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| | |-+  Why was Vermont such a heavily Republican state for so long?
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Author Topic: Why was Vermont such a heavily Republican state for so long?  (Read 981 times)
Calthrina950
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« on: January 15, 2019, 02:11:01 pm »

The question is as in the title. Between 1856-1964, Vermont was the most Republican state in the country. Even before the Republican Party's formation, Vermont never voted Democratic since that Party was founded in 1828, going for the National Republicans, Whigs, and the Anti-Masonic Party. And during the century of Republican dominance, it was routinely the best state for Republican presidential candidates. Fremont, Lincoln, Grant, McKinley, T.R. Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, and Eisenhower all got more than 70% of the vote there (McKinley actually broke 80% there in 1896); Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, Hughes, Hoover, and Dewey got more than 60% there; and it was one of only two states to never vote for FDR.

Then, in 1964, Lyndon Johnson became the first Democrat to ever win the state, and he did so with 66% of the vote. Vermont became solidly Democratic for good in 1992, and is now one of the most Democratic states in the country. What changed in Vermont to make it transition from a Republican bastion into a Democratic one? And why were its Republican loyalties so fierce and so deep for so long?
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Lechasseur
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« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2019, 03:23:46 pm »

I think it was basically tribal politics more than anything. The GOP was the party of Yankees (Civil War politics basically), and Vermont is arguably the most Yankee state in the country, so Vermonters stayed with their party until the parties really became polarized on ideological grounds rather than ethnic or regional ones.
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2019, 08:04:06 pm »

Regional/Protestant identity politics. The Vermont GOP governors of the 1930s were some of the most left-wing in the nation at the time.
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Southern Senator North Carolina Yankee
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« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2019, 08:27:36 pm »

I would also recommend the number of threads on this subject all of whom touch on various aspects and why the state changed versus why it was the way it was for so long.
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Representative Carpetbagger
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2019, 10:35:01 am »

The people who made Vermont Republican died.
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RINO Tom
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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2019, 11:04:30 am »

Regional/Protestant identity politics. The Vermont GOP governors of the 1930s were some of the most left-wing in the nation at the time.

I think the "left-wing" or "liberal" or "progressive" nature of Vermont's past Republicans - even those from the Aiken Wing - tends to be exaggerated.  Yes, it was a near-one-party state, and that one party was going to include genuine liberals and progressives ... but it comprised a lot of (arguably way more) genuine moderates and genuine conservatives, as well.  I think your average liberal Republican from Vermont back in the day would be a lot closer to Charlie Baker than he would be to Bernie Sanders with an R next to his name.  I tried to do a little research on these governors, though:

Jon Weeks (R) - I can't find much on him, either, but he was a small business owner farming and selling insurance, and then he served on the board of two banks.  I think it's at least a decent bet that he was a moderate.
Stanley Wilson (R) - He was responsible for implementing a state income tax, but he said himself that the positive effects of this were getting rid of several other taxes, including the highway tax and multiple property taxes.  Again, I would say it is fine to claim he was no conservative, but I don't know if he would be standing arm and arm with liberal Democrats.
Charles Smith (R) - I can't find much on him, and he only served one two-year term.
George David Aiken (R) - He was definitely a center to center-left Republican, but he wasn't exactly "left-wing" by any stretch.  While accepting much of the New Deal, he certainly battled the aspects that didn't help Vermont, which - IMO - was a key aspect of Vermont's brand of conservatism: they were fine with some "progressive" initiatives that would help their community (state) and were controlled by their community (state), but they didn't particularly care for federalized progressivism that imposed on their autonomy.  It can't be argued, however, that he was the namesake for the Aiken-Gibson Wing of the Vermont GOP, which was certainly the more liberal and progressive wing of the state party.

I would say all four were clearly center or left-of-center from what I could find, but I bet there were governors who were decidedly more left-wing.  In fact, I would argue a lot of Vermont's "progressivism" was decidedly NOT left-wing in that most of it was designed to help Vermonters - a largely independent, rural, White and Protestant bunch.  Also, it needs to be noted that the GOP during the Great Depression was simply playing the role of the right side of an Overton Window that had shifted dramatically left following the stock market crash.  Many Republicans who carried a conservative philosophy compared to their Democratic rivals - Dewey, Willkie, Landon, etc. - wound up sounding like moderate liberals because that is the only space they could really occupy.

However, back to the OP, I do agree that the liberal and progressive Republicans who were a part of the Vermont GOP were, indeed, a part of it due to regional and Protestant identity politics.  As NC Yankee said, there are a lot of very interesting and informative threads about why the state changed, which is an infinitely more interesting question that can't be chalked up to "parties sorted ideologically, and Vermont was always liberal."  (I'm not saying anyone here is suggesting the latter.)
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Del Tachi
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2019, 11:09:51 am »

Vermont is arguably the most Yankee state in the country

A Yankee is an American
In America, a Yankee is an easterner
In the east, a Yankee is a northerner
In the north, a Yankee is a New Englander
In New England, a Yankee is a Vermonter
And in Vermont, a Yankee is someone who eats pie for breakfast
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MB
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2019, 01:32:45 am »

Vermont is over 90% white and it was even whiter back then.
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ceres6
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2019, 05:02:31 pm »

Also, the state was somewhat disconnected from trends going on in the rest of the country. I donít know how badly Vermont was affected by the Great Depression, for example, but the fact it continued to vote for Republicans seems to indicate that the effects were not as large as in the Midwestern states.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2019, 04:39:43 pm by ceres6 »Logged
National Progressive
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2019, 11:47:16 pm »

Vermont is over 90% white and it was even whiter back then.

Appalachia was overwhelmingly white yet strongly Democratic except for some Unionist strongholds.
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