By Terry Bouricius
This is Appendixes D and B of Building Progressive Politics: The Vermont Story, a 1993 pamphlet by Marxist Terry Bouricius that chronicles how the only successful left third party in the U.S. today was built over the course of three decades.
Vermont is currently beset by a crisis of public confidence in its leadership. Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties seem capable of solving the many problems confronting average Vermonters; jobs that earn too little, demand more time away from home and family to make ends meet, yet increasingly require more concentration, education, and fatigue. Housing costs, including property taxes, rents and utilities, devour meager paychecks; doctors, hospitals and insurance companies charge far beyond what most people can afford. Our schools badly need funding and creative new ideas and structures to better prepare both children and adults for the challenges of the future.
Democratic decision making over the kinds and amount of economic development our communities continues to erode, despite the best intentions of public and private planners. Our environment and our health are increasingly threatened by industrial and commercial pollution. We continue to lose our many small farms to those few farms large enough to thrive in a market dominated by agribusiness. And anywhere, rule by the people is under attack by wealthy special interests that lobby, cajole, and threaten with impunity.
Rather than courageously challenging the old “trickle-down” theory of business, rather than finding new innovative solutions to a mounting budget crisis, the old parties continue to protect special interests and revert to traditional policies which shift an even greater burden on those who can least afford it.
They impose cuts in vitally needed programs for children and mothers, our elders, our sick and disabled. They impose greater burdens on our towns, using property taxes we cannot afford as the only means for funding our schools. They impose greater expenses on our families by siding with those who profit off our people’s based needs for shelter, fuel, food, clothing and health care. They impose regressive tax increases that do not distinguish between the average Vermonter and the rich. And they refuse to be held accountable through strict financial disclosure and lobbying laws. They fail, in sum, to provide for the common good, the most basic responsibility of legitimate government.
While good men and women strive for justice in both parties, neither political party dares to seriously challenge the gains and power of the wealthy. If anything, both Republican and Democratic parties, as political institutions, protect these gains and power because they depend and even thrive on them, to the utter corruption of their political souls.
In such times, it is a matter of basic human rights – for Americans in general and for Vermonters in particular – to seek redress for their grievances through more effective means than offered by the old parties. It is in this commitment, that we join together as the Progressive Vermont Alliance to promote policies based on democratic principles, pledging to meet the needs for all Vermonters, while rejected policies based on government by and for the privileged few.
Statement of Principles
The Progressive Vermont Alliance believes that:
The principles of democracy must be extended beyond money-dominated elections to include daily life, the work place, schools, and the economy as a whole. If a decision affects someone’s life, then that person has a right to have a say in that decision rather than submit to decisions made far away by government bureaucrats in corporate board rooms.
In order to achieve justice for our people, there must be a redistribution of wealth away from those who have unfairly benefitted from the efforts of others. This must include fundamental tax reform, which will cut taxes for the majority while compelling millionaires to pay their fair share.
Everyone is entitled to the same basic rights and opportunities, regardless of gender, race, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or political belief. Everyone also has a basic human right to personal safety and choice when it comes to where they shall work and reside, and how they control their lives, bodies, beliefs and lifestyles.
The destruction of our environment and our planet must come to an end. The public good is inextricably tied to the environmental good. Human beings must learn to live in harmony with the natural environment rather than try to control and manipulate it for their own gain.
The name of this organization shall be the Progressive Vermont Alliance.
The purpose of the Progressive Vermont Alliance shall be to promote progressive political change through all forms of direct democratic political activity including through electoral activity outside of the existing major political parties.
To be a member of the Progressive Vermont Alliance an individual must agree with and support the Statement of Principles of the Progressive Vermont Alliance and express a desire to be a member. This agreement and support must be public. No dues shall be required for membership.
The Progressive Vermont Alliance shall be comprised of Statewide, regional, county, and town/city committees. Any three members may constitute a committee so long as they are open to all other members in the relevant geographic unit, and apply to the State Committee for recognition. Each geographic committee is free to carry on political activity which is consistent with these bylaws and the Statement of Principles. The internal structure of each committee shall be determined by its members consistent with democratic principles, except that each committee must select a primary and secondary contact person to communicate with the State Committee. County Committees, at least, are encouraged to have regular monthly meetings.
At the founding convention or at subsequent meeting of an organized County Committee each county may elect two, except Rutland, Washington and Windsor which may elect three, and Chittenden which may elect six representatives to the State Committee. In addition, any member of the Progressive Vermont Alliance may become a nonvoting member of the State Committee by committing to attend State Committee meetings on a reasonably regular basis.
The State Committee shall attempt to pre-warn agenda items to give County Committees the option of discussing and directing their formal representatives how to vote on a particular item at a State Committee meeting. The State Committee and subcommittees shall meet at hours convenient for working people.
The State Committee shall elect two Co-chairs who shall arrange for facilitation of meetings, preparation of agendas, the recording and distribution of minutes, and the notification of committee members of meetings. Chairs shall serve at the pleasure of the State Committee. Any geographic committee may appoint subcommittees to carry out specific tasks or to exercise such authority as is delegated to the subcommittee. All policy decisions will be made at regularly scheduled meetings of the State Committee. The State Committee may appoint a Steering Committee may also set up subcommittees for specific tasks, delegating any appropriate decisions to that subcommittee.
Committee meetings shall endeavor to make decisions by consensus. If, after efforts, a consensus cannot be reached, then a majority may vote to convert to majority rule to deal with the issue ()when a majority believe coming to a decision is more important than coming to a consensus). Once a decision has been made by majority rule the Committee shall revert to consensus decision making.
Candidate endorsements are to be made at the lowest organized level. Committees may endorse candidates for public office who are running solely within their respective geographic districts. (A Town Committee may not endorse a Senate candidate. A County Committee may only endorse a town Representative within the county if there is not already a Progressive Vermont Alliance Committee for that town.) To receive a Progressive Vermont Alliance endorsement a candidate must be dedicated to the goals, purpose, statement of principles and platform of the Progressive Vermont Alliance. The candidate must also agree not to be identified by any Major Party label on the ballot or in campaign literature.
These Bylaws may be amended after prior notification by a majority vote at an annual convention or by a two-thirds majority vote at a State Committee meetings.