Pain, protest, pandemics and politics
BY: VERMONT DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR TERJE ANDERSON
Standing in the middle of a maelstrom of overwhelming events, it can be hard to grasp the true significance of them all.
But is worth stepping back and considering the historical scope of where we are today: a pandemic that has already killed more than 140,000 Americans and is now growing with an intensity that was preventable; the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression; a dangerous divisive President who uses George Wallace-inspired rhetoric to spread hate and fear; brutal murders that slapped us all in the face with the harsh reality of American racism and inspire a public outpouring of anger, frustration, pain and determination to make real change happen. All taking place against the background of a presidential election year.
In future histories of the US, there can be little doubt the events of 2020 will rank it as one of the defining years for our country - hopefully one where we rise to the challenge and put the country on a better course.
It has been two months since the murder of George Floyd, and in the aftermath we’ve seen a country wrestling with the realities of systemic racism, of police violence, or the devaluing of Black lives. The outpouring of people of all races into the streets (even during the pandemic) and the first person recounting of the experiences of people of color have produced powerful demands for action, demands that we must all commit to enacting.
At a time like this, some will see a false choice between participating in electoral politics and participating in social movements and protests. In reality, they are integrally connected – and both are essential to making social progress. Recently I reread a powerful essay by Dr. King from 1965 – “Let Justice Roll Down” -- where he refers to the Civil Rights Act as “legislation first written in the streets”, and speaks of the interrelated nature of demonstrations and elections, of the importance of the parallel actions of both protests and voter mobilization. Even now, 55 years later, his powerful words serve as reminder of the power of engaging in both.
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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of politics this year has been upended. (A situation made worse by the abysmal “leadership” from the White House.)
The Democratic Party has made the wise decision to transform our scheduled National Convention in Milwaukee into an almost entirely virtual event. The Democratic National Convention will protect the health and well-being of the host city and of all those who might have attended by cancelling in-person gathering. But the Convention will still go forward from August 17-20, with virtual voting and speeches, videos and entertainment being beamed in from across the country. It promises to be a great way to highlight our party, our nominees, our platform and our diversity - make plans to watch during those four evenings.
As Chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, I will be casting my ballot for our own Senator Bernie Sanders, the winner of the Vermont Presidential primary. And when Joe Biden and his Vice-Presidential choice are nominated, I will be proudly joining in with Democrats everywhere in rallying to elect them in November during what is, without question, the most important Presidential election in many decades.
Here in Vermont, we were fortunate that we were able to hold our Presidential primary on March 3, before the pandemic started to close down the state. But we had to make major adjustments to our delegate selection process, conducting completely on-line activities in lieu of the in=person caucuses and state convention we would normally have held. In the end, we had as many state convention delegates elected and voting as we had during the 2016 election – a testament to the commitment and enthusiasm of grassroots Democrats across the state.
We were able to complete the process, electing a delegation pledged based on the results of the primary, and ending up with the most diverse delegation we have ever sent to a national convention.
The members of the delegation are:
Kayla Arena (Chittenden)
Jim Dandeneau (Chittenden)
Noah Detzer (Chittenden)
Steffen Gillom (Windham)
Linda Gravell (Washington)
Kate Larose (Franklin)
Bruce Olsson (Lamoille)
Olivia Pena (Chittenden)
Brian Pine (Chittenden)
Maria Rinaldi (Chittenden)
Lisa Ryan (Rutland)
Ryan McLaren (Chittenden) - Alternate
Aimee Alexander (Orleans)
Andrew Champagne (Chittenden)
Brenda Churchill (Franklin)
Carolyn Dwyer (Chittenden)
Alison Leibly (Windsor)
CD Mattison (Chittenden) – alternate
Senator Patrick Leahy
Senator Bernie Sanders
Representative Peter Welch
Governor Howard Dean (former DNC Chair)
Terje Anderson – VDP Chair
Tess Taylor – VDP Vice-Chair
Tim Jerman – National Committeeman
Mary Sullivan – National Committeewoman
Standing Committee Members (selected by campaigns)
Rules – David Weinstein (Chittenden – Sanders)
Credentials – Martha Allen (Essex – Sanders)
Platform – Governor Peter Shumlin (Windham – Biden)
Congratulations to all the delegates and to everyone who participated in the process!
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Have you completed the 2020 US Census?
Vermont has one of the lowest Census response rates in the country right now, and the pandemic has greatly interfered with the ability of Census workers to go door-to-door collecting information.
The national count is an essential part of distributing government resources, making important planning decisions, and allocating political power. We need everyone to respond.
If you have not already done so, please take just a few minutes complete the short form – you can respond on-line or by phone (844-330-2020 in English, 844-468-2020 en Español )
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Thanks to the leadership of our Secretary of State Jim Condos and our Democratic legislators (and over the stonewalling of Republican Governor Phil Scott and Republican legislators), Vermonters will be able to vote safely this year, with expanded voting by mail and other options.
If you haven’t already done so, go to the “MyVoter” page at the Secretary of State’s website to make sure your mailing address is correct, and to sign up to receive a mail ballot for the August 11th primary. (All active registered voters will be mailed a ballot for the November general election.)
And, as an added bonus, if you miss getting your “I Voted” sticker at your local polling place, the VDP will gladly send you a “I Voted by Mail” sticker. Just sign up on our website.
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Finally, a personal note
It has been nearly three years since I was first elected as Vermont Democratic Party Chair. Sadly, I have to announce that I will be stepping down to deal with on-going health issues that prevent me from being able to continue to devote the time, the energy, and the focus that being Chair requires.
Serving as Vermont Democratic Party Chair has been one of the greatest honors of my decades of political involvement, and it greatly saddens me to have to leave. But, especially during an election year, the Party deserves to have a Chair who can fulfill the role. I will remain involved and fully support the VDP in any way I can going forward, albeit in a more limited capacity.
Under VDP By-Laws, an election for a new Chair can’t take place until at least 30 days after announcement of a resignation, so the State Committee will hold a special meeting to elect a new Chair in late August or early September. In the meantime, I will be working with an ad hoc committee of Party officers and committee members to make certain that all of the essential work of the Chair is still being done.
I leave with full confidence in the capable professional staff that carries out the work of the party day-to-day, in our talented elected officials and candidates, and in the countless volunteers who lead on the state, county and town committees, and all those who support the party across the state.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve for the last three years. While it has certainly been challenging at times, I am proud of what we have accomplished as a team and knowing that the VDP is in a much stronger place than we were before.
Chair, Vermont Democratic Party