Vermont is among the bluest of the blue states. Safely having gone Democrat in every election since 1992, prior to that it was actually the safest Republican state of all. Save for 1964, Vermont went for the GOP in every election since the party’s inception before switching for President Bill Clinton and staying on the left since. They are also notable for being the home state for Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, the darling of the far left, especially among young voters.
Sanders’ appeal goes beyond just the left, however. His anti-establishment message tapped into the same feelings of disenfranchisement that led to President Donald Trump’s election and it is widely theorized that Sanders may have actually won the election had he faced off against Trump due to the perception of both as outsiders. But the socialist tag is hard to escape in many parts of the nation, as it is often intrinsically linked with loss of personal and property rights — especially when it comes to business — as well as to communism, fair or not.
In Vermont, however, this socialist tag isn’t considered a negative. Sanders is rated as the most popular senator in the nation with his constituents at a whopping 75 percent. For comparison, most senators are south of 50 percent, typically only popular among their own party. Sanders and fellow Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy — currently the longest-serving member of the Senate — came in second at 70 percent, are both viewed favorably both within and outside of the Democratic Party.
The population of the state is largely homogenous, being nearly 95 percent white — the second whitest state in the union after Maine. But the population is ever-changing as just under half of Vermonters were born out-of-state, largely migrating here for the state’s natural beauty and political policy. In a mirror image of the Libertarian Free State Project of neighboring New Hampshire, it seems that a similar movement has occurred for Vermont among socialist leaning young people, albeit somewhat more organically.
Vermont, like the rest of New England, has a bit of an independent streak as well. But unlike the rest of New England, Vermont was actually once its own independent nation — a history it shares with only Texas, California, and Hawaii. Unlike the other three, however, Vermont was not acquired through military action (Mexican-American War for the former two, conquest for the latter), instead joining through political and economic deals with New York, who claimed it was part of their state.
Throughout Vermont history, the state has been somewhat more likely to vote for third-party candidates, having been the only state to cast electoral votes for the Anti-Masonic Party and one of only two to oppose President Franklin Roosevelt in all four of his election bids (the other being Maine). It was also the first state to legalize same-sex marriage legislatively, and has been among the top states in healthcare and quality of life and among the earliest adopters for physician assisted suicide, drug reform, and environmental protections.
Of course, these have not been without a cost. The state’s infrastructure is among the ten worst in the nation and tax rates are third highest in the nation — behind only New York and Hawaii. Most economic studies list the state as one of the worst in which to do business as heavy regulation on top of the high taxation scares many companies of all sizes away.
Still, these are sacrifices many Vermonters are willing to make in exchange for the social safety net. More than 80 percent of Vermonters eligible for food stamps and other government assistance take advantage of the programs, and people even come in from neighboring states to take advantage of the higher quality healthcare here. Median incomes here are also higher than the national average pre-tax, and the cost of living is relatively low compared with neighboring New York and Massachusetts — not to mention much of the Northeast — helping to balance the huge chunk of money which goes to Uncle Sam every payday.
Vermont seems likely to continue its streak of liberal-leaning independence for the foreseeable future, and will likely go blue again in at least the next few election cycles. As the second least populous state in the union after only Wyoming and smaller even than Washington D.C., it has the minimum number of electoral votes with three. But those three belong to the Democrats until a viable independent candidate can make his or her case in the Green Mountain State.