Politics in a well-mannered micropolitis

Shops in downtown Montpelier.

Shops in downtown Montpelier.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's Oct. 27 "Digital Diary,'' in GoLocal24.com

Politics in Rhode Island, where I live, can be pretty dispiriting because of excessive identity politics, some local corruption and a low level of intelligence, education and integrity and a  high level of provincialism among too many politicians. (That’s partly due to local journalists and demagogic radio talk show hosts discouraging good people from running for office and very low voter turnout in primary elections.)

So I drove to Vermont last week to see a little bit of Norman Rockwell-style politicking.

The drive to and from Montpelier was a trip up and down memory lane.  I headed west on Route 2 through northern Massachusetts’s by turns pretty and depressing villages and mill towns. The foliage was at its most colorful and the sky was azure. I took a slightly different route than usual, turning off Route 2 well before Greenfield and heading north through unexpectedly high and steep hills and deep countryside near Northfield before getting on Route 91, which runs north up the gorgeous Connecticut River Valley, through which I had driven so many times before.

The farther north I went, the less vivid the foliage; the North Country’s maximum color was about three weeks ago. But much of the landscape still glowed.

In Montpelier, I had dinner with two old friends, Josh Fitzhugh and his wife, Elizabeth. Josh is running as an anti-Trump Republican state Senate candidate for Washington County. We ate in an excellent restaurant called Sarducci’s in downtown Montpelier, which was crowded and cheery. Indeed, the city, although America’s smallest state capital, was surprisingly lively with lots of people on the sidewalks on a mild night.

After dinner we strolled to a small cable-TV studio, where Josh and some rivals had a “debate,’’ though it was really just a discussion, on such big local issues as preventing dirty water from entering Lake Champlain. Everyone was civil. The  candidates had grown to know each other over the years in the intimate and generally friendly and honest atmosphere of the Green Mountain State.

Elizabeth (nicknamed “Wibs’’) and I sat in the waiting room outside the studio but we only heard a little of the “debate’’ on the big screen in front of the room because of technical problems. Sitting with us was a nice man called Jerome Lipani, like many Vermonters from New York City, who promoted  some Bernie Sanders-style reforms to us.

Mr. Lipani, artist, was polite and good-humored and, I inferred, pragmatic, as was now-Senator Sanders, a socialist, when he was mayor of Burlington. Indeed, with a few exceptions, such as outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin’s overreaching for a single-payer healthcare plan, pragmatism rules. Thus the same state will elect such moderate Republicans as the late Gov.  Richard Snelling,  such Democrats as former Gov. Howard Dean (who ran state government as a middle-of-the road fiscal conservative) and a professed (but realistic) socialist such as Bernie Sanders.  Vermont candidates are judged by their records and characters far more than by their party labels. Given the increasing tendency in the U.S. to vote strictly by party and not by individual this was heartening.

Reliving again the state’s tradition of civility and civic-mindedness was a tonic, and I rather dreaded driving back to the nastiness of megalopolis. By the way, I discovered that Montpelier  along with Barre,  form something called a "micropolitan area'' and that tiny Barre and Montpelier are called the Twin Cities. Vermont cute!


An old book by Joseph Wood Krutch, The Twelve Seasons: A Perpetual Calendar for the Country, might help you get through the New England winter, especially in beautiful but, er, rigorous Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. He sees each month as a season.

Indeed, every day is a season, emotionally speaking.