Starting November 6, 2020, all Vermont Conversation programs can be found at VTDigger, Vermont’s nonprofit news source: https://vtdigger.org/vermontconversation/
The 2020 election was historic. Voter turnout records were smashed: Some 160 million Americans voted — the largest number ever, comprising 67% of eligible voters, the highest turnout rate in 120 years. In Vermont, over 360,000 voters turned out, exceeding the previous record of 327,000 votes cast in 2008. Former Vice President Joe Biden won Vermont with 66% of the vote (up from 56% for Hillary Clinton in 2016), while President Trump received 30% of the Vermont vote, the same proportion as he received in 2016. Nationally, Biden received the highest number of votes ever by a U.S. presidential candidate, topping Barack Obama’s 2008 total, and currently has a 3.5 million vote lead over President Trump.
In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott was elected to a third term with a stunning 40 percentage-point victory over Democratic nominee David Zuckerman. And in another historic result, Molly Gray was elected as just the fourth woman to hold the office of lieutenant governor.
We discuss the national election results with Stuart Stevens, a former top strategist for George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns and also a lead strategist for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. In the 2020 race, Stevens was part of The Lincoln Project, a group of Republican strategists who worked to defeat Trump. Stevens is author of It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump.
We dissect the results of the Vermont election with Anne Galloway, founder and editor of VTDigger, and Xander Landen, VTDigger’s political reporter.
“We have a far-right extreme majority on the Supreme Court,” asserts James Lyall, executive director of the Vermont ACLU. “At no point in our lifetime has the Supreme Court been so far out of step with where most of the country is.”
This week, just days before a national election, the Republican-led Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to be a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The confirmation was rammed through in record time just four years after Republicans refused to give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because they insisted that eight months before an election was too soon. Barrett is now part of a 6-3 conservative majority, the most conservative court since the 1930s.
We examine the implications of the new Supreme Court in key areas: reproductive rights, civil liberties and immigrant rights, and how this could affect Vermont.
Lynn Paltrow, executive director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Ghita Schwarz, senior attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights
James Lyall, executive director, Vermont ACLU
“This isn’t just illegitimate; it’s a caricature of illegitimacy,” tweeted Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy during the confirmation process of President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is expected to be confirmed just days before the 2020 presidential election. Leahy says that Barrett’s appointment “diminishes [the Supreme Court’s] moral authority.” Leahy also discusses his views on court packing and the rising threat to abortion rights.
Leahy is the last of the Senate’s “Watergate babies,” the Democrats who were elected in November 1974, just months after President Richard Nixon resigned in scandal. Despite current challenges, Leahy remains hopeful about the future. “I really do believe in our better angels,” he muses. “We can do better and get over this.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
Is fascism on the rise under President Donald Trump? Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale University and author of the bestselling 2018 book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, discusses the fascist tactics used by Trump to maintain power. Demonizing immigrants, delegitimizing political opponents, mobilizing paramilitary groups, undermining experts, attacking the press, and lying incessantly until there is no accepted truth are all classic tactics used by fascist leaders throughout history. Stanley, a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Washington Post, says, “Normalization is what I fear most. …We’ve normalized law breaking in the White House on a stunning level, corruption on a scale we’ve never seen before.” He asserts, “Right now, the idea that we’re a law and order state is a dim memory.”
What is at stake in the 2020 election? Is democracy on the ballot? Howard Dean has a unique perspective that extends from the Green Mountains to the nation. He served as governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004, and served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009. He has worked as a political consultant and commentator in the years since. “What’s going on is just shocking,” he says. “We’re in really serious trouble. When you abandon the rule of law as a democracy, your democracy is gone. And it’s going to be gone before people realize if we don’t turn this thing around.” Dean also discusses his thoughts on running for office again if Sen. Patrick Leahy does not run for re-election in 2022, or Sen. Bernie Sanders retires in 2024.
Former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who just turned 87, remains a keen participant in politics. Kunin is the first and only woman to be elected governor in Vermont, serving from 1985 to 1991. She was also deputy secretary of education and ambassador to Switzerland in the Clinton Administration.
Kunin continues to be actively engaged in urging women to run for office. She is founder of the Vermont chapter of Emerge, which trains and supports Democratic women candidates. She speaks and lobbies in support of issues such as death with dignity, universal pre-K and paid family leave. She is the author of four books, most recently, Coming of Age: My Journey to the 80s.
Kunin, the first Jewish woman governor in the U.S., was born in Zurich, Switzerland. Her family emigrated to the U.S. as the Nazis began to sweep across Europe. She views President Trump’s signal to white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups to “stand by” with deep concern. “This opens a Pandora’s Box that we’ve got to close as quickly as possible,” she warns. “This is not America.”
Gov. Madeleine Kunin
Voter suppression could affect the outcome of the November presidential election. Will everyone get to vote in November, and will their votes be counted? “It could be a big mess,” warns Sue Halpern, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine covering election security and a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. “There’s so many reasons why the simple act of voting has become so fraught.” She adds, “My biggest concern is that people won’t be able to vote.”
The presidential debate held on Sept. 30 will be remembered as the first time that an American president openly allied with white supremacists. “The remarks addressed to the Proud Boys stood out as a kind of bellwether of something pretty severe and to be taken seriously,” says Lawrence Rosenthal, the founder of the Center for Right Wing Studies at UC Berkeley and author of Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism. “He was giving them orders: Stand down, stand by. He was also giving orders to his army of pollwatchers … a force of intimidation. Trump last night crossed the Rubicon.”
Trump also claimed that former Vice President Joe Biden is a socialist and part of the “radical left.” John Judis, editor-at-large of Talking Points Memo and author of The Socialist Awakening: What’s Different Now About the Left, asserts that Biden “is not in any sense a doctrinaire socialist.” But he adds that Biden, who may be forced by the pandemic to expand national health care and other social welfare programs, might “tend toward policies that put the public first, that put the public interest before profits and that shift the balance of power in America.” Judis also says that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, together with Eugene V. Debs, are the “two great figures in the history of American socialism.”
Lawrence Rosenthal, founder, Center for Right Wing Studies at UC Berkeley; author, Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism
John Judis, editor-at-large, Talking Points Memo; author, The Socialist Awakening: What’s Different Now About the Left
In the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 Americans, many people are wondering: Can the Centers for Disease Control be trusted? Dr. Howard Frumkin was a top CDC official under President Obama and is deeply alarmed by the Trump administration’s unprecedented attacks on the nation’s premier public health agency. “I don’t think any of us has ever seen the level of political interference and manipulation at the CDC that we are seeing these days,” he says. “We have to hope and pray for the sake of our country and the world that the CDC gets back to its position as an independent scientific agency so that we can trust all the advice coming from there.” Frumkin, the former dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health, also discusses his new book, Planetary Health, which connects the climate crisis, extreme wildfires, health vulnerability in communities of color, and Covid-19.
Dr. Howard Frumkin, former director, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC; former dean, University of Washington School of Public Health, co-editor, Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves
“I don’t use the word ‘illegals’ to refer to human beings,” says Maria Hinojosa, a trailblazing Emmy Award-winning journalist who has been among the first Latina reporters at PBS, CBS, CNN, and NPR. “We have to actively get those voices out of our head, …break down that narrative and be active in creating a new one.” Hinojosa hosts the nationally syndicated radio show LatinoUSA on NPR and founded Futuro Media, a nonprofit newsroom which focuses on news from a POC perspective. Her new book is Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America, in which she tells her own story of nearly being taken from her family when they came legally into the US in the early 1960s. Her personal experience informs her reporting on immigration, family separation and the human rights crisis on our borders.
Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale and a world renowned scholar of authoritarianism. His 2017 international bestseller, On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century, is a roadmap to how autocrats rise and democracies fall. Snyder’s newest book is Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary. He describes his near death experience following a missed medical diagnosis last year, and he eviscerates America’s failed coronavirus response. He calls on us to rethink the fundamental connection between health and freedom. “Other countries look at us and for the first time ever, they sincerely pity us, but also wonder, how can you have so much wealth… and kill so many people?” He observes, “We’re at a tipping point. To say that it can’t go on like this is an understatement. Things could get much worse than they are — and they might.” He notes that if Joe Biden is elected president, he will have to undertake “a redo of the 21st century.”
Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History, Yale University, author, On Tyranny and Our Malady
Peter Welch has been Vermont’s lone congressional representative since 2006. Welch is the chief deputy whip of the House Democratic Caucus and serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He’s a member of the House Progressive Caucus. Faced with the increasingly visible effects of the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of white supremacy and other threats, Welch says, “I’m extremely worried. I’ve not seen anything like this in my lifetime.” Welch has clashed with the Trump administration, and he is concerned about the president’s attempts to undermine the integrity of the upcoming election. “We have a president,” Welch says, “who does not believe in democracy and is doing everything he can to erode it and to kill it.”
Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter has watched with amazement and alarm as the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News has grown ever more intertwined and interdependent. Fox primetime hosts float conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims, and Trump tweets and repeats them to the world. Stelter, who anchors the CNN show Reliable Sources, explores this unprecedented relationship in his new book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. Stelter discusses how Trump has spurned his own briefings in favor of whatever he hears on Fox News and, as the Washington Post writes, “expose[s] a collusion that threatens the pillars of our democracy.”
Brian Stelter, CNN chief media correspondent, author, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth
Ronald Braunstein was a musical prodigy, becoming the first American to win the prestigious Karajan International Conducting Competition in Berlin in 1979. He was leading top orchestras around the world and his career was soaring — but his mental health was deteriorating. He was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his thirties. In 2010, he came to Vermont to lead an orchestra but was fired in less than a year. In 2011, his career in shambles, he and Caroline Whiddon, an orchestra administrator, decided to come out about his mental illness and turn his vulnerability into an opportunity. They formed the Me2 Orchestra in Burlington, VT, the only orchestra in the world created by and for people living with mental illness and those who support them. Me2 now has orchestras in Burlington and Boston, and new affiliates are forming elsewhere. Now a new film, Orchestrating Change (click for show times on PBS), documents the remarkable musical and mental health odyssey of Braunstein and Me2 and the orchestra’s mission to end the stigma around mental illness.
Ronald Braunstein, co-founder & conductor, Me2 Orchestra
Caroline Whiddon co-founder & executive director, Me2 Orchestra
Marek Lorenc, musician, Me2 Orchestra
When NBA players walked off the court in protest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in late August 2020, they announced a surprising precondition for their return: that the arenas in which they played should be used as voting sites in the November 2020 election.
The idea had been floated by a group of activists led by Eugene Jarecki, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary filmmaker from Vermont. Jarecki is co-chair of the non-partisan Election Super Centers Project. Numerous professional sports teams have now agreed to have their stadiums and arenas serve as election centers, including the Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards. Jarecki explains how the idea became reality with the help of basketball superstar LeBron James, coach Doc Rivers, and others, and why they view this move as a vital strategy to defend fair elections and American democracy.
Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker and co-chair, Election Super Centers Project
At last month’s Republican National Convention, President Trump declared, “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists and agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens.” The man behind this over-the-top rhetoric is Stephen Miller, the most powerful Trump advisor you may never have heard of. The 35 year-old anti-immigration crusader and white nationalist has been the moving force behind Trump’s immigration policy and the author of his darkest speeches. Miller has conjured apocalyptic visions of immigrants as a threat to America and has targeted refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant children. So who is Stephen Miller? Jean Guerrero, an Emmy-winning investigative reporter formerly with the Wall Street Journal, explores the influence of Miller and white nationalism in the Trump administration in her new book, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.
Jean Guerrero, author, Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda
Will the 2020 election be stolen? Will voter suppression affect the outcome? Voting rights expert and journalist Ari Berman discusses how voter suppression works and how it has already changed electoral outcomes in the U.S. He explains the strategy behind President Trump’s attacks on the U.S. Postal Service and Trump’s threat to deploy armed agents at polling places — a voter intimidation tactic with long history. Berman explains his nightmare scenario for Election Day 2020 — what it will take for it to happen, and how to prevent it.
Ari Berman, senior reporter, Mother Jones, author, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
A half dozen Vermont delegates to the Republican National Convention (RNC) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this week join 330 other Republican delegates representing 50 states, six territories and Washington, D.C., to renominate Donald Trump as their candidate for president. They discuss why they believe Donald Trump has been “extremely successful,” their claim that Democrats are responsible for most coronavirus deaths and that the virus spread from China through “negligence or a deliberate act,” and why a majority of Vermonters do not support Trump.
Deb Billado, chair, Vermont Republican Party, delegate, Republican National Convention
Jay Shepard, national committeeman, Vermont Republican Party, vice chair, Republican National Committee, delegate, Republican National Convention
Anya Tynio, RNC delegate, Republican candidate for Congress in Vermont, 2018, 2020
Janssen Willhoit, RNC delegate, former Vermont state representative, Republican candidate for Vermont attorney general, 2018
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, thus giving women the right to vote. This was the culmination of a suffrage movement that was launched in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention in New York, which was also attended by leading abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass. An effort to secure women’s suffrage failed at the US Supreme Court, leading to the movement to win the vote by a constitutional amendment. Enactment of women’s suffrage in 1920 was historic, but it did not end discrimination against African American women, who continued to be denied the vote due to Jim Crow racial discrimination laws until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Marlboro College Professor Emerita Meg Mott discusses the suffrage movement, the racial divisions within it, enduring discrimination faced by African American and LGBTQ women, and parallels to modern efforts at voter suppression. (August 19, 2020 broadcast)
Meg Mott, Professor of Politics Emerita, Marlboro College
This has been the most unconventional Democratic National Convention. It is taking place, not in Milwaukee as originally planned, but virtually, due to the coronavirus pandemic. We talk with five Vermont delegates to the 2020 DNC about their roles, their hopes and their fears for the 2020 presidential election. (August 19, 2020 broadcast)
Carolyn Dwyer, political advisor, managed last four campaigns for Sen. Patrick Leahy and also headed Rep. Peter Welch’s efforts in 2006 and 2008 (Biden delegate)
Jim Dandeneau, former House campaign director for Vermont Democratic Party, (Sanders delegate)
Lisa Ryan, Director of Rutland County Community Justice Center at BROC Community Action, serve on Rutland City Board of Aldermen, former first vice president of the Rutland Area NAACP (Sanders)
Rep. Mary Sullivan, longtime state rep from Burlington (unpledged)
Allison Leibly, 18 year old from Woodstock, VT, freshman at Stanford (Biden)
Can schools safely reopen? Balancing staff and student safety against the need for children to return to school has been daunting and controversial around Vermont and the country. “The kids are not alright,” asserts Dr. Rebecca Bell, a critical care pediatrician and president of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Don Tinney, president of Vermont-NEA and a 31-year veteran high school English teacher, warns of “reopening chaos” and schools forced to close due to staff shortages. The educator and physician discuss the challenge of how and whether schools should reopen. (August 12, 2020 broadcast)
Don Tinney, President, Vermont-NEA
Dr. Rebecca Bell, Pediatric Critical Care Physician, UVM Medical Center, President, Vermont Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics
How does a self-described “pro-life, gun-owning combat veteran” end up starring in ads against President Trump? Dan Barkhuff is a former Navy SEAL and now an emergency physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center. He is the founder of the group Veterans for Responsible Leadership. Lately, he has gone viral as the star of two ads for the Lincoln Project, which was founded by former top Republican operatives who are now working to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election. He says, “I can see Trump for what he is — a coward. We need to send this draft-dodger back to his golf courses. The lives of our troops depend on it.” (August 12, 2020 broadcast)
Dr. Dan Barkhuff, emergency physician, UVM Medical Center, founder, Veterans for Responsible Leadership
For 25 years, Stuart Stevens was a leading strategist and media consultant to top Republican politicians, helping to elect presidents, senators, congressman, and governors. He was top strategist for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and he worked on both of George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns. Stevens, who lives in Vermont, has just written a book, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump. He argues that Trump did not hijack the Republican party, he is the natural outcome of five decades of the party’s hypocrisy, racism and self delusion. (August 8, 2020 broadcast)
Stuart Stevens, former Republican strategist, author, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump
Former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and Lt. Governor David Zuckerman are vying to be Vermont’s next governor. First, one of them must win the August 11 Democratic primary to advance to the general election, where they will likely face Republican incumbent Gov. Phil Scott. In separate interviews, Holcombe and Zuckerman discuss their respective approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic, school reopening, their accomplishments and what distinguishes them, and their visions for Vermont. (July 29, 2020 broadcast)
Rebecca Holcombe, Former Secretary of Education, Democratic gubernatorial candidate
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Democratic gubernatorial candidate
In June 2020, the US Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s attempt to severely limit abortions. This came as a shock to many because Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority, seemingly reversing an earlier stand that he took against abortion rights. Professor Felicia Kornbluh, a scholar of abortion rights, attended the oral arguments and discusses what she saw in the Supreme Court, and the future of abortion rights. She also talks about her concerns about returning to campus to teach students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her posthumous discovery about her mother’s crucial activism that led to winning reproductive rights in New York State in the 1970s. Kornbluh is currently at work on a book, How to Win a War on Women: My Mother, Her Neighbor, and the Fate of Reproductive Rights and Justice. (July 22, 2020 broadcast)
Felicia Kornbluh, Professor of History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, University of Vermont
Should children return to school? Will this result in the spread of COVID-19? And if a vaccine against COVID 19 is developed, will people get vaccinated? Pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. William Raszka argues that depression is becoming a major concern in children’s health. He makes the case for why children should attend school, and how to do it safely. He is co-author of a commentary in the journal Pediatrics about COVID transmission in children. (July 22, 2020 broadcast)
Dr. William Raszka, Professor of Pediatrics, Robert Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont
Why does the U.S. now have the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world? Dr. Steve Goodman argues that public health experts “know exactly how to [manage COVID] – we just need the political will.” He notes, “It’s not politicians who are shutting down the economy. It’s the virus that’s shutting down the economy.” He likens the Trump administration’s abandonment of national leadership to fight the pandemic to Winston Churchill, “instead of saying ‘we’ll fight them everywhere, we’ll fight them on the beaches,’ said to his country, ‘Just go get a gun and you decide how to fight them.’” Goodman also discusses promising advances in treatments, what it will take to return to school safely, and whether the US has abandoned public health. (July 15, 2020 broadcast)
Read the article in Medium based on this Vermont Conversation.
Steven Goodman, MD, PhD, Associate Dean, Professor of Epidemiology & Population Health, and Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine
Most people might assume that the greatest threat to the media is President Trump’s relentless assaults on what he falsely calls “fake news.” But Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan argues, “Another crisis is happening more quietly. Some of the most trusted sources of news—local sources, particularly local newspapers—are slipping away, never to return. The cost to democracy is great.” Sullivan is the former public editor at the New York Times and the former editor of the Buffalo News. Her new book is Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy. She documents how nearly half of newsroom staffs have lost their jobs since 2008, the forces working against journalism, the dire implications for democracy, accountability and public participation, and where she finds hope (hint: Vermont’s own vtdigger is one). (July 15, 2020 broadcast)
Margaret Sullivan, media columnist, Washington Post
Emily Bernard’s latest book of essays, Black is the Body: Stories from my Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine, was named a Best Book of 2019 by NPR and received the LA Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. She has a new essay in the New Yorker. She discusses race, racism, family, restorative justice, and what she hopes will emerge from the current movement for racial justice. (July 8, 2020 broadcast)
Emily Bernard, Julian Lindsay Green & Gold Professor of English, University of Vermont, author, Black is the Body
The Vermont Legislature have temporarily adjourned after appropriating about $1 billion in coronavirus relief funds. The money is intended to help Vermonters, businesses, and communities survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson discusses what was passed, how governing is happening during the pandemic, and the challenges ahead. Note: Due to a technical problem the first 15 minutes of the interview was not recorded. (July 1, 2020 broadcast)
Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
Vermont Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) discusses criminal justice and policing reform in the age of Black Lives Matter protests and police brutality revelations. He also discusses reducing Vermont’s prison population and ending the “warrior mentality” of police. (July 1, 2020 broadcast)
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), Chair, Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee
Pres. Trump declared at a rally in Arizona this week: “This will be in my opinion the most corrupt election in the history of our country, and we can not let this happen.” Trump has repeatedly claimed without proof that expanded mail-in voting will lead to voting fraud. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, past president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, accuses Trump of promoting voter suppression. He discusses efforts nationally and in Vermont to expand voter access. (June 24, 2020 broadcast)
Jim Condos, Vermont Secretary of State
In a forceful New York Times op-ed following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Brandon del Pozo, a former NYPD officer and police chief of Burlington, Vermont, slammed police for having “aligned themselves with the president’s flagrant racism and callous disregard for the nation’s people of color.” He criticizes police reform, writing, “When it comes to reform, America’s police leaders have long been content to kick the can down the road because making real change is so hard.” Del Pozo served as Burlington’s top cop for four years, resigning in December 2019 following a scandal over his use of social media, which he discusses. Since then, he has earned a PhD in philosophy and is now a public health and drug policy researcher affiliated with Brown University. Del Pozo discusses calls to defund police and says that police leadership needs to experience “getting hit with a frying pan.” “Sometimes after you stop seeing stars you get clarity when you get hit with a frying pan. We could stand to have a frying pan effect in American policing.” (June 24, 2020 broadcast)
Brand del Pozo, former chief, Burlington (Vt.) Police Department
According to the ACLU of Vermont, “Every metric we have shows that Black Vermonters face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, and justice.” Too often, conversations about racism consist of white reporters (like me) asking black people to explain their lives. In Vermont, this reflects the fact that most media outlets have few to no people of color on staff, an outgrowth of a system of white privilege that has provided countless opportunities for whites to advance in the world of journalism, while people of color are left off the airwaves and out of print. Maroni Minter, campaigns director at ACLU of Vermont and my nephew, discusses his own experiences with racism as an African American man in Vermont, and leads a conversation with Vermonters of color in a wide-ranging discussion about race and racism in one of the whitest states in the US. (June 17, 2020 broadcast)
Maroni Minter, campaigns director, ACLU of Vermont, co-host
Katrina Battle, Jabari Jones, Tophre Woods, Damien Garcia, Serenity Willis, Marlena Tucker-Fishman
Is America on the brink of authoritarianism? Steven Levitsky has been wrestling with that question. Levistky is professor of government at Harvard University and is co-author, with fellow Harvard Professor Daniel Ziblatt, of the international bestselling book, How Democracies Die. “There’s lot to worry about,” says Levitsky. (June 10, 2020 broadcast)
This conversation has also been published as an article in Medium, “How Democracies Die.”
Steven Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University, co-author, How Democracies Die
Could the wave of protests around the US signal a tipping point for social change? How are the issues of climate crisis, racism, police brutality, and the COVID-19 pandemic linked? Bill McKibben, a veteran activist and author, discusses the interconnections between the movements and the issues, and why the current uprising gives him hope. (June 10, 2020 broadcast)
Bill McKibben, founder, 350.org, contributing writer, The New Yorker
America is in revolt. Following the police killings of unarmed African Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, numerous cities have erupted in mass protests against racism, police brutality, white supremacy, and inequality. We discuss racism and the uprising with Kiah Morris. She says, “Racism in Vermont looks like disparate outcomes for those with COVID-19. Racism happens within our schools where children are policed. Racism is death by a million cuts. Systemic racism is a continued assault on the humanity of individuals.” Morris served as a Vermont State Representative from 2014 to 2018 and was the second African-American woman in Vermont history to be elected to the legislature. She resigned in 2018 following racist harassment from a self-avowed white nationalist in Bennington, Vt. Morris is now Movement Politics Director in Vermont for Rights & Democracy.
Kiah Morris, former Vt. State Rep., Movement Politics Director in Vermont, Rights & Democracy
Scenes of American soldiers and militarized police attacking peaceful protesters have shocked the world this week. James Lyall of the ACLU of Vermont says, “This is not a time for despair. It is a time for everyone to speak out, to protest, to demand change, and to pull out all the stops. We are in a moment when we both have to defend the country and its institions from a descent into martial law. And we have to fundamentally change those institutions that are at the root of this uprising.” (June 3, 2020 broadcast)
James Lyall, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont
Immigrants and undocumented workers on Vermont’s dairy farms have been hit with a triple crisis: the coronavirus pandemic, the collapse of dairy farms, and the ongoing threat of deportation by ICE. Farmworkers, led by Migrant Justice, are demanding support to weather the multiple crises. “We may not be USA citizens, but we are Vermonters. We are sustaining the industry. There is an irony of being called essential workers but at the same time not being taken into account,” says Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice. (May 27, 2020 broadcast)
Marita Canedo, Migrant Justice
Thelma Gomez, Migrant Justice
The covid-19 pandemic has hit immigrant communities harder than nearly any other group. But as trillions of dollars in relief money has been authorized by Congress, the undocumented, including essential workers, have been left out. We speak with two leaders of the undocumented community in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, to discuss what is happening for immigrant communities. “We are human beings. We live here. We bring food to your table,” says Juan Carlos Ruiz. “We feel [the government] has failed us.” (May 27, 2020 broadcast)
Juan Carlos Ruiz, Lutheran pastor, Good Shepherd Church, Brooklyn and co-founder, national New Sanctuary Movement and the New Sanctuary Coalition in New York City
Cinthya Santos Briones, Mexican photographer, anthropologist, community organizer, author of photo essay in The Nation, “Immigrants Are Bearing the Brunt of the Coronavirus Crisis”
The COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people around the country and the world, but the rates of death among low-income and minority communities is disproportionately high. Why? Dr. Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is an internationally recognized social epidemiologist who has been an activist and scholar on social justice, science, and health. She discusses how social factors, including racism, poverty, and where you live and work, often determine who lives and who dies when health crises hit. (May 20, 2020 broadcast)
Dr. Nancy Krieger, Professor of Social Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Amitai Etzioni is from a family of German Jews who fled Germany as Hitler and the Nazis were rising in the 1930s. He worries that fascism could come to America under Donald Trump. “Now we have a demagogue who can rile up the masses and undermine democratic institutions. We are in serious trouble.” Etzioni was a senior advisor to Pres. Jimmy Carter and is now a University Professor at George Washington University. He discusses how Carter “made every mistake in the book” in politics but that he compares favorably to Trump. He also examines the question of whether Trump has embraced Big Government or is simply bailing out his friends in private business. (May 20, 2020 broadcast)
Amitai Etzioni, advisor to Pres. Jimmy Carter, University Professor, George Washington University
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many businesses and employees are relying on lifelines from emergency federal relief programs. Vermont’s Congressional delegation — Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch — discuss the federal response and the road ahead. “We have to express solidarity with each other,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders. “We have to rethink the basic structural foundation of American society.” This virtual Town Hall was sponsored by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility on May 7, 2020 and was moderated by Kristen Carlson of Green Mountain Power, a former reporter for WCAX. (May 13, 2020 broadcast)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vermont)
In just the first two months of the pandemic, 70,000 Americans died of COVID-19–more Americans than died during the decade-long Vietnam War. Epidemiologists have written that if Trump had instituted social distancing on March 9, a week earlier than he did, there would have been a 60 percent reduction in deaths. Will President Trump be held accountable for the deaths? Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker Eugene Jarecki writes in the Washington Post, “A national death clock is needed to measure the number of American lives that have been unnecessarily lost to President Trump and his administration’s failures in managing the coronavirus pandemic.” Jarecki discusses his effort to make the death clock go viral, and the silver linings that he sees in the pandemic. (May 6, 2020 broadcast)
Eugene Jarecki, filmmaker and author
Molly Gray is a fourth generation Vermonter who grew up on a family farm and now works as an assistant attorney general in Vermont. She is running for Lt. Governor of Vermont. If elected, she would be just the fourth female lieutenant governor in Vermont and the first in over two decades. Gray graduated from the University of Vermont in 2006 and worked for Rep. Peter Welch’s (D-Vt.) first congressional campaign. She then served as an aide to Welch in Washington, D.C., went on to work for the International Committee of the Red Cross, then returned to Vermont attend Vermont Law School, where she graduated in 2014. Gray describes herself as “a product of Vermont” who knows how to unite people to get things done. She discusses why she’s running, how she differs from other candidates, and how issues such as paid family leave are personal for her. (May 6, 2020, broadcast)
Molly Gray, candidate for Vermont Lt. Governor
The COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis are impacting many people’s mental health. A recent poll by Kaiser showed that 45% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. In another indication of stress, alcohol sales are up by over 50%. Social distancing makes everything harder. Child abuse advocates point to a concerning drop in reported cases of abuse as children are no longer in school and seen by teachers and counselors. Vermont mental health and child abuse experts discuss what they are seeing and what people can do. Washington Country Mental Health is preparing a group singing of the Bill Withers classic, “Lean On Me.” A global performance of the song can be found here. (April 29, 2020 broadcast)
Mary Moulton, executive director, Washington Country Mental Health Services, VT
Margaret Joyal, director, Center For Counseling & Psychological Services, WCMHS
Linda E. Johnson, executive director, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont
As President Trump pushes states to relax their COVID-19 restrictions amid protests, many sponsored by national conservative activists including the Mercer and Koch families, we talk with Stanford epidemiologist Steve Goodman, MD, MHS, PhD, about where we are in the pandemic and what lies ahead. He warns, “Without testing… you’re just waiting for another wave. We’re not really ready for meaningful re-engagement in most of this country.” (April 22, 2020 broadcast)
Read the article in Medium based on this Vermont Conversation.
Dr. Steven Goodman, Associate Dean, Professor of Epidemiology & Population Health, and Medicine, Stanford School of Medicine
The images are becoming a symbol of our time: 800 cars in line at a food shelf in Pittsburgh. New York City residents lined up for blocks to receive free food. In Vermont, food shelves are experiencing a spike in demand. Now a new study from UVM reveals that there has been a 33% increase in food insecurity in Vermont since the COVID-19 outbreak began. We discuss the rise in hunger in Vermont and what is being done to address it. (April 22, 2020 broadcast)
Meredith Niles, assistant professor, Nutrition and Food Sciences Department, University of Vermont
Rob Meehan, director, Feeding Chittenden
Anore Horton, executive director, Hunger Free Vermont
When Donna Carpenter, owner and board chair of Burton Snowboards, heard that local hospitals were asking for donations of personal protective equipment to deal with the widening COVID-19 pandemic, she thought of the nurses and physicians who cared for her late husband Jake Burton Carpenter, who founded Burton in 1977. Jake died in November 2019 of cancer. She was determined to help the people who helped her family and so many others. Burton tapped its suppliers in China and she purchased a half-million N95 face masks that it is donating to the University of Vermont Medical Center, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, and to hospitals in Boston and New York City. The company is also donating goggles and other items for personal protection. Carpenter says the federal response to COVID-19 is “a national disgrace.” She discusses the impact of the pandemic and climate change. “Maybe this a wake-up call. This is Mother Earths’ dress rehearsal.” (April 15, 2020 broadcast)
Donna Carpenter, owner and board chair, Burton Snowboards