It’s not exactly a secret that Republican-controlled legislatures and governors have gone all-in on voter suppression as their means to retain power. However, one Republican governor is an exception to the rule.
Governor Phil Scott just recently signed into law a bill that expands voting rights in the state of Vermont. According to Axios:
The new Vermont law requires the state to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters and give voters the option to fix or “cure” a ballot if it’s submitted incorrectly and considered defective. The law will also allow municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local races.
In a statement, Scott said that he believes “making sure voting is easy and accessible, and increasing voter participation, is important.”
The governor actually wants the legislature to go even further than the bill provides. He is asking state lawmakers to expand its provisions to include primaries and local elections. (The bill allows but does not require municipalities to send mail-in ballots for local elections.)
A former Republican stronghold
You may be surprised to hear that the state with Bernie Sanders representing it in the Senate has a Republican governor, but Vermont was actually a Republican stronghold not very long ago. In fact, Vermont voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 1988. Its transition began in 1992 when Bill Clinton was the first Democrat to carry the state since LBJ. That election proved to be a turning point. No Republican presidential candidate has won the state ever since.
Just as the “Solid South” turned from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, New England has moved in the opposite direction. Vermont is now one of the most Democratic states in the country at the presidential level – although it still elects moderate Republicans as governor. Prior to electing Bernie Sanders, Vermont sent Jim Jeffords to the Senate, a Republican-turned-independent who caucused with Democrats.
Moderate Republicans are nearly extinct
Phil Scott is less of a template and more of a dying breed. As governor, he supported Donald Trump’s impeachment. The only other Republican governor to publicly back impeachment – Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker – is another moderate Republican from New England.
Essentially, Scott and Baker represent entirely different parties from the national GOP – one that is rooted in the party’s past.
The prototypical governor in the Republican Party today looks more like Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, and Texas’ Greg Abbott. All three either back voter suppression bills or already signed them into law.
Rather than fight an all-but-assured losing internal battle over the soul of the Republican Party – a battle that Trumpists have won decisively – maybe it’s time for moderate Republicans like Phil Scott and Charlie Baker to lead a new conservative party that actually supports democracy?