The political Left has been fighting an uphill battle on many fronts since the 2010 elections. Despite many political victories, gridlock with the Republican-held House of Representatives has prevented a much of anything from getting done in national politics. Prospects seem even worse in state legislatures, with many states facing the same gridlock and some states undergoing major conservative changes under Republican leadership. However, if you’re progressive and looking for a beacon of hope, Vermont may be the answer.
Here are 4 ways that the Green Mountain State is becoming the most progressive state in the country and could soon lead the way in liberal politics.
A Break Away from the Two-Party System
Something that has allowed Vermont to surpass much of the legislative gridlock and political stagnation that many other states face is that Vermont is the only state that has a viable third party. The electoral alternative- the Vermont Progressive Party – has done a lot to shake up the political dynamic in the state. The Progressive Party is an organization that swings a little further to the left than the mainstream Democratic Party, and thus has helped to shift the entire political conversation in the state in that direction. And the party is no small contender in politics, either. In the last election, 5 representatives and 3 senators in the Vermont Legislature either won or held seats while running as Progressives, as well as 1 statewide officeholder and numerous local ones. Beyond that, the prominent U.S. senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, also claims affiliation with the party.
Highest Minimum Wage in the Country
Last month, Vermont earned the reputation of having the highest minimum wage in the country. The Vermont Legislature passed a law that will incrementally raise the minimum wage up to $10.50 by 2018. Since the state’s minimum wage is already indexed for inflation, that makes this move more than just a nominal pay increase. And while opponents to the raise lament on how the higher wage will effect the economy, Vermont has had a minimum wage above the federally set standard for some time now. So far, it has proven successful for economic growth in the state.
The Only State Developing a Single-Payer Healthcare System
In 2011, the Vermont Legislature passed a law paving the way for Green Mountain Care, which will be the nation’s first statewide single-payer healthcare system. Vermont decided to accept the funds for Medicaid expansion provided by the Affordable Care Act and, with extra budgeting, turn the expansion into a statewide single-payer system granting healthcare access to all of the state’s citizens. There have been a few hiccups delaying complete implementation until 2017, but legislators in the state have been working since 2011 to try and make the transition as smooth as possible.
Pushing to Keep Big Money Out of Politics
Finally, Vermont is taking the lead with a push for legislation to keep big money out of politics. In response to the controversial Supreme Court rulings of Citizens United in 2010 and the more recent McCutcheon ruling, the Vermont Legislature became the first one in the country to officially call for a Constitutional Convention to add an amendment regulating campaign financing. Beyond that, the legislature has also been enacting a series of campaign finance reform laws for their own state to keep big money out of state and local elections. Both of these moves make Vermont a forerunner in this area of political reform.
These 4 things are really just a portion of the different progressive initiatives making their way into law in Vermont. Other things, such as being the first state to require labeling of GMO foods and a growing push to become the third state to legalize marijuana, are also pushing the northeastern state forward. As the Green Mountain State moves further to the Left, progressives hope they can move the rest of the country along with them.