Explaining Politics

It’s never easy. Especially in a democratic system of government, whether it is working on all cyclinders or a royal mess.

Democracy is “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.” For those still hung on “We’re a Republic, not a democracy” a Republic is “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them,” so it’s still a democracy. There are several types of citrus fruit, but they’re still all citrus.

The opposite of democracy is where government is not by the people. Aristocracy, plutocracy, auotcracy, and, our current very real risk, kleptocracy. Kleptocracy is “a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.” Clearly our current cacaphonic administration is doing its best to establish a kleptocracy. Trump et al is like the Sopranos, but nowhere near as smart.

There are several kleptocracies we can view at this point in time. Russia is the top of the heap, along with North Korea, Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, Turkey and more. Once a democracy is “drowned in the bathtub”, as our anti-tax fellow citizens loved to say, and replaced with a kleptocracy, the road back to democracy is not guaranteed, at least not in our lifetimes. Especially if the kleptocrat is clever, like Putin.

In Russia today there is no free press, there is no authentic voting, and there is no Rule of Law. For this piece I’ll define Rule of Law as we are all equal under the law. In Russia the Friends of Vlad get away with murder (literally) and those not his friends get life imprisonment, or they lose their business (which is then given to one of the Friends of Vlad), for trumped up charges. The path back to the all too brief Spring of a free Russia is difficult to discern.

Some say we don’t have the Rule of Law either. Just look at the recent events, not to mention the long term events from our entire history, that led to the Black Lives Matter movement. And I get the objection, but I nevertheless disagree. A Democracy based on the Rule of Law is always a Work In Progress (or WIP as manufacturers call it). It involves Politics. Politics is the non-violent alternative to effecting change. Without politics (the good, the bad and the ugly) it heads towards violence, and it’s easy enough to get there. Many Trumpistas are planning for a Civil War 2. The Bugaloos. The fraudulent militias. The white nationalists, nazis and KKK.

Short of that, we have politics. Politics allowed FDR to build an alliance of sorts with the southern white Jim Crow era racists, which led to him getting so much of what he wanted with the New Deal. I’m sure a lot of that stuck in his craw. Politics allowed LBJ to ram through the Civil Rights laws of his term, an amazing step forward. Of course, political gains don’t stay frozen in time. American racists began almost immediately to undermine LBJ, just as the John Birch Society (led by the Koch brothers’ father) a generation earlier began almost immediately to undermine the New Deal. Evil can play a long game, it seems, and our advances, although in the books, were constantly undermined by states that were in thrall to the autocratic right. Eventually a Supreme Court filled by Republicans decided that the Voting Rights section of the Civil Rights laws passed under LBJ was no longer needed. Which leads us to here and now.

Politics is a long game. The right-wing strategy is a 50 to 100 year strategy. It is to name the Supreme Court vacancies. It is to undo advances in civil rights, justice, education, the rise of income for all, and health care brick by brick. Think of it: the Koch brothers’ father was a John Birch Society leader who swore to kill the New Deal no matter how long it took. (No quote, sorry). That was 90 or so years ago.

On the liberal and Democratic side it is however too often the case that our victories and our advances are often and quickly forgotten. It is our scourge that the drive for perfection obscures the good that has happened. (More in Part 2).

Our Flag

I shared this recently on Facebook:

This is not Trump’s flag. It is not the MAGA flag. It is the flag of these United States. It is the flag of all the people, by the people and for the people. It is the flag of the Rule of Law, under which we are all equal. Take it back, people, from the halfwits, the corrupt and the greedy. Take it back and fly it with its true meaning at heart, no matter what failures we have endured, for when we do that we do our best at home and in the world. It is OUR country, much to love and much to heal, but I’ll be damned if these fools, these blind hateful denizens of racism, white supremacy and shallow jingoism, these two-bit grifters and talentless cons, these traitors and insurrectionists, use our flag as somehow their symbol. Be proud of what is best in America. And be committed to the conclusion that has Trump, Barr, Flynn and many more in jail.

I argued with someone not too long ago, perhaps 3 or 4 years, probably during the 2016 election, about the Rule of Law. This person had some bad experiences with our judiciary, which is not impossible to envision. But the Rule of Law, I argued, does not guarantee the ideal, since that requires near perfect people all along any chain of events. It guarantees that we aspire, as a system, towards the ideal. We seek to perfect. We work to correct.

I reminded him of the judge on Pennsylvania who sent dozens of kids to pre-adult criminal facilities for the weakest of reasons, but it eventually outed that he was a partner with the person who owned that facility, and every child sentenced brought somewhere from $50,000 to $100,000 per year of gross revenues. At the time, which was pre-Trump, nothing had ever sounded as awful as that, and many of us, probably all of us, expressed our disgust. And my friend said see, there’s your Rule of Law for you.

Some months later that judge was sentenced to jail for the rest of his life, and it hit me that the Rule of Law will not protect us from evil deeds, including evil deeds within the judicial system. But it does say that if caught, if proven guilty, that you will be punished no matter if you’re a judge. And he remains in prison and will for the remainder of his putrid little life.

I write this because it is under Trump that the Rule of Law itself is under attack. That guarantee is no longer a given. Friends of friends of Trump can walk free, or they think they can, same as it is in Putin’s Russia. Nothing is more central to our Democracy than the Rule of Law. No one is above our Law. There will be errors, bad actors, poor decisions, but we aspire, as a society to full equality under the Law.

And that is why Black Lives Matter, and all our efforts for complete racial equality, is so important. It can’t just be Rule of Law for people with lighter skin color. That immediately fractures the vessel that holds the Law. Rule of Law is full equality under the Law, with no exceptions, under any circumstances.

Report off our January 11th Meeting

We had an excellent meeting at historic Damon Hall last night despite the hint of freezing mist. We are Vermont tough! It was also great having our State Party Chair, Terje Anderson, down all the way from somewhere close to the Vermont-Quebec border. He took us all the way through the steps of how we end up with delegates to the National Convention – I won’t try to capture that here, but if any of you are interested in this level of commitment and activity you really must learn the ropes. I’ll be sharing some links, but if you are possibly interested 1) let your Town Chair know and 2) let me know and 3) make sure you vote in our primary on March 3rd. No vote – no play.

He also shared that there is a great training event coming up right here in River City (White River Jct, or Rio Blanco as I knew it in my youth) on February 1st – at the famous Hotel Coolidge.

From Terje’s note:

It is an excellent training program that is divided into 3 tracks — one for potential candidates, one for potential campaign managers/organizers, and one for party and other activists.   The whole thing is free, includes breakfast and lunch (and they pay for the whole thing). 

We’ve been promising to get activities scheduled away from Burlington/ Montpelier – so this is a great opportunity for Upper Valley folks to benefit from a top notch national training program.

Here’s a link to the sign-up page on the web:


Do not miss this event if you are in one of those 3 groups defined above.

We have some great names for our two main sub-committees to get started: Communications and Events. Not too late to get your names in on either one. Go here for more on what these two committees mean:


I’m hoping a lot of this can happen without further driving. To that end we have two tools we are building, besides ye olde email. One is our soon-to-be-released forum project at

http://windsorcountydems.groups.io – go check it out – and you can even subscribe from that page, although I’ll be sending everyone an invitation soon. Or go to main+subscribe@windsorcountydems.groups.io to subscribe. It’s still mostly email-based – you would still use your current email address but it gives us tools to organize by topics, subgroups, hashtags, etc.

And secondly I’m going to try again to have a Communication SC meeting online using Zoom – if the numbers aren’t too big, it would be awesome.  Anyone on Events have access to Zoom? More later!

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

We are in an interesting time, for sure, and as the old Chinese adage goes “May you not live in interesting times”, or something like that. All our decisions are tougher, many worry about their future, and we feel surrounded by false information.

As always some historical perspective can help. A comment from Ursula LeGuin reminded me that not too many years ago the divine right of Kings seemed our eternal destiny. The Magna Carta was in the late 13th Century — not just yesterday but that was really one of the first steps away from the concept of Divine right, and that only took it as far as the lesser nobility. Democracy didn’t really raise its head until the French revolution, followed by our own.

Within our own brief (historically) period of democracy we can see the good, the bad and the ugly. We have seen our citizens rise up and do great things, and some of our other citizens do the worst of things. We are scarred forever by slavery and the continued actions of racism, and we are refreshed by those who faught and fight still those evils. We have denied too many the opportunity to enjoy something approaching basic health care, and we have invested our national energy into finding cures and providing clean water to our citizens. One could create a polar list for pages of what we have done well, and what we have done terribly.

The somewhat obvious reason for that is that we are not often blessed with perfection, none of us. Even the very best of us. FDR has been getting a lot of shoutouts these past few years, and many are hoping we can retunr to his path, but any tight look would show his cracks and crevices as well. So we need to pull back and squint a little bit. I liked how Pete Buttegieg put it — the FDR era ended with Reagan, and the Reagan era has to end now. FDR doesn’t need to be a saint for that to be true, and Reagan doesn’t need to be Satan for that to be true either, as much as I have blamed him over the decades.

However, we have reached the abyss of the Reagan era, to use that construct. Nothing can get lower than what we have now. No human being could be worse as a President of our United States. Nothing I write here would likely convince his base base to reconsider, but I do hope for and envision a coming together of all people of common sense, good will, rational thought processes and an inherent will to be a good person within our community (whether town, county, state, nation, or planet). That’s what I hope for.

During our Windsor County Dems meetings (2nd Monday of most months at Damon Hall, Windsor VT) we have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to many of our reps discuss the issues they are involved with in Montpelier, and one thing is clear — reaching agreements and establishing a plan for the betterment of our State of Vermont and our counties and our towns is no easy business. It’s hard work, Really hard, and often frustrating.

No Democrats are perfect. No humans are, or very few. None that I’ve met. But people volunteer and show up, and run and get elected, and do the work and make honest effort to move the ball forward. I am so impressed to see those efforts all the way down to our level, incuding our town level as well. People show up to contribute to our collective well-being, and we need to appreciate those people and be patient. Not everyone will agree with you, the reader, or me. That is the machinery of democracy, and polite listening is the oil. Calling someone a perjorative is adding rust to our democracy.

VT Legislative Session 2019!!

The Legislative Session 2019 that just ended in Montpelier
was one of the most productive and successful in Vermont Legislative History.

What follows are 32 of the Accomplishments for Vermonters
that took place in this Legislative Session of 2019

1- E Cigarettes Taxation, and raising the age
to 21
2- Water quality Bill. – Limits toxins
3- All sources of power “all fuels efficiency”
4- Childcare bill – $ 7.4 mil additional money
5- Substance Abuse- quicker ok’s from
6- Affordable Care Act – support
7- 24 hour waiting period on gun purchase
8- Rural Work Force Development Bill
9- Expand Broad Band across State $1.5 mil
plus additional $1.3 mil in new money
10- Help low income out of poverty 2 mil
11- Climate change action steps
12- Added $500 k to weatherization
13- Electric vehicle purchase by state –
added $2 million
14- Added 2.5 to the $3.5 million for
weatherization EV incentives $500 K
Park and Ride $2.5 mil
15- Efficiency VT – climate change major
16- Transmission line action
17- All Efficiency opportunities heating fuel
and gas
18- Clean Water –added $7.5 mil will set
aside$12 mil next
year 25% for other areas in state
19- Binding arbitration –protecting
firefighters and first responders
20- Burn Pits helping Vets exposed to toxic
21-Disposition of Veteran remains
22- 2mil increase for Reach Up participants
23- Lead remediation in schools
24- Ethnic Studies in school
25- Support for the State retirement
26- Acted on Racial Justice issues
27- Columbus Day changed to Indigenous
Peoples Day
28- Fair and impartial Policing
29- Gender Equality
30- Housing discrimination of victims of
Domestic Violence
31- Codifying Access To Abortion -here in
The State ofVermont
32- Single use Plastic bags Banned

And we will be acting quickly in January
on Family Leave and Minimum Wage!

List developed by Mitzi Johnson, Speaker of the House.

The Windsor County Dems!

It is the role of every citizen in a democracy to pay attention to and feel responsible for the directions and decisions being made by our governments, from local to county to state to national. When we don’t, we end up with bad leaders, and bad outcomes.

So our mission is to help elect Democrats here in our beautiful county of Windsor, Vermont.

First, we work to build a strong town-by-town presence of the Democratic Party. It all really starts house-by-house and voter-by-voter.

As Dems gather together across the county, we work hard to elect Democratic State Representatives and Senators, as well as Democratic state-wide positions like Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer and many more.

And although we are a tiny blip on the screen we remain focused and aware of the national issues as well. We always do what we can to help in any way that we can to move our nation towards a just and fair nation linked by the Rule of Law.

We hope you, as a citizen of Windsor County (plus a few sections outside of the county lines!), will join with your fellow Democrats to make our County, our State and our Nation the best we can be.