Howard Dean; Bernie Sanders (Credit: AP/Getty/Wikimedia/Salon)
One of the great gifts of American life is its regional diversity, full of separate state identities. Modern technology, and the mass media, have the unfortunate tendency of muting that diversity in the creation of a repetitive and banal monoculture.
Vermont, home of John Dewey, Bernie Sanders, and Phish, is American to the bone and contains fascinating multitudes for those willing to look.
Bill Mares, a former reporter and member of the Vermont state legislature, has collaborated with Jeff Danziger, an award winning political cartoonist, to help Americans acquire a picture of Vermont political culture, one that is especially revealing in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election.
Their book, “The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump,” is a rollicking, humorous and insightful exploration of the unique qualities of a state that, in many ways, is one of the union’s most progressive, even if it is largely rural and mostly white. A contradiction of demography and ideology captures the essence of what makes the story of Vermont feel essential in the maddening quest to understand America and react intelligently to the still surreal presence of Trump in the White House.
“The Full Vermonty” includes chapters from a wide variety of contributors – politicians, journalists, activists and philosophers. I recently interviewed Mares over the phone.
In one of the introductory chapters of the book, you explain that you were searching for some utility of citizenship in the aftermath of Trump’s election, and since writing and editing are things you do well, you thought you could do them in service of the cause of your country. What is your ambition for the book, and is that ambition troubled by the worry that you are preaching to the choir?
Well, I’m very aware of preaching to the choir. Let me answer the first part in a roundabout way, though. I’m currently writing a book on beekeeping in Vermont. In some way, the purpose is similar, because we don’t expect the rest of the country to follow Vermont’s way of beekeeping, but we think it is a distinctive story, and no one else has done this kind of book. So, we want people in other states to take the lead and do their own book. The ambition is the same with the political book. I know Vermont. I grew up in Texas, but I’m not going back to Texas to do this kind of book. I’m not going to Indiana. Now, one of the treasures of the book is that we have so many different types of people who have contributed chapters with their own views. Yes, in a certain sense, we are preaching to one another, but one of our characteristics is trying to sort things out in a generous community manner. That’s a hallmark of town meetings. So, we aren’t aiming to just satirize and criticize Trump, but we are trying to articulate ways in which a state or community can change.
I’ve never visited Vermont. My impression of the …read more