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Schubart: A Stunning Contrast

I missed the opening day of the legislature and the inauguration of our new Governor. But I caught much of it on radio and read more in the dailies.

Contrasting events in Montpelier with those in our nation’s capital should make Vermonters proud. Although there’s significant turnover and we’ve elected a Republican Governor and a Democratic legislature, we’ve every reason to believe we’ll be governed by thoughtful, mutually respectful people focused on the needs and wishes of all Vermonters, despite different philosophical and economic viewpoints. They’ll talk together and exhibit comity in their decision-making, as they’ve already done on several issues, including the clean-up of Lake Champlain and economic development.

Contrast this with the three-ring circus playing out in Washington where we’ve elected a Congress that suffers the statistical scorn of 87 per cent of us and a president elected by fewer than 90,000 of us by electoral college rules, and rejected by 2.9 million of us in the popular vote.

The new Congress seems more determined to erase the accomplishments of the prior administration than to govern. They show little regard for what Americans in general want or believe in. The haunting paradox is that so many not only elected people for a Congress they claim to disdain, but they also bought the bread and circus electoral promises of someone whose emerging agenda may in fact run counter to their own best interests.

Here at home, we’ve elected a Governor who listens to all Vermonters, and is comfortable working with people with whom he disagrees on policy. He resembles Republicans of old who put forward some remarkably progressive environmental and social safety net legislation, while remaining conservative on fiscal issues.

The state-federal contrast is stunning… and scary.

We can move Vermont forward precisely because we’re not led by single-minded ideologues focused only on the will of a disappearing base and undoing the work of a prior president they detested, even as he presided over the most sustained economic recovery since 1939.

A formal ethical resource for governing is also needed to enhance Vermonter’s trust in government. We’ll need strategic planning as well. For too long, we’ve reacted to events, letting them set our agenda. It’s time we took control by looking to the future to determine how we might make our vigorous state stronger, healthier, and perhaps even wealthier.

Bill Schubart lives and writes in Hinesburg. His latest book is Lila & Theron.
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