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Fred K. Baser: Vermont Republicans need to be a party of solutions

This commentary is by Fred K. Baser of Bristol, a former Republican state representative.

The recent election was a disaster for the Vermont Republican Party. Out of the 150 House seats, Republican candidates won 38 (25%). Republican candidates were successful in 7 out of 30 available seats in the Senate (23%). There are zero republicans representing Addison County. 

Phil Scott was the only Republican who won statewide office, and the Democratic candidates easily swept the races for the Washington House and Senate seats. 

This situation isn’t good for the Grand Old Party, and it isn’t healthy for Vermont politics. So how can this picture be changed? 

Most political pundits suggest a majority of America’s voters are centrists — in other words, moderate in their thinking on issues. If Vermont was dominantly blue and progressive, Phil Scott would not have won his race for governor by such a large margin. Joe Benning, a moderate, libertarian candidate for the GOP in the lieutenant governor race, would not have received almost 43% of the vote. 

Vermont Republicans need to appeal to this centrist group of voters. The aura of the national Republican Party currently is centered around Donald Trump and the Make America Great Again movement. This may play well in some states, but not in Vermont, where being Republican has been more about independent thinking, fiscal prudence, common sense, personal freedom and responsibility. 

If the Vermont Republican Party wants to grow its representation in Vermont, it needs to dump Trump and rip up the MAGA playbook and write its own.

The Vermont GOP playbook should focus on problems that are close to Vermonters, that affect their lifestyle, family and finances. For example, be champions in growing new workforce housing. Make it easier for first-time homebuyers to realize their dream. Offer ideas to address climate change that incentivize green energy, and, at the same time, denounce carbon taxes that penalize lower-income people. Look at reducing daycare costs and propose a modest paid family leave program. These policies help our constituents. 

What I am saying is that Vermont Republicans need to go on the offensive and be a party of solutions. I’ve thrown out a few playbook ideas. They may not be the ones chosen. The important thing is that here is a platform that focuses on addressing Vermonter’s needs.

Taking a few pages from Gov. Scott’s script isn’t a bad idea, either. He is a man of integrity who relies on facts and common sense to guide him in decision-making. He’s removed himself from the foolishness and lies of the “Trump” Republican Party. Plus, he races cars, and still loves to operate front-end loaders. 

If the Vermont GOP moved to a centrist position, I believe it would attract more candidates and gain more votes from the middle, without losing the base. 

Many cite Vermont as the bluest state in the nation. The recent election would seem to confirm that thought. I don’t buy it. Yes, like attracts like and many people with leftist leanings have come to Vermont in recent years. Yet, I believe most Vermonters still love individualist thinking, their personal freedom, and respect people who figure things out on their own. 

The Vermont Republican Party need to act with confidence in reestablishing its own identity with good, common-sense ideas, the New Old Republican if you will. It won’t be easy. It will require leadership, the involvement of Republicans who have stepped back due to today’s environment, grassroots development, marketing and money. 

I think this approach will be welcomed by most Vermonters and will result in the GOP having a greater say in Vermont’s affairs.

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