Skip to comments.The Flatlanders and Their King. From Ethan Allen to Calvin Coolidge to Howard Dean . . . how sad
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, âpolitics 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 Vermontâs traditional Republicanism for reasons of âhigh principle. Two years later, what that principle was remains as unknown as the identity of Nicole Brown Simpsons âreal 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 âKeeping 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 Vermontâs 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 donât 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. Heâll 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.
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).
I really, REALLY dont like this guy. He is a dangerous person, and should not be allowed anywhere near Washington.
And somehow they get to vote there?
But at least you don't need a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
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