The Secessionist Campaign for the Republic of Vermont

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The President
on Wednesday may have reassured Americans that the state of the
Union is "strong," but, just the week before, a group
of Vermont secessionists declared their intention to seek political
power in a quest to get their state to quit the Union altogether.
On Jan. 15, in the state capital of Montpelier, nine candidates
for statewide office gathered in a tiny room at the Capitol Plaza
Hotel, to announce they wanted a divorce from the United States
of America. "For the first time in over 150 years, secession
and political independence from the U.S. will be front and center
in a statewide New England political campaign," said Thomas
Naylor, 73, one of the leaders of the campaign.

A former Duke
University economics professor, Naylor heads up the Second Vermont
Republic, which he describes as "left-libertarian, anti-big
government, anti-empire, antiwar, with small is beautiful as our
guiding philosophy." The group not only advocates the peaceful
secession of Vermont but has minted its own silver "token"
– valued at $25 – and, as part of a publishing venture
with another secessionist group, runs a monthly newspaper called
Vermont Commons, with a circulation of 10,000. According to a 2007
poll, they have support from at least 13% of state voters. The campaign
slogan, Naylor told me, is "Imagine Free Vermont." In
his fondest imaginings, Naylor said, Vermonters would not be "forced
to participate in killing women and children in the Middle East."

Second Vermont
Republic’s gubernatorial candidate is Dennis Steele, 42, a hulking
Carhartt-clad fifth generation Vermonter and entrepreneur. He owns
Radio Free Vermont, an Internet radio station, and honchos an online
venture called Steele says that, if elected, his
first act in office would be to bring home Vermont’s National Guard
from overseas deployments. "I see my kids going off to fight
in wars for empire 10, 15, 20 years from now," said Steele,
who served three years in the U.S. Army. "People in Vermont
in general are very antiwar, and all their faith was in Obama to
end the wars. I ask people, ‘Did you get the change you wanted?’
They can’t even look you in the eyes. We live in a nation that is
asleep at the wheel and where the hearts are growing cold like ice."

Steele and
the secessionists have nothing but contempt for Vermont Senators
Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who are otherwise considered among
the most liberal members of Congress. "They’ve done nothing
to stop the wars," says Steele flatly. Thomas Naylor was more
pointed: "Every time a Vermonter serving in the National Guard
gets deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, likely to be hurt or killed,
Bernie and Patrick are there to commemorate the departure and have
pictures taken."

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1, 2010

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