What Happened to Vermont?

Mariano Navarro is a Vienna-based consultant currently working on projects in the Middle East and North Africa. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a doctoral candidate at the University of Leiden.


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Two hundred and twenty years ago last Friday [March 4], the U.S. Congress ratified Vermont’s petition to become the fourteenth state in the American union. Becoming part of the young republic was an auspicious beginning for the small state as it joined others in history’s greatest experiment in self-rule and human freedom.

Unfortunately, the Green Mountain State—and, some might argue, the rest of the United States—long ago forsook these principles. In fact, for many people, one of the greatest historical mysteries is how a rural, agrarian-based and solidly Republican New England state became so radically left-wing.

Why have liberal-Left politicians—like Congressman Peter Welch (D), and Senators Patrick Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I)—been so successful in a state that for more than a hundred years was characterized by fierce independence, rugged individualism and a home-grown style of Republicanism?

The answer isn’t as simple as some think. Contrary to popular opinion, Vermont was not taken over by Hippies during the 1960s. While they certainly contributed to the counter-cultural “feel” of the state, many of them left after only a few winters. Many of those who stayed eventually chose to shed their tie-died rags, start businesses and become part of small-town life. Only a stubborn few chose to retreat further into the woods.

But other groups—like the intellectual and managerial elites who David T. Bazelon in 1967 called the “New Class—also began to move to Vermont. Lured by teaching jobs, a nascent high-tech industry and the possibility of leading a more bucolic existence, they arrived by the thousands.

Over time, these “urban refugees” realized they could easily join school boards, run for office and re-create Vermont as a modern-day Utopia. (Bernie Sanders and former Governor Howard Dean formed part of this wave of newcomers.) The reserved and taciturn native Vermonters were simply overwhelmed by this tide.

Other seismic shifts took place at the same time which facilitated the development of a liberal-Left ethos that dominates to this day. For example, the election of Democrat Phil Hoff as governor in 1962—due primarily to the unpopularity of the Republican incumbent—ended 108 years of Republican domination. Hoff’s election ushered in a six-year period of centralization, bureaucratization and government planning.

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  • kblink45

    Colorado is following Vermont. I have lived here for over thirty years. I can remember when Colorado was safely Republican. The last gubernatorial election was lost by the Republican party when they nominated a derelict. I hope we don't do the same thing as a nation in '12.

  • Judy Ariel

    As a Vermonter by birth born to Vermonter parents with roots going back 5 generations (or more) all I can say yes, this is true. This regression into government-regulated-utopia from what was once a proud and independent (and tolerant) people has been painful to observe. Since the re-apportionment was before my time I did not realize how much we had been done in by an activist Federal court over-stepping States Rights when they ruled one town-one vote to be a “violation of equal protection under the 14th amendment.” One more instance of the 14th amendment being used outside its proper limits to restructure America. Another misuse of the 14th amendment is the “anchor baby” situation for illegal aliens. God bless America.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    "Under federal orders, Vermonters voted on a plan to move from a 246-member House (with one vote for each town) to a 150-member House (with membership in accordance to population)." Government, the treacherous servant, the dangerous master, should forever be stultified in its operation. This kind of "order" from the federal government to a sovereign State should have been rejected out of hand, fought in the streets, in the mountains, and in the fields if necessary. That kind of direct democracy is a significant danger, a lethal danger, and it is what allowed the Rajneeshis to wrest political control in tiny Antelope, Oregon – soon after, known as "Rajneeshpuram."

    As for the "gentrification" of Vermont on other grounds, it is a sad testimony to the apathy of people who prefer to mind their own business and not mind other people's business. It demonstrates how the genes of a once free people have grown pale indeed.

  • vermonster

    what this article doesn't point out is that much of the influx was by trust fund babies who either don't have to work or they inherited mummy and daddies summer home. Several of these are currently using up oxygen in montpelier. It is ironic that this utopia that they are after often mirrors the New Jersey communities they came from. Visit Manchester sometime and you'll get it.

  • happyVermonter

    "…the small state’s… political tradition was embodied the same spirit of liberty, freedom, and independence which had inspired the American Founding" is still here, alive and well. now we're rejecting the corporate-controlled monster that the US republican party has become.

    • Lynn

      Another factor that has influenced the move of ex-urbanites to move to Vermont is the tax structure. Taxes as my accountant said," are a preserve wealth system." How it works: people with money move to the state, often spending less for a larger home than what they left (usually paying for with cash)and despite the millions in their personnal asset column, they are granted Act 60 property rebate money to help them pay their property taxes. All the while the young family with two working parents and a mortgage are paying full boat. The result: few younger people, more retirees, more health care costs= an unsustainable tax system and society mix.

      • VTWoman

        Except Vermont is not a cheap place to buy home, so I'm not sure that your theory holds true. What I have seen happen (especially recently) is that once children leave the home and the parents retire, they sell their large home, buy a very tiny condo in VT, and buy a much cheaper, much larger home somewhere else, like Florida. They make that place their primary residence, then they can get cheaper everything…insurance (car, home, and health), and come here to VT for half the year.

    • Linda

      The big "corporation" you and I need to fear is BIG GOVERNMENT in Vermont and Washington, D.C. and the United Nations that is working through our politicians to deprive us of our Constitutional RIghts.

  • VTWoman

    Vermont was radicalized in the 1960's read this article…among other things, the first explosives that the Weather Underground used were from a granite quarry in VT…Communes also sheltered Black Panthers and Weather Underground folks on the run…
    http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=2008gr

  • Senior Rocker

    About a week ago, the Burl Free Press published my letter wondering how we could put up twenty plus windmills in the Lowell Mt. area without harming wildlife and the environmentbut we cannot build the Circ Highway as it would harm wildlife and the environment. Curious isn't it? Now that the Conservation Law Foundation (Boston yuppie lawyers)has moved in, we are a test state to see how far they can push our citizenary around. With this last election, I am far from optimistic to see what Vermont is rapidly turning into. The flatlanders have moved in and said '…what a lovely state to live in. Let's change it."

  • Stormin Norman

    In the early 60's this was all transpiring as said,as a vermont sportsman prior to the 60's we were welcome to use the land in the waitsfield area because we purchased from the local merchants,as the 70's came we were no longer welcome,we intern thought haphazardly it was the flatlanders moving in,my brother was a prior state Game Warden and he made mention of the fact that the landscape for sportsmen was indeed changing back then,now years later I came to realize what I was witnessing!As our older population dies off they even become more intrenched(flatlanders that is ) we need to pay attention to whats going on and take an active interest.(voting)