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View Diary: VT-Sen: Bernie Sanders is safe (151 comments)

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  •  Small size, not one party dominance (16+ / 0-)

    One of the things about a small state is that our elected officials have a tremendous amount of familiarity and direct contact with citizens.

    When Jim Douglas was Governor, he had strong approval ratings. Same thing with Democratic governor Dave Freundenthal in Wyoming. So office holders opposite of the dominant party tend to do pretty well too.

    In a small state, you expect your officials to be accessible (and they are). We are far more likely to have direct contact with our office holders - running into them at the store, seeing them at community meetings, hearing from them and their staff regularly.

    They also have much more coverage in the media than in larger states where they are competing with countless other office holders for attention. I'd also argue that the attention is more positive -- partly because local reporters are more likely to know them personally, partly because smaller town media tend to play less "gotcha" aggressive coverage than bigger media do, and partly because the media is more likely to allow office holders to communicate with less of a filtre directly to voters. (For example, all three of Vermont's federal representatives make appearance on local public radio and television call-in shows several times a year.) With only one television market covering almost the entire state, a couple of papers with serious statewide coverage, a bunch  of small regional newspapers, the highest public radio listenership in the country and an excellent statewide public radio station, and a handful of commercial locally owned radio stations with news coverage, politicos have pretty good tools for reaching voters.

    I'd love to know if the phenomenon applies to some other small states (the Dakotas, Montana, Delaware, Vermont, Wyoming, and Alaska are the only single congressional district states - and the larger geographic size of some of the western states poses some challenges compared to more compact Vermont and Delaware).

    I can't speak for the other states, but in Vermont people feel a pretty strong connection with their government officials and have a genuine respect and affection for many of our leaders.

    Once social change begins,it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read...You cannot oppress people who are not afraid anymore.

    by terjeanderson on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 04:53:52 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for that excellent reply (4+ / 0-)

      Question about Vermont TV markets: Do all cable systems show Burlington TV? I am guessing in the old days, southern Vermont may have been more in the Pittsfield (UHF) or/and Albany TV markets, but cable has changed everything. Do you get much New York or/and Boston TV via cable up there?

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 08:07:26 PM PDT

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      •  Most of VT now has Burlington cable/satellite (4+ / 0-)

        The Bennington area gets spillover from Albany but my understanding is that the Burlington/Plattsburgh stations are also now available there as well. In the Windham County/Brattleboro area, the local cable/satellite providers carry a combination both of Burlington, Boston, and Manchester (NH) stations.

        But other than those two southern counties, the local channels available via cable/satellite are all the Burlington/Plattsburgh market (there is a NBC broadcast affiliate in White River Junction, but it is only a relay for the Burlington/Plattsburgh NBC station broadcast).

        In a rural state like Vermont, satellite (Dish Network and Direct TV) has broader reach than cable in most areas, so the stations they carry as their local broadcast options are incredibly important.

        Once social change begins,it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read...You cannot oppress people who are not afraid anymore.

        by terjeanderson on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 08:43:21 PM PDT

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    •  Vermont politics is highly retail (12+ / 0-)

      If you aren't out talking to everyone, you're not getting elected.

      For state House districts, in particular, the candidate had better knock on every door. Word gets around like wildfire if a candidate is "phoning it in" rather than doing the actual door-to-door work.

      They also had better show up in the 4th of July parade, the big annual chicken BBQ, the local fair, and whatever else is going on in the district. They'd also better be willing to accept phone calls at home, and answer questions in the supermarket checkout line.

      Once the bear eats your friend, there's no one left to outrun. And it'll still be hungry.

      by radical simplicity on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 08:15:33 PM PDT

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    •  population size IMHO is correct (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terjeanderson, MichaelNY

      It is the relationship of an elected official to a smaller population.  Also with a smaller population, there is less likelihood of large amounts of outside money influencing an election.

      The United States is not just losing its capacity to do great things. It's losing its soul.--Bob Herbert. gulfgal98's corollary- Our soul is gone.

      by gulfgal98 on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 08:23:32 AM PDT

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    •  I'm guessing that being mostly white and from the (0+ / 0-)

      same or similar european roots has more than a little to do with how things swing there. Heterogeneous is a word that comes to mind. My guess, anyway.

      If this is Hope and Change, I want my money back.

      by Palafox on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 08:31:31 AM PDT

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    •  And the media situation you describe (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terjeanderson, schnecke21, MichaelNY

      makes it less expensive to run.  Think of the costs in states like California and Texas and Florida with multiple metropolitan areas.  

      The federal government is basically an insurance company with an army. Paul Krugman

      by Heart of the Rockies on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 09:40:12 AM PDT

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    •  This is the crux of the matter! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terjeanderson, MichaelNY
      One of the things about a small state is that our elected officials have a tremendous amount of familiarity and direct contact with citizens.

      Which is why I am for removing the 435 cap on the House of Rep. If we went back to something close to the original number of people per congressman, ordinary citizens would have a better chance of influencing House votes.

      With today's technology, we should be able to handle a Congress of 3,000 to 4,000 members.

      Don't squander your youth. You never can buy it back.

      by fredlonsdale on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 09:44:09 AM PDT

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      •  It has a downside too (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        Have you ever seen the NH legislature in action?

        I get the small district population thing, but the idea of a Congress with the number of members equal to the number of  delegates to the Democratic national convention seems problematic to me -- at that size, it eliminates any opportunity for actual deliberation and debate and becomes simply a game of whipping various voting blocs. If your representative is simply lost in a massive crowd of others, there isn't much impact in influencing them.

        Having one US Representative in Vermont (c. 625,000) doesn't seem out of whack to me -- Peter does a good job of reaching out to and representing the state, and people here have great access to him. That isn't very far off of the average national district size, so I don't think that is inherently the problem.

        Part of it may simply be Vermont's political culture as a whole - town meeting, Governors with listed home phone numbers, small district size for state legislature, people living in smaller towns, etc - that percolates up to all levels of elected officials here.

        I don't know what the ideal size is - but I suspect that district size isn't the whole issue.

        Once social change begins,it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read...You cannot oppress people who are not afraid anymore.

        by terjeanderson on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 10:01:54 AM PDT

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        •  625,000 translates to a bit less than 500 reps in (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          the House. That is about what we have now.

          I understand your points. I also believe there may be a problem of unintended consequences to such a dramatic change (ie 435 to over 3,000 reps.) But I have to go back to how the system was set up originally. The Senators were creatures of the various states. Congressmen were directly elected by the people.

          How large can a district get without breaking the 'directly elected' meme. Seems to me that too many minority voices are silenced as district size increases. I do not mean minority only in terms of ethnicity or sex or age. I mean political attitudes.

          Don't squander your youth. You never can buy it back.

          by fredlonsdale on Wed Aug 03, 2011 at 01:30:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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