The muck of today’s polarized political swamp has left us without the capacity for dialogue which limits the bold leadership required to tackle the issues that threaten us. Working for the common good has been replaced by the tribal warfare that fills its supporters with assumed purpose, yet, in truth, that warfare is a barrier to progress, to the rule of law and a threat to our democracy.
When we choose those who represent us in Congress, it is essential to know their interpretation of the struggles ahead and how they are to be met. We must support people who are not cowed by the struggle but who are naturally inclined to bridge differences. We must support leaders who demand answers and who will do the hard work necessary to heal a divided nation.
In the state’s Democratic congressional primary on August 9, Molly Gray is the candidate who best represents the leader Vermont, and the nation, needs.
Ms. Gray was reared on a small family farm in South Newbury. She understands first-hand the hard-scrabble lives of our farmers and represents a value system that unites Vermonters. Ms. Gray is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Vermont Law School. Of all the candidates running for Vermont’s at-large Congressional seat, she is the only one with extensive experience in the halls of Congress. She was a staff member of Rep. Peter Welch and she worked as well for Vermont’s senior senator, Patrick Leahy. She knows how the system works.
Ms. Gray also has experience on the international stage. She was part of the International Committee of the Red Cross where she worked on human rights issues, something increasingly relevant with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change, the rule of law, and other attendant conflicts around the world.
As for the issues, there is not a lot of daylight between the four candidates in the Democratic primary. They are all opposed to the conservative bent of the U.S. Supreme Court. They all reject the conduct of former president Donald Trump. They all favor sane gun control laws, provisions to improve climate control efforts, and the need to make health care affordable.
If we are to make lasting progress on any of these issues - large or small - we also must acknowledge it will not happen if our political camps continue to operate in mutually exclusive environments. It will not happen if we don’t elect people willing to sacrifice some of their political capital to reach across the political aisle, to reject politics as a zero-sum game.
Vermont’s junior senator Bernie Sanders, for example, is not a consensus builder. He abhors compromise. He takes pride in describing himself as an independent and a democratic socialist. He endorses candidates of a like mind. He always has. That is who he is.
When Mr. Sanders chose to endorse Becca Balint, he chose someone who believes as he believes. When Ms. Balint embraced his endorsement, she accepted being part of Mr. Sanders’ tribe. That is consistent with her past. She has long been a strong supporter of progressives. She supported progressive Anthony Pollina in his gubernatorial race against Democrat Howard Dean in 2000. [Mr. Pollina tallied 9.5 percent of the vote.]
Vermonters have a clear choice between Ms. Gray and Ms. Ballint. Ms. Balint has chosen to align herself with the far left and the state’s progressives. Ms. Gray has aligned herself with the center of the Democratic Party, including a sizable swath of the state’s labor movement.
For Vermonters who value the common language of humanity, who oppose the ineffectual and divisive methods of those who operate from the political extremes, and who yearn for a return to civility and progress, Ms. Gray is the Democratic candidate who best fits their goals.
Ms. Gray’s path is the more difficult of the two. Particularly in these political times. It is far easier to oppose something, contending the proposal falls short than it is to find the middle ground where applause is rare and no one is satisfied.
That, however, is where the work is done. That work also requires honesty and a sense of fairness. And trust. And integrity. It is the beginning to how we battle the negative polarization that defines our political times.
It is also the work of Vermonters to support candidates devoted to this work in progress. It is important to support those who know it is an exercise in failure for parties to be bound together by common enemies, rather than common purposes.
With history as our guide, our choice on August 9 is pivotal. The odds are overwhelming that whomever wins the August primary will be the victor in November. The odds are equally overwhelming that Vermont will have elected its first woman to Congress, something long overdue. And the odds are also good that whomever is elected will represent us in Washington for years to come. Mr. Leahy, Mr. Sanders and Mr. Welch are testaments to that.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant famously observed that “from such crooked timber as humankind is made of, nothing entirely straight can be made.” It was the recognition that society’s most difficult challenge is the attainment of a civil society that administers justice universally.
We are that crooked timber. Progress is only possible through the language of common humanity, and the tireless and selfless work of its adherents. Molly Gray has the necessary grit and conviction to help reset the nation’s compass and to do the hard work that making progress requires. She deserves the support of Vermonters on August 9.
by Emerson Lynn, Editor Emeritus