Review: Our Revolution

Our Revolution, by Bernie Sanders. Published by Thomas Dunne Books — St. Martin’s Press, New York City, 2016.  450 pages. Hardcover. $27.

 

Reviewed by Joseph Gresser

 

Senator Bernie Sanders’ new book clearly was written in expectation of a different reality than the one we are living in. Its combination of autobiography, campaign narrative, and policy manifesto was meant to push President Hillary Clinton to fulfill the pledges embodied in the Democratic Party’s platform, and to nudge her farther along a path long advocated by Vermont’s junior senator.

For those who agree with Senator Sanders’ political philosophy, the book may be a bittersweet suggestion of what might have been. Alternatively, it could also be seen as a declaration of principles to guide those who find themselves in stark opposition to the new direction the country will surely take with three branches of government under the control of the Republican Party.

The first third of Mr. Sanders’ book recaps his political career, including his amazingly successful run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Sanders, famously, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved to Vermont after college. He lived in central Vermont for a time, spent several years in Stannard, a town even Northeast Kingdom natives have a hard time finding, and finally moved to Burlington.

At a meeting of the Liberty Union Party in 1971, he volunteered to run for the U.S. Senate in a special election held after the death of Senator Winston Prouty. Mr. Sanders says he spent a lot of time studying the issues and preparing positions, and then went out campaigning.

He pulled in a whopping 2 percent of the vote, a result that encouraged him to run again, this time for Governor in the 1972 General Election.

This time his percentage of the vote dropped to 1 percent. Unfazed, Mr. Sanders ran again for Senate in the 1974 race that sent Senator Patrick Leahy to Washington. He drew 4 percent of the state’s votes.

Two years later, Mr. Sanders’ hat was back in the ring. This time he faced Republican Richard Snelling and Democrat Stella Hackle in a race for Governor.

During the campaign he took part in a televised debate, in which he acquitted himself well. It being a Vermont debate, the two establishment candidates treated their scruffy opponent and his radical ideas with respect.

I still remember Mr. Sanders, who by this time had moved to Burlington, coming back to Stannard to boast of his 6 percent showing, the highest, he said, of any third-party candidate in the country.

Around this time a couple of friends and I were elected to the Stannard Select Board. Mr. Sanders showed up one day and tried to persuade us that part of our duties involved finding ways to provide civic employment for people in town.

After a long discussion, we concluded that it was impossible to do that in our tiny municipality. The exercise was an early glimpse into his view of a government’s responsibility to its citizens.

Frankly, I recall thinking that Mr. Sanders’ views were more appropriate to the 1930s than the modern world of the 1970s. In light of subsequent events, I think he may have been prescient.

After spending eight years as mayor of Burlington, Mr. Sanders set his sights on Washington. In his first run for the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1988, he narrowly lost to Peter Smith in a three-way race.

Two years later he won and took his seat as an independent who caucused with the Democrats. He maintained that unusual balance through his eight terms in the House and most of his time in the Senate. He is serving his second term in that body.

Mr. Sanders only joined the Democratic Party to run for its presidential nomination. His account of the campaign is a nuts-and-bolts explanation of how to run a true grassroots campaign.

He operated on the assumption that by addressing people directly and talking about issues that affect their lives, he could upset Ms. Clinton, the establishment’s preferred candidate. As it happened, that assumption was not that far off the mark.

In the end, Ms. Clinton’s well-financed campaign, backed by almost all of the nation’s elected Democratic leaders, prevailed over the insurgent. But in view of the results of the recent election it may have been a hollow victory.

Many news organizations now say the support of ignored white working class voters made the difference in the election of Donald Trump. Those voters, Mr. Sanders’ book points out, were people he was able to reach with a message saying their problems were ones shared with people of color, Latinos, Native Americans, and other marginalized groups.

Ms. Clinton did not follow Mr. Sanders’ playbook and fell short of election even while capturing the popular vote.

The bulk of Senator Sanders’ book is a detailed exposition of his proposals for improving the lives of Americans. None will surprise anyone who has followed his career. Privately and publicly, the issues of climate change, providing good jobs at decent wages, affordable education and health care, and civil rights are ones that have preoccupied the Senator for his entire political career.

To summarize them would not do Mr. Sanders’ thoughts justice. While that portion of the book was intended as a roadmap for action, at the moment it appears to be a chart of the path not taken.

Mr. Sanders suffered more than a few defeats in his ascent to high office. Most people would have given up after losing by the margins of his early losses.

But Vermont is fortunate in having people, like Mr. Sanders’ erstwhile Liberty Union colleague Peter Diamondstone and other members of their party, who never give up, but put their ideas forward year after year in the teeth of the prevailing political winds.

Mr. Sanders will, no doubt, continue to press for the adoption of his ideas regardless of election results, and he continues his decades-long call for a “political revolution.”

While the story of Mr. Sanders’ campaign is interesting and potentially instructive to those who come after, and the policy section of the book provides a clear agenda for a progressive political movement, the real meat of Our Revolution may come in its last couple of pages.

It is there that Mr. Sanders directly addresses the many people he inspired during his run and explains how they can make a difference.

“I hope that you will stay involved and get your friends involved. Run for the school board, city council, state legislature. Run for governor. Run for Congress. Run for the Senate. Run for President. Hold your elected officials accountable. Know what they’re doing and how they’re voting — and tell your neighbors.”

That’s a path Mr. Sanders has traveled, and one that many others, regardless of what their political beliefs may be, must follow if “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” is to survive.

It’s likely that the book’s message will be heard. Our Revolution is already high on the bestseller list. I thought of buying it for a couple of politically minded young people, but they both already owned the book and had read it.

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SEC wins early victory against Quiros

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copyright the Chronicle November 23, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

 

In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles gave the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) an early victory in its suit against Ariel Quiros. The federal agency was granted its request for a preliminary injunction to keep things as they have been since it went to court in April and charged Mr. Quiros with securities fraud.

The judge’s ruling maintains the status quo until the underlying issues in the civil suit are resolved at trial. That means Mr. Quiros’ property remains under the control of Michael Goldberg, the court-appointed receiver, and Mr. Quiros is barred from any kind of involvement in businesses connected with the federal EB-5 visa program.

When the case comes to trial, Mr. Quiros faces the prospect of being forced to disgorge as much as $200-million in money the government said was improperly used. Mr. Quiros has also been charged with taking more than $50-million for his personal use.

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Walmart opens amidst policing concerns

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copyright the Chronicle November 16, 2016

 

 by Joseph Gresser

DERBY — The Derby Walmart Supercenter will open its doors for the first time early on November 16, but according to State Police Lieutenant Walt Smith, commander of the Derby barracks, issues of public safety remain to be addressed.

Lieutenant Smith, along with Captain Mike Henry, who heads the St. Johnsbury State Police outpost, visited the Derby Select Board back in March. He said his troopers would not be able to handle what he expects will be a large number of calls from the new store.

Lieutenant Smith explained that he’s responsible for ensuring the safety of 30 communities in the Northeast Kingdom, and his forces are stretched too thin to allow him to focus on minor offenses committed at Walmart.

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Changing the way health care is delivered

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copyright the Chronicle November 16, 2016

 

by Joseph Gresser

On October 26 the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) gave its approval to a new way to pay for medical services, called the all-payer model. The next day Governor Peter Shumlin and Secretary Hal Cohen of the state Agency on Human Services followed suit, putting their names to an agreement that’s meant to reconfigure the state’s health care system.

Even before the election, Governor-elect Phil Scott said he thought the agreement was approved with too much haste. In interviews after voters picked him to succeed Governor Shumlin, Mr. Scott said he plans to look at the model more closely before deciding whether to continue on the path it sets out, or cancel the agreement.

The results of the national election may relieve him of that task. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare.

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Sanders rallies for Democratic candidates

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copyright the Chronicle November 2, 2016 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Senator Bernie Sanders has seen bigger crowds than the one that greeted him Friday afternoon at the Gateway Center here. But it’s doubtful that any gave him a more enthusiastic reception.

Musicians Tod Pronto, and Jonathan Edwards warmed up the 140 or so people who filled the room. Mr. Edwards performed “Sunshine,” his hit from the early 1970s, and the sixties’ standard “Come On People (Smile on Your Brother)” among other familiar songs. Probably no more than a third of those gathered for the rally were alive when they were first sung.

Unusual for such a rally, the crowd lacked any other Democratic office holders. Most Orleans County candidates have pledged their support to Republican Phil Scott’s gubernatorial campaign rather than that of Sue Minter, their party’s standard bearer.

The former presidential candidate seemed relaxed as he entered the room to an ovation. He was accompanied by the trio of candidates he was in Newport to support.

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Congressman Welch visits Orleans County

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copyright the Chronicle November 2, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON — Peter Welch spent half of Monday in Orleans County. He dropped by the Chronicle for a morning conversation before heading up to Newport for a meeting with city officials and legislators.

The state’s lone Congressman is running for a sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives on both the Democratic and Republican lines, although he is a longtime Democrat.

In response to questions about the state of Congress, Mr. Welch said he’s worried about the Republicans.

“There’s an existential split in the Republican Party between the shutdown wing, and what I call the governing wing of the party,” he said.

The governing wing, he explained, “are conservatives who understand, at the end of the day, we have to pass budgets, and you can’t have a legislative body without compromises on legislation.”

Newport.

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Orleans-2 candidates agree on much

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copyright the Chronicle October 26, 2016 

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — It would have been difficult to tell what party the four candidates seeking to represent Orleans-2 belong to just by listening to them at Monday night’s candidate forum. The only clue was how Ron Holland, Judith Jackson, Mike Marcotte, and Gary Viens said they would register their disapproval of Donald Trump in presidential balloting.

The four candidates are vying for the two seats in the Vermont House district that represents Newport City, Newport Center, Coventry, Irasburg, and part of Troy,

Dr. Holland and Ms. Jackson, the Democratic candidates, said they would unenthusiastically vote for Hillary Clinton. Ms. Jackson said she would hold her nose while doing it. Dr. Holland said he picked Ms. Clinton as the one least likely to start a disastrous war.

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Burros was a pioneer in “political” food writing

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copyright the Chronicle October 26, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

Marian Burros began her career as a food writer because she and a friend needed to give affordable engagement gifts. She ended up changing the field because she recognized a simple truth — food is political.

Between 1981 and her retirement in 2014, Ms. Burros reported for the New York Times, covering all aspects of food including recipes, entertaining at the White House, and federal policy on food safety. She has spent summers in Barton and Craftsbury since 1991, the year her husband died.

In the course of her career, she helped redefine what it meant to be a food writer and was a pioneer in making editors see that issues that once were relegated to the “women’s page” were important enough to command front-page space.

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Lawyers for Stenger tell state to bring it on

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copyright the Chronicle October 19, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

NEWPORT — Lawyers for Bill Stenger have told the state to bring it on. In a September 7 filing in the Civil Division of Washington County Superior Court, they denied all the fraud charges related to EB-5 visa funded projects sponsored by Jay Peak and have demanded a jury trial.

Mr. Stenger recently settled similar charges levied against him by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the settlement, Mr. Stenger did not admit or deny the charges against him, but he agreed to accept whatever penalties U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles may decide to assess.

Mr. Stenger also promised that he would not say anything that contradicted the SEC charges.

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Orleans-Caledonia House candidates debate education, guns, taxes

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copyright the Chronicle October 12, 2016

by Joseph Gresser

BARTON — A conversation Monday evening between three candidates for the state House of Representatives from the Orleans-Caledonia district produced a civil, serious discussion of issues facing the state.

Incumbents Vicki Strong, a Republican from Albany, and Sam Young, a Glover Democrat, were joined Monday night by Republican challenger Frank Huard of Craftsbury at a forum sponsored by the Chronicle, Building Bright Futures, NEK-TV, and the Orleans County Record.

Democrat Matt Eldridge of Glover did not attend the forum, which attracted more than 20 people to the Barton Memorial Building.

After the three candidates introduced themselves, Tod Pronto, who moderated the forum, posed questions to the group. Each was given two minutes to answer.

Mr. Pronto started by asking the candidates to name the three most pressing issues facing the district.

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