The following commentary in VTDigger by Susan Clark on 2/05/2021 is excellent:
Vermont’s superpower, revealed: The ability to practice local democracy
Susan’s thesis is that: a) civic skills acquired by actively practicing local democracy, especially in Vermont’s town meetings, are a kind of superpower:
[C]enturies of Town Meeting Day deliberations may have imbued our democratic DNA with powers worthy of Marvel action heroes.
And: b) our country desperately needs this superpower today.
But this year, as Susan notes, many in-person town meetings are being replaced by voting at the ballot box due to the pandemic lockdown. (See this article in VTDigger on 2/09/2021: Most 2021 Vermont town meetings will give way to ballot votes.) Voting by Australian ballot, as we call it here in Vermont, is poisonous to our superpower.
Voting by ballot is easier and quicker than attending a meeting. Susan goes on:
Some towns will even ask, why not make the switch permanent? Watching the rest of the nation struggle in 2020 demonstrates the answer: Because forgoing regular, empowered community deliberation is Kryptonite to a healthy democracy.
This is the same theme as Erica Heilman’s podcast in my previous post: Rumble Strip: Town Meeting. I encourage you to read Susan Clark’s commentary and listen to Erica Heilman’s podcast.
(I have known Susan Clark for years. I’ve mentioned her several times on this blog.)
Few places in the world hold town meetings like Vermont. They are held elsewhere in New England and in Switzerland. But it is a Vermont town meeting that is depicted in Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom of Speech painting, shown above. The story of that iconic painting and the town meeting that inspired it is told here.