When Ben Franklin exited the room where the future of the United States was being decided, he was asked what kind of government we would have. He answered “a Republic, if you can keep it.” More than 200 years later, Just days ago, we witnessed a challenge to that democratic Republic. Fascists, at the direction of Donald Trump, attempted to subvert our Republic by legislative process and by violence in the streets and in the halls of Congress. That coup was defeated.
In the aftermath, our Vermont Governor, Republican Phil Scott, denounced the coup, defended democracy, and called for the immediate removal of Donald Trump from the office of Presidency. So too did our Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and our Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. In the VT General Assembly, a tri-partisan resolution overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate (supported by Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives) demanding Trump to be removed from office. Further, Vermont’s Attorney General, TJ Donovan, demanded the immediate termination of a VT State Trooper who publicly voiced support for the coup. As President of the 10,000 member Vermont AFL-CIO I also denounced the failed rightwing insurrection (and our State Labor Council again confirmed our commitment to a General Strike in the event that a transfer of power does not take place on January 20th). And unlike in Washington DC and various State Capitals around the nation, demonstrations of support for the coup have been near nonexistent in the Green Mountains. In brief, Vermonters, regardless of party affiliation or political differences, remain united in our support for democracy. I am proud to call these Green Hills my home.
However, even while we may have defeated this assault on our democracy, we should face with sober senses that in all likelihood this is not the last existential crisis our democracy will face. And even while we struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic, and even while we seek to endeavor towards a Green New Deal economic recovery effort, we must also seek to fortify our democracy whereby it is made more resilient in the face of future threats. And here, we must not only strive towards a more equitable economy, but also towards a society whereby working class people are truly empowered through a more direct and participatory democracy. As the Vermont philosopher John Dewy once said, ‘the only solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy.’
So remain vigilant and actively reject the fascism being offered by Trump and his ilk. But also let us set our eyes on the greater prizes of establishing an economy which serves the needs of the great majority of the people, and establishing a more robust democracy through which our collective dreams and desires can take form as an expression of our common will.
David Van Deusen
President of the Vermont AFL-CIO