deception. America is addicted to the anti-heroes and villains of Westeros appearing weekly on the small screen.

So perhaps it’s inevitable that the media, whether traditional or social, can’t seem to resist adding a hefty dose of entertainment special sauce to any political campaign - and the attendant debate of ostensibly nuanced substantive issues.

During his announcement speech Senator Sanders observed that, “Politics in a democratic society should not be treated like a baseball game, a game show or a soap opera.” But it likely will be for the foreseeable future.

How Scott and Sanders will ultimately fare is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain.

Winter may seem like a long way off, but 2016 is coming.

Ed Adrian is an attorney at the law firm Monaghan Safar Ducham PLLC. He previously served on the Burlington City Council for five years and currently sits on the Burlington Library Commission.
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