Town Meeting Day

     BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – On Town Meeting Day this Tuesday, Brattleboro residents will vote on this proposition: “Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities? And shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them.”
     Organizers of the petition drive said the extradition may include sending the blighters to face trial in a foreign country.
I love Vermont.
     This is a virtually meaningless proposal, of course. It will never happen, no matter what the townies say. But it shows that folks in Brattleboro want to inspire people by setting a good example.
     Until Congress committed hara-kiri with its own flaccid sword, one of a U.S. president’s chief powers – perhaps his strongest one outside of the veto – was his ability to inspire people and lead by example. That’s what kept Jack Kennedy, a mediocre president at best, from being a wholly lousy one – his ability to inspire people to do good works.
     The list of things George W. Bush has inspired people to do is too revolting to enumerate.
     Brattleboro’s proposal reflects an interesting thing about Vermont. In the past generation, it has passed from being the most predictably Republican state in the nation to the most solidly Democratic one.
     That didn’t happen because Vermont has changed. It happened because Vermonters, independent, well-educated, and conservative in the original sense of the term, pretty much stayed put while the Republican Party goose-stepped briskly to the right.
     Vermont is still an agricultural state. Our annual budget is smaller than California’s annual budget deficit. Vermont’s only native-born president, still considered a typical Vermonter, was Silent Cal Coolidge.
     Vermont was one of two states to prefer Alf Landon to FDR in 1936. (The other was Maine.) The state went for Nixon in 1960, 1968 and 1972, for Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and for Bush I in 1988 and 1992.
     And now? “Impeach Bush” bumper stickers abound on cars parked outside our picturesque churches on Sundays.
     Vermont is the only state George W. Bush has not visited during his term in office – possibly because residents of 47 towns already have asked Congress to impeach him. But it’s more likely that Bush hasn’t come here because the state’s got only 3 electoral votes. So what’s in it for him?
     Kurt Daims, who organized the petition drive calling for Bush and Cheney to be arrested, said it was pretty easy to gather the 500 signatures he needed – he said even the police supported it.
     Town Meeting Day is a grand tradition. Town residents themselves approve or reject the town and school board budgets, and vote on line-item expenditures. So there’s no way to claim that anything that happens at a town meeting is the result of some nefarious political skullduggery. Politicians don’t control town meetings here. They just ask the voters what they want.
     The town where I live, right next to Brattleboro, has about 900 residents. Most of the adults show up at the town meeting. It’s the way democracy is supposed to work, and still does work, in a place that’s not yet been ruined by the vices and perversions that modern conservatives pretend to hate.
     Brattleboro’s meeting, by the way, is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
     Democracy is tiring. And boring. Thank God it happens only once a year.

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