Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman gives political pep talk in Putney

Encourages Democrats to take back the country

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PUTNEY — The Putney Town Democratic Committee already is preparing for the next election cycle, and it got a pep talk from Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman on Tuesday.

Zuckerman, who woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday to pick his crops before the long ride from Hinesburg, spoke at the Putney Fire Department about how Democrats can campaign for their issues more effectively.

State Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Windham-4, introduced Zuckerman.

"After the election of 2016, a lot of us woke up in a world we could have never believed had happened," Mrowicki said. But he said the 2016 election had been in the works for 40 years. After the "Watergate election," Republicans got together and made a plan to "take over the country," Mrowicki said.

Their plan was to train candidates by sending them to their messaging schools, and to start think tanks, he said. From school boards to state legislatures, Mrowicki said, their plan was to take over the country. "And they've been doing a pretty good job," he said. "Republicans now control 66 of the 99 state legislative bodies."

Mrowicki urged audience members to help Vermont lead from the ground up and, "keep our eye on the prize. We need a new governor."

While Republican Gov. Phil Scott wasn't the focus of the talk, his name came up multiple times. During the Q&A period, Meg Mott, an independent, asked how Democrats are going to control the budget. She suspected that Scott's election was because of frustration about Vermont's economy.

"It does appear like Republicans were able to make a stronger case for economic development and Democrats, to be perfectly honest, look a little as if they couldn't manage the budget," Mott said.

Zuckerman said Democrats tend to focus on long-term investments. He said most of the economic policies that made it so that Scott didn't have to raise taxes this year were put in place before Scott took office.

"I've heard for a while now, government should be run like a business," Zuckerman said. "Well how do you like it so far?"

Zuckerman, who is a business owner himself, said his product (organic produce) is geared to a certain type of customer. But government is for all people, he said, regardless of demographic, race, age, gender, or mental and physical ability. Pushing legislation that supports and benefits all people and levels the playing field has an economic return, he said. It means the government has to spend less money providing for people who don't have the resources to support themselves.

One of the biggest pieces of economic legislation recently, Zuckerman said, was a bill to legalize marijuana, which the governor had vetoed. However, Zuckerman suspects it will come up again this year.

Another big issue was how to get young people engaged with politics.

"Well you should have Bernie come and speak, not me," Zuckerman joked. But the problem of Democrats' engagement in politics was a persisting theme.

Sarah Levine, 23, said if politicians focus more on gaining youth's trust it would help. She also added that, as a young person, it seems as though she is often discredited because of her age. She suggested Democrats start respecting and listening to young people.

Zuckerman said he thinks young people are becoming more engaged.

"There's a silver lining to the very dark cloud cast in this country," Zuckerman said. "He [President Donald Trump] has really motivated a lot of people to get involved."

Zuckerman also said that issues tend to be more important to young people than deciding what does or doesn't define a Democrat.

He urged people to set aside the divisions within the Democratic Party and to work together. While Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, was far from an ideal candidate, Zuckerman said, he believes she would have been a better president than Trump.

"We wouldn't have words like, 'we will destroy you,' coming out of our president," Zuckerman said, referring to a comment Trump made at a United Nations meeting on Tuesday in regards to North Korea.

One of the big reasons Republicans have been so successful, Zuckerman said, is because they're putting in their "15 minutes."

"Democracy is not about voting, it's about communication," Zuckerman said. Republicans have been more vocal online, in the polls, and to their legislators, he said.

"Do you have 15 to 30 minutes a week for democracy?" Zuckerman asked. He said people need to communicate more, whether it's commenting on news articles, writing letters to the editor, talking to friends and family about issues, or calling their legislators. Bringing more visibility to issues will change the way reporters write about them, or what questions they ask, and will change legislators' views, he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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