Why Vermont doesn’t matter

Every four years a number of wealthy social elites descend upon New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and a handful of other states fortunate enough to have early primaries and caucuses.They campaign for the voters in these states, hoping that early wins, even in relatively small states, willgive them the momentum and attention needed to compete in later, larger “Super Tuesday” states.Policy pronouncements are tailored for people living in these areas, and time and resources are spent here in vastly disproportionate sums.This year Rudy Giuliani ignored this strategy and paid dearly for it, while John McCain, seasoned after decades in politics, played the game and staged a remarkable late-in-the-game comeback. But what of the later states? Residents of these places, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and others, home states of a great many students at this university, find that by the time the election rolls around to them, the game is largely decided.Candidates have dropped out and momentum and polls have shone favorably upon a lucky few.People living in these places — and there are a lot of them — have fewer choices at their disposal because the earlier states have already had their say.In a sense, they, or rather we, are lesser participants in the democracy. And Vermont is perhaps the biggest loser in all of this. Though our neighbors in New Hampshire enjoy a quadrennial burst of attention, we are left mostly ignored and forgotten. This is the one state never visited by George W. Bush. He has been to North Dakota, Hawaii and Alaska, but never Vermont. Yet the rationale behind this system is rarely discussed.We talk about the system itself at great length, we know it’s there, but we tend not to examine the merits and pitfalls of the system which will decide who leads the most powerful nation in the world for the next four years.Picture yourself riding in a car that sputters, leaks gas and pulls very heavily to the right. Would you remark to yourself about its peculiarities and go on driving, or would you pull over and get it fixed? There’s only one sane choice here.Our primary system is sputtering, leaking gas, and pulling very heavily to the right and we in Vermont are paying the price. But if we call out for help will anyone pull over?