The American Left is divided, and nothing displayed this more than the 2016 Democratic Primary. The old fashioned corporate-friendly nature of the Democratic establishment is not too popular with young liberals as of late.
The Vermont Progressive Party (or VPP) began in 1999, partly due to the successful mayoral campaign of Bernie Sanders. I recently spoke with State Senator Christopher Pearson to learn more about his work in Vermont and his opinion regarding the shifting political atmosphere.
Ezra Kronfeld – In the past you’ve spoken about how you’re discussions with Bernie Sanders have influenced your work. What idea of his stands out for you as a legislator?
Christopher Pearson – I would say his focus on economic issues and economic justice, as their are many liberal and even Progressive minds out there in government be he is, I think, unique in his commitment to those issues, and understanding how they translate to the public.
EK – Do you find what he’s said and done to be at all daring in this political atmosphere?
CP – Well I definitely think he’s courageous. If you examine his campaign last year, you’ll find that he was totally willing to name names, whether hedge fund managers or pharma executives, or even heads of media. He’s always been pretty bold in that way.
EK – For over thirty years, the Vermont Progressives have worked to bring change to your state without establishment ties or corporate donations. How do you think that kind of grassroots politics has changed with the rise of social media?
CP – I’d say those principles still apply, the difference being that a lot of us have gained experience. The Lieutenant Governor is a Progressive, the state auditor, a few of us in the senate. We do get a broader reach with social networking, in a cheap manner. I don’t know if that answers your question.
EK – Uh, yep. As a legislator, do you think there are any issues that have been drastically avoided or underreported as of late for the benefit of some affluent figurehead?
CP – I think, generally, the media establishment doesn’t look at inequality very much, or climate change enough. These are central issues to, I would argue, our survival and sustainable future that, if they made headlines, would help us to further understand these issues.
EK – What do you think has significantly caused this disillusionment of the Left, particularly liberal millennials, with the Democratic party?
CP – Well I’d say that that they really haven’t had the enthusiastic support of millennials for a long time, and it’s been highlighted by Sanders’ presidential campaign. Not much of a dramatic change.
EK – Do you think there should be more said and done about big pharma?
CP – For sure, it really should be a major focus of Leftists in America. In fact, I have a bill in my pocket right now to demand that Vermonters will pay no more than the VA for public pharmaceutical purchases like Medicaid. It really a rather stark example, to me, of the poor policy decisions in Congress, and Democrats really need to understand that standing up to this industry is not only the right thing to do, and would actually be fiscally conservative, but would also be a huge win with voters. And I remember when I was 25 or 26 years old working for Bernie, I helped organize a trip to Canada for about ten Vermont citizens so they could receive prescriptions from Canadian doctors. Legislators really need to understand the significance of this issue much more than they do, especially the Democrats.
Christopher Pearson serves in the Vermont State Senate representing Chittenden County. He has recently challenged Governor Phil Scott’s vetoing of a legal marijuana bill.
Ezra Kronfeld is an American writer who authors the satirical blog “Why Stuff Sucks” (whystuffsucks.net).