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Anton: Teen Insurgency

Anna Ste. Marie
Gubernatorial candidate Ethan Sonneborn was a participant in VPR's primary debates on Vermont Edition.

Ethan Sonneborn’s valiant yet ultimately unsuccessful campaign was groundbreaking, in that his respectable finish has cracked the glass ceiling of an entirely new wave of potential candidates.

Today’s young adults are directly impacted by school shootings, skyrocketing college debt and an environment that may not sustain our future – so they’re necessarily becoming key problem solvers in their own right. And some may have insights we need to transition into a safer, more secure future.

In fact, some of the most honest and effective problem solvers of any issue are found among those who’ve experienced it. Women leaders fighting for suffrage and African American leaders fighting for an end to segregation harbored a transformational authenticity.

Given the massive problems in health and welfare, education, and the economy we face today, Sonneborn’s willingness to engage was admirable, and his ideas deserved respect.

But pushback to his run was immense – mostly, as far as I could see, simply because he wasn’t yet a high school freshmen.

I was shocked when he was criticized for his vocal mannerisms in a radio interview by a caller who didn’t seem to have any ideological disagreements with him.

And countless personal attacks on his age were posted on his campaign’s social media accounts by individuals who apparently didn’t disagree with his policy positions either.

But maybe what surprised me most was how many progressives were critical to the 14 year old gubernatorial candidate, despite his declared support for many of the progressive ideals that have been a defining characteristic of our state’s political compass in recent times.

The Progressive Party controls nearly 20% of our state senate and the lieutenant governor’s office. Senator Sanders is a self-described progressive, and Representative Peter Welch is part of the House Progressive Caucus.

Progressivism itself is often described as advocating for social democracy on an economic level, mixed with liberal policy on social issues. And I find it especially ironic that Progressivism theoretically embraces the fundamental belief that identity factors like sex, race, religion or age should be irrelevant to how a society treats a person.

Ethan Sonneborn deserved no less.

Miles Anton of Brattleboro is a high school student, writer and filmmaker.
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