Group advocates for Vt. sucession
By DAVID GRAM The Associated Press | October 29,2005
MONTPELIER — A car parked outside the Statehouse bore a bumper sticker saying, "Regime change begins at home."
Inside, about 100 Vermonters gathered in the House chamber for the Vermont Independence Convention — devoted to Vermont creating a regime of its own.
If participants have their way, the state whose former governor was laughed out of the 2004 presidential race after the infamous Iowa scream is going to take what some call its wackiness and others call its sanity in a crazy world and go home.
Home to the 14 years in the late 18th century when Vermont was neither a British colony nor one of the original 13 states but was an independent republic.
Texas gets more notice as a Lone Star State, but Vermont shares with it the distinction of having gone it alone for a while. Friday's event was steeped in that history, and an urge to try it again.
Ethan Allen, who led the Green Mountain Boys to take Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775, was among those in attendance, in the person of actor Jim Hogue. Ticonderoga fell without a shot fired, and it was agreed Friday that the new revolution would have to be nonviolent as well.
"Let history record that we, still carrying on without firing a shot, brought to their knees all those who, in the name of security made enemies, in the name of patriotism wrought treason and tyranny, in the name of peace made war and in the name of liberty would turn us into slaves," Hogue's Allen said.
But it wasn't all history. A lot of it was strategizing and sharing ideas on how Vermont independence might be achieved again, and why it should. This is a revolution with a web site and a blog.
"Vermont still provides a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized mass production, mass consumption, narcissistic lifestyle which pervades most of the United States," said Thomas Naylor, a former Duke University economics professor who retired to Vermont and has written a book called "The Vermont Manifesto — The Second Vermont Republic."
"Vermont is smaller, more rural, more democratic, less violent, less commercial, more egalitarian and more independent than most states," Naylor said. "It offers itself as a kinder, gentler metaphor for a nation obsessed with money, power, size, speed, greed and fear of terrorism."
Naylor said the Vermont independence movement gained a lot of momentum after last year's presidential election, when one of the bluest of the blue states was the first to report that its Electoral College votes — all three of them — would be in the Kerry-Edwards column.
Not everybody at Friday's convention favored secession. There seemed to be a widespread assumption of Vermont exceptionalism, that Vermont is better than most of the rest of the country, but at least one person at the event said that's a good reason for the state to stay in the Union.
Vermont's influence has helped make the country better, said Benson Scotch, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union office in Montpelier. The state was the first to ban slavery, in the 1777 Constitution that made it an independent Republic. It was a leader in the Underground Railroad, he added.
Scotch said he favored a "secession in spirit" but, "If we took our intellectual marbles and went home … the rest of the country would be worse off. The rest of the country needs us."
Independence was the subject of a series of light-hearted debates around the state in 1991, on the bicentennial of Vermont's statehood. State Supreme Court Justice John Dooley — a Stephen Douglas look-alike — supported staying in. University of Vermont history professor Frank Bryan argued for getting out.
At the end of each debate the audience voted, and in every case, they voted to leave the Union. Nothing much happened as a result, but the message of Friday's convention appeared to be: If at first you don't secede …