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The Flatlanders and Their King. From Ethan Allen to Calvin Coolidge to Howard Dean . . . how sad
The Chapin Nation | JONAH GOLDBERG

Posted on 10/21/2003 10:04:24 AM PDT by Straight Vermonter

The statehouse in Montpelier is pretty much what you'd expect: traditional Yankee colonial with a few bits of kitsch for the tourists. Portraits of fusty old Vermonters festoon the walls. Most are of former governors in funereal suits. Some of the old mustachioed grumps have sheets of parchment in their hands probably containing rows of numbers reflecting profligate spending on some luxury item, food for poorhouses perhaps. Theres even a portrait of the Sphinx of the Potomac, Calvin Coolidge. He looks every bit the taciturn Yankee.

Across and just down the small hallway there hangs another gubernatorial portrait; the subjects almost smirking at Silent Cal. But this painting is unlike the others. It looks more like the multihued cover of an L. L. Bean catalog. It depicts a man in an open-collared flannel shirt with dark khaki pants and sneaker-like hiking boots. He s sitting on a rock on the shore of a pond with a canoe paddle in one hand. With the exception of his ostentatiously shiny wedding ring, virtually every item on his person begs to have a page number pointing to where in the catalog you can find out if you can get it in Tuscan olive or burnt sienna. The man, of course, is Howard Dean and the paintings gaudy arrogance says a lot about the man and the state. Surely, prior governors have loved the great outdoors, too? Yet they understood when to put on a damn suit. Dean rejects such rectitude because Vermont no longer cherishes such traits; Vermont is no longer a state, its a lifestyle choice.

To Old Vermonters Dean is a Flatlander, which means he comes from outside the state. Specifically Dean hails from Park Avenue and East Hampton. But you could also say he comes from the 1960s. A classic liberal baby boomer and Yale graduate, Dean typifies what many call "the Flatlander invasion” the massive influx of urban professional liberals whove taken advantage of Vermonts famous tolerance and dont-tread-on-me individualism and turned it into a whatever-floats-your-boat Epcot Center exhibit of Green Socialism.

The Flatlander invasion represents perhaps the most complete case of internal American colonialism since the destruction of the Indian,says Hal Goldman, a historian and lawyer whos studied and worked in Vermont. Hundreds of thousands of highly educated, well-off people invaded a state with a unique culture and history. They seized control of its resources and institutions, demeaned and destroyed the indigenous values of its people, altered the landscape, and drove many of the natives from their homes as a result of their activities. If this happened in Africa, the same people would call it colonialism. In Vermont its called liberal chic. The colonists are arrogant, disrespectful, and hypocritical. And Howard Dean is their king.

This might sound like hyperbole to some, but for many in the state its an article of faith. The backers of the short-lived Take Back Vermont campaign” launched in response to Howard Deans signing of the civil-unions law” chose that name for a reason. Unfortunately, its too late to take back Vermont. Today, the Flatlanders are Vermont and the old flinty Yankee remnant provides little more than ambiance for what is becoming a left-wing Colonial Williamsburg.

On two recent visits to the state I saw few of the Vermonters of yore. But I did see plenty of folks who looked like liberal foundation officers, university administrators, or editors of poetry magazines, all on their day off. Meanwhile, in Burlington, the states largest city (pop. 40,000), drug addicts and facially pierced neer-do-wells are certainly easier to find than flinty yeoman farmers. Indeed, Burlington is a classic "Latte Town” one of those clever, crunchy, condescending college burgs crammed with students, and professors, with open-toed shoes and closed minds. The kids can name 50 different espresso drinks but not one reason to cut a tax, a tree, or their hair.

A friend who works for the Vermont GOP tells me, Being liberal here carries the significance of what wearing the right clothes does on Sunset Blvd. in L.A. ” those who are not liberal, like those who are not properly fashionable in L.A., are looked upon with disgust and bewilderment, except that liberals in Vermont truly believe that conservatives are evil.

ALTERNATIVE PARADISE Visiting Burlington in 1997, David Brooks wrote for The Weekly Standard, One of the striking things about [the town] is that it is relatively apolitical. Burlington was in effect a liberal Brigadoon, aloof from politics and representative of a fundamental transformation in the American Left, the shift from the adversary culture to the alternative culture. When Brooks was there, the bookstores avoided political fare and he saw few bumper stickers.

Well, a lot has changed since 1997. The bookstores now front Noam Chomsky and Al Franken. Theres no shortage of rallies, seminars, and petitions, all aimed to: stop the war, stop the occupation (of Iraq or Palestine), stop drilling in ANWR, stop the Patriot Act, stop This, stop That, and stop Everything Else. The day I visited I could sign up to join a protest in New Haven in order to show solidarity with the oppressed workers of Yale University. Political bumper stickers are now ubiquitous. Impeach Bush is popular, but my favorite was one I saw while driving along the campus of the University of Vermont: The Road to Hell Is Paved with Republicans. You can also find it for sale at the Peace & Justice Center & Store on Church Street in the heart of downtown.

Why are things so different? Because theres a new president in town and the Flatlanders hate him. Weve all heard stories of explorers or sociologists visiting peaceful societies where all the natives want to do is eat pleasant meals and warm themselves in the sun. Think of Margaret Mead in Samoa or, for that matter, David Brooks in 1997 Burlington. Of course, such stories always take a sharp turn. The savages werent calm and peaceful by nature, they were merely in a calm and peaceful mood. And, well, moods can change. The gods can be offended. The king can be deposed. George Bush can steal an election. And, subsequently, these savages” call them Flatlanders” can get very, very angry.

When Bush was selected as president, a young man in his early twenties wearing jeans and a faded puke-green T-shirt tells me at a Burlington coffeehouse, “politics became, like, really interesting. I mean in a bad way. You know, the war, the environment. Politics is really important now. Though he clearly hated Bush, this young man saw himself as a moderate on the issue” and he was right. Burlingtons alternative paper has a penchant for comparing Bush unfavorably to Adolf Hitler. Sitting along Church Street having lunch or drinking coffee, I overheard plenty of conversations about politics and all of them seemed to start from the premise that George Bush eats kittens.

Coincidentally, one of the most popular bumper stickers in Burlington is an aphorism from Margaret Mead herself: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In every sense and at every level this could be the credo of the Flatlanders. Just look at Vermonts biggest export: awful politics. Without a doubt, Vermonts delegation is the most obnoxious in Washington. Theres Rep. Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist who merely caucuses with the Democratic party because it is the less right-wing of the two major parties. Theres Sen. Patrick Leahy, who by acclamation is now considered the most arrogant and nasty Democratic senator serving today. And, of course, theres Sen. Jim Jeffords, who insisted that he was breaking with Vermont’s traditional Republicanism for reasons of “high principle. Two years later, what that principle was remains as unknown as the identity of Nicole Brown Simpsons “real killers. What is known is that Vermont wants its voice in Washington to represent its new values.

SOCIALISM FOR EXPORT Consequently the Vermont delegation bangs its spoons on their highchairs better than any other. Sure, Sanders is something of a joke, but as such he gets more play” decrying NAFTA and the like” in the national media than he would as just another marginal Democrat. Meanwhile, remember, Jeffords alone scuttled President Bushs agenda for nearly two years. Leahy alone has scuttled much of the presidents judicial agenda (and before that he bollixed up Reagans foreign policy). And, together, theyve managed to impose a Northeast dairy subsidy that makes milk more expensive for poor kids solely to preserve Vermonts Sweden-like economy.

Of course Jeffords & Co. are merely trying to do in Washington what the Flatlanders did in Vermont. For example, Act 250, passed in 1970, is widely recognized as a watershed moment in Vermont history. Its supporters claim it saved Vermont from vaguely defined ecological doom. Its critics claim it is an attempt to make the state hospitable to red-diaper babies from New York and gay couples whose idea of farming is renovating a barn so they can appear in Architectural Digest. The gauntlet of regulations developers need to go through in order to receive a permit for just about anything is similar to the barrage of kicks and punches gang members receive when they try to leave the gang. The only difference is that with gangs, each member gets only one whack at the victim as he passes by. Act 250 requires building-permit seekers to comply with ten different criteria environmental, social, and aesthetic and theres no end to the appeals environmentalists and spoilers can level on any of these fronts.

Add to that Vermonts onerous tax burden and one can understand why the only businesses that arent leaving the state are the ones that have to remain i.e., ski resorts, boutique Made in Vermont franchises, nutty liberal law firms. Sanders can become a shower of spittle over the jobs Vermont has lost to Mexico and China, but most of Vermonts manufacturing jobs are leaving for New York, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. In 2002, the furniture company named after Vermonts hero Ethan Allen paid property taxes in Vermont that were 33 percent higher than the taxes it pays on five of its plants in New York, Virginia, and North Carolina combined. When IBM opted to open a new plant in Fishkill, N.Y., rather than invest in Vermont, the Burlington Free Press, generally considered pro-business, editorialized: Even die-hard supporters of economic development sighed in relief when IBM announced its new chip plant would be built in New York State. Had the jobs come here, there would have been no place for workers to live.

The sad irony of the eco-hoopla is that the environmentalists won a long time ago. In 1850, Vermont was 35 percent forested; today s 76 percent and rising. Presumably those who attended an 1838 conference in Manchester entitled “Keeping Unspoiled Vermont Unspoiled would consider that a success. But the Flatlander liberals certainly wouldnt. Local activists have convinced the legislature and the national environmental movement that the state is one Wal-Mart away from becoming a strip mall. In 1993 the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the entire state of Vermont an endangered historic place.

This is less surprising when you realize Vermont serves as a madrassa for eco-jihadists. Environmental groups, politicians, and the University of Vermonts mammoth environmental-sciences department work together to unleash wave after wave of young Luddites on the country. Its a symbiotic system. Not only are the kids indoctrinated into environmental wackiness generally, they are also incorporated into Vermont’s politics. The Vermont Progressive party dominates Burlington politics and pulls statewide politics well to the left. One secret of its success is that they organize left-wing students to vote in local elections. For obvious reasons, these kids don’t care a whit about property taxes. They just want to make Vermont an alpine kibbutz. Also, older limousine liberals from the media and government have vacation homes in Vermont. They dont care about most local issues either; all they know is that environmental regulations make pads like theirs more scarce and therefore more valuable and that Vermont is awful pretty so someone must be doing something right.

Against this backdrop, its not shocking that Deans not considered a loony liberal by the locals: Hes seen as a fiscal technician. Deans own spin is that hes a pragmatist whos impatient with ideologues. But the truth is he disagrees with ideologues of the Left over means and ideologues of the Right over ends. He’ll casually dismiss opponents of affirmative action as racists and critics of his policies as demagogues and fools.

Worse, Dean actually believes that Vermont the second smallest state, with a population smaller than Baltimores and whiter than Stockholms, and with almost no industry or crime is a model for the nation. Dean insists his child health-care system which is largely an accounting trick can be exported to the whole country. He claims that Denmark is more technologically advanced than the United States because it gets 20 percent of its power from windmills. His foreign-policy views stem from his experience as a regular guest host on Canadian public-affairs programs and from determining which lines get Bush-hating crowds the most worked up.

Indeed, the secret to understanding Dean is that hes the candidate of Flatlanders everywhere. He raises money from them on the web and he appeals to them in television ads in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore. Says my Vermont GOP friend: its not the least bit surprising that such a candidate would have been the governor of Vermont for twelve years. Deans attitude toward Bush ” arrogant, snide disgust and condescension” is an act performed thousands of times a day in Burlington. Liberal Vermonters feel superior to the rest of the country. So do liberals in Hollywood and New York and many points between. And thats why they are rallying to the banner of the Flatlander King.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Vermont
KEYWORDS: 2004; dean; flatlanders; howarddean; howie; yankee

1 posted on 10/21/2003 10:04:26 AM PDT by Straight Vermonter
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To: Straight Vermonter
I'm one of those people with (far) right wing politics, but who appreciates the urban left-wing lifestyle (no cars, excitement, cafes, etc) offered in places like New York and Chicago. Nevertheless, I think Vermont would get on my nerves after a few hours walking around Burlington.
2 posted on 10/21/2003 10:21:42 AM PDT by Clemenza (East side, West side, all around the town. Tripping the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York)
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To: TonyRo76
I wish the Free State Project had went to Vermont. It would have turned that state around and added 3 electoral votes to our column.

Frankly, I wish we would reutrn to the size of government in Coolidge's day.

Calvin is very underappreciated, I find.
4 posted on 10/21/2003 10:41:51 AM PDT by republicanwizard
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To: Miss Marple; okie01; BibChr; PhiKapMom; sinkspur
ping for a very interesting read on Dean and the changes in Vermont that spawned him
6 posted on 10/21/2003 10:51:28 AM PDT by dirtboy (Cure Arnold of groping - throw him into a dark closet with Janet Reno and shut the door.)
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To: Straight Vermonter

The Flatlanders are actually, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore
7 posted on 10/21/2003 10:55:48 AM PDT by keithtoo (Tax Cuts - A robber who doesn't steal from you isn't GIVING you a VCR!!)
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To: keithtoo
The Flatlanders are actually, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

You're both wrong.

"Flatlanders" is the polite term Wisconsin residents use to describe visitors from Illinois.

FIB (or more commonly, FIBber) is the acronym of a less polite term. (Here's a hint to the full term: I stands for Illinois, B is a derogatory reference to one's parentage and I will leave the F to your imagination).

9 posted on 10/21/2003 11:08:21 AM PDT by Sideshow Bob
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To: dirtboy
I find the description of Dean's portrait quite telling.

I really, REALLY dont like this guy. He is a dangerous person, and should not be allowed anywhere near Washington.

10 posted on 10/21/2003 11:14:11 AM PDT by Miss Marple
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To: Straight Vermonter
"Also, older limousine liberals from the media and government have vacation homes in Vermont."

And somehow they get to vote there?
That's interesting.

But at least you don't need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

11 posted on 10/21/2003 11:39:32 AM PDT by Redbob
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To: Straight Vermonter
I have Army friends who live in Vermont (near Burlington) and I visited them once a few years ago. I thought the state was beautiful (I am from geographically similar western North Carolina) and really enjoyed my stay. I hate that the state has become a haven (or should I say a containment area) for loopy lefties. Maybe after W crushes their champion in 2004 we can convince them to move to France.
12 posted on 10/21/2003 12:34:13 PM PDT by 91B (Golly it's hot.)
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To: Straight Vermonter
I can think of only one thing about Vermont that would ever make me visit, The Ski resorts. The odd thing about Vermont is that you can smoke in their bars. That won't last long.
13 posted on 10/21/2003 12:38:36 PM PDT by 1Old Pro (ESPN now has 4 little wimpy sissies left. I'm switching back to FOX.)
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To: Straight Vermonter
Howard Dean = Randall Flagg. I don't care how 'beatable' Karl Rove may think he is. His nomination to run for our country's presidency would truely be an abomination.
14 posted on 10/21/2003 1:29:49 PM PDT by .cnI redruM (The September 11th attacks were clearly Clinton's most consequential legacy. - Rich Lowry)
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To: Straight Vermonter
Four years ago, after an absence of more than forty years, I returned to my native state to prepare for my retirement homecoming. I represent the forth generation of my family born in, or within a fifteen mile radius of, Williston, VT. My intention was to purchase a small farm in my old home township and raise horses and plant a garden to enjoy the fruits of my labors which had taken me around the world, in my boyhood home.

We stayed with some wonderful people on their farm in Williston who told us flatly to avoid Chittenden county and look elsewhere for our new home. Not because we weren't welcome, quite the contrary, but because of what the flatlanders had done to the area. They explained that property taxes had gotten so bad that they had been forced to begin selling off a few acres at a time to pay the tarriff on the farm that had been in their family since 1850! In a few years there would be nothing left they said and listed several of the old farm families that had already given up and sold out, subdividing to pay taxes and giving up the family homes they had owned for generations.

We eventually found our new home in the Northeast Kingdom in Orleans county. Still rural, still reasonably priced and not too heavily taxed, and thankfully, solidly conservative. Our new neighbors are the most wonderful folks you would ever want to meet. They are almost universally conservative Yankees and we get along famously. But they all seem a bit bewildered at what has happened. Perhaps the "Good fences make good neighbors", "Live and let live" Native Vermonters were just a bit too accepting of the invaders.

Personally, I am hopeful that the Free State Project now just across the Connecticut River will energize the Vermont GOP and have a positive effect on the Green Mountain State. Who knows? We may even be able to eventually repeal Acts 60 and 250 and really Take Back Vermont.
15 posted on 10/21/2003 2:34:10 PM PDT by Chuckster ("If honor were profitable, everybody would be honorable." Sir Thomas More)
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