Much of what I hear these days is, “I’m gonna vote for balance. If the legislature’s gonna be Democratic, I’ll vote for a Republican governor to keep them in check.” So, say we’ve achieved our goal of stasis, defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as “stagnation, a state of motionless or unchanging equilibrium. Is this ideological stand-off in the name of balance what we really want for Vermont? ” If so, it’s been an effective strategy over the last eight years, in that little of any strategic significance has happened, other than the extension of marriage rights to all Vermonters.
Gubernatorial candidate and second in command of the State for the last eight years Brian Dubie has announced he’s going to change that and, “get Vermont moving again.” Pardon my asking, but where was this energy for the last eight years and will Vermonters give him a Republican legislature to do so? I think not.
I also hear it said that, among the six declared candidates, there is little leadership experience and skill. I disagree here as well. At least two of the candidates have records of achievement and leadership that deserve our serious consideration.
We Vermonters are by tradition wary and distrustful of risk and change. Although I understand the rationale for trying to maintain the status quo, I believe ultimately it’s as self-defeating as change for change’s sake. We forget that nothing is forever and what has been done can also be undone, except perhaps in deepwater oil drilling. The world around us is in a constant state of flux, socially, economically, environmentally, and culturally, offering us both opportunity and risk. But because we haven’t done any formal central planning in Vermont since the Snelling administration, we lack the knowledge and resources to assess risk and opportunity that could lead us to more strategic decision making. Add to this weak leadership and we’re reduced to ideological swordplay.
If history teaches us anything, this next election will determine our progress for the next eight years. Tradition usually gives Vermont’s leaders four two-year terms in office. If we had a four-year election cycle like most states, a leader would at least have three of them to plan and govern.
Finally, candidates need to talk seriously about something other than their vague promises for creating jobs. Vermonters know that governments rarely create jobs except when they themselves hire and most Vermonters agree we don’t need more government jobs. We need more effective, efficient, transparent and accountable government. We need a strong private sector driven by Vermont’s native assets guided by clear, consistent tax and regulatory policies that enable economic growth while setting and enforcing clear limits on behavior that is destructive of the economy, the social fabric or the environment. We need forecasting and planning. And, finally, we need leadership that attracts new ideas, and can find and pursue a middle way that breaks Vermont’s political logjam.
We are in control of our own destiny, but only if we engage and vote.