Thursday, July 25, 2019

Bruno and Lorenzo: Two Paths, Two Italian Stories

My great uncle Lorenzo was still marching in 1964.

The Romans may have been the earliest to exploit southern Italy, their behavior so brutal that it eventually sparked the revolt of Spartacus. But some believe the darkest period may be the 200-year rule of the Spanish dynasty, which subjected the Mezzogiorno to a long series of predatory barons and viceroys. Officially, the feudal era ended in 1806, but its passing also meant that peasants could no longer turn to a wealthy overlord for aid. Now they were on their own.

Over the next decades, absentee landlords gained in influence, permiting gross inequities and draconian contracts that exploited most peasants. Some became outlaws and thieves. As a result, when southerners resisted landlord abuse or complained to the central government, they were often called barbarians and savages. But artisans and storekeepers were respected across class lines. Each trade had its own mastri and apprentices. They were more likely to take advantage of educational opportunities, and also among the first to join the exodus to America.

Listen to "Bruno and Lorenzo: Two Italian Stories" on Spreaker.

Young Lorenzo

Born on April 17, 1891 in the small Calabrian mountain town of Parenti, Bruno Lupia was the oldest of three brothers and, in 1902, the first of my family to emigrate to the United States. His parents, Michelina Cardamone and Joseph Lupia, had three other children: Lorenzo, Luciano, and Rosa. Lorenzo came to the US a decade later as a teenager, possibly to apprentice with his brother. Luciano followed in 1921. Both of them returned to Italy, however. According to my mother, the former “got into trouble” for his politics and the latter failed in a restaurant business.

There was obviously much more to this story. After all, grandpa Bruno became a clothing manufacturer and philanthropist, influential enough to merit an audience with President Truman. And Lorenzo ultimately became mayor of his hometown. Not bad for a troublemaker.

By 1911, I learned, Bruno had launched himself as a tailor in Red Bank, New Jersey, established enough that the local newspaper reported a case in which he had a customer arrested and brought to court for trying to avoid a bill by skipping town. At the time Red Bank was a commercial and manufacturing center, with the emphasis on textiles, tanning, furs, and other goods destined for sale in Manhattan. It was also a port from which steamboats took commuters to work in Manhattan. 

Bruno eventually moved his business to Manhattan and his growing family to Queens. As a clothing designer and manufacturer, he launched Metro Coat & Suit in the city’s garment district and became a leading Italian philanthropist, co-founder of the Italian Charities. 

But by then a serious split had opened up with his brothers, apparently over politics and property. For years, as Bruno became established as a tailor and maker of women's clothes, he sent money home. At least once, in the early 1930s, he brought his family to Cosenza. After that, mostly silence. 

 In September 1946,  Bruno (on the right) led a delegation of Italian businessmen to meet with President Truman. They were disturbed at "the way things were going in the world," according to a report, and might not support Senator James Mead, the Democrat running for Governor of New York. His opponent was Thomas Dewey, the Republican incumbent. Dewey was re-elected and Bruno became a Republican. 
Two years later Dewey almost defeated Truman for President.  

As a child I was told almost nothing about relations across the ocean. But a recently found Italian cousin says that Bruno once sent Lorenzo a bust of Mussolini -- not a friendly gesture. And Luciano may have become an outright fascist. On the other hand, my mother lamented years later that no one from Italy bothered to reach out after Bruno sold (or surrendered) his family land rights.

Whatever the reasons, the evidence suggests that Lorenzo returned to Calabria by 1919, early enough to fight for Italy in World War I. After the war, he became a hard-line Socialist, a “maximalist” who advocated real social revolution. Evidently, he had picked up some radical ideas as a teenager in New York's immigrant circles, possibly by frequenting anarchist meetings. 

From 1918 to 1920, Italy experienced serious monetary devaluation, along with so many strikes and factory occupations that the period became known as the "red biennium." In the little-industrialized south, the struggle played out on farmland. Soldiers returning from the war were in urgent need of work. But having encountered other peoples, ideas and cultures during the war, the former fighters wanted to finally leave behind the primitive social relations and working conditions of the middle ages.

In the spring of 1921, with the help of Lorenzo — recently back from America and the war — a group of returned soldiers founded the Agricultural Cooperative for Liberty, Mutual Aid and Work. It was a cooperaive society along the lines of one that had existed in Parenti back in 1909. The 1920s reincarnation was called the Anonymous Agricultural Cooperative of Parenti. During the fascist period it disbanded. When it was finally reactivated in 1943, the organization was renamed again, this time as the Agricultural Cooperative for Liberty and Work. 

Twenty years earlier, back in 1923, Lorenzo had already become concerned about political faddism and the rise of fascism. “People wake up anarchist in the morning, have a stroll, and become socialist,” he lamented in one article, “at noon comes De Cardona (a political priest), and we all are Popular; in the afternoon, after some drinks, from populist to ’Democratic-Liberal,’ then’fighters’; at night we all dress in black shirts and we are fascist. Without ceremonies!”

Three years after writing that, following a “summary” trial in November 1926, Lorenzo was “confined” to internal exile. His crime: As secretary of a “dissolved” section of the Socialist Party, he had conducted “active propaganda” throughout the district of Rogliano, defending peasants and challenging fascists. In other words, he was an organizer. 

He was also part of the early anti-fascist resistance, and a new decree on public safety, following several attempts to assassinate Mussolini, had increased surveillance, clamped down on dissent, and established a system of “forced residence” (confino).

Once his appeal was dismissed, Lorenzo was sent to Lipari, an island where local pigs cleaned up rubbish in the streets and some locals viewed the political prisoners sent there as a pampered “species of nabob.” On the other hand, he met left-wing leaders like  Carlo Rosselli and Emilio Lussu, democratic organizers and returned soldiers, and Francesco Fausto Nitti, nephew of the deposed prime minister.

When Lorenzo returned from exile, rather than being intimidated by his time in prison, he continued the struggle for social justice and freedom that characterized his life so far. As head of the local peasants and laborers organization, he helped to liberate land from the remaining baronies and fought phony “agrarian reform” that was being used against peasants and in favor of landowners. He “actively fought fascism with all his might and with the means at his disposal,” one local history noted.

May Day on Lipari in 1927; Lorenzo is on the left.

In 1943 Lorenzo became a Parenti Commissioner. A year later, after the complete liberation of southern Italy, May 1 was celebrated in a special way. The Socialist Word had resumed publication and commemorated the event by printing an article by Lorenzo that reminisced about a past May Day, when he was exiled on Lipari in 1927.

In “Memories of May Day,”  he recalled that “the rugged cliffs of the island were invaded around two in the afternoon by men who emerged from all directions. A group of white boulders that looked like a big boulder held us all on the part that was looking at the sea. We were about three hundred. 

“Above, the anarchist group. On the summit, Robiati stood guard, gazing, to the streets with ready access to sound the alarm. Under him Mazzoni, Malara and those of one unidentified wag. More to the right a large group of communists. I remember the manly figure of Volpi, and the children's faces of Repossi and Piccelli. 

“To the left were the socialists, the most numerous. Here Tega, Busoni, Carini, Innamorati, Tramontana, Grave, Germiniani and many, many others. There were then, alone, some Republicans, Mazzini, Mitti, Bruno. The lookout gave the signal to start because no one else would come and the celebration of our May Day began. 

“What was said? I do not know. I do not remember. I look into the distance towards the coast of Sicily and think about those I had seen every morning, starting handcuffed between two policemen, called by the special court, in response to unimaginable and obscure crimes. I feel that although we do not agree on many things, we are all united by a single hope. ‘Down with Fascism!’ I cry out, and all we repeat it forcefully, and the cry echoes through the reef. 
“When, one by one, we walk in single file, silent, toward the town, I seem to see an endless procession marching purposefully toward an achievement and a hymn that opens the door of my heart. Forward, forward Comrades!” 

In the first free elections after the fall of the fascist regime, uncle Lorenzo was elected Mayor of Parenti in 1945. He held the position for the next thirty years, supervising community affairs with rigor, prudence and democratic principles. 

Unfortunately, due to the rift in my family, we never had the opportunity to meet. Lorenzo Lupia, Presente!

Uncle Lorenzo gives a speech as mayor. 

Monday, July 15, 2019

Through the Years with Bernie Sanders

We first met in late 1971 at a Meet the Candidates event in the home of a friend in North Bennington. Bernie was in his first race and already aiming for the top — the US Senate. I was a local Dept. of Labor counselor and job developer for unemployed teenagers and adults. And yet, before long we were having an argument. 

I wanted to know more about his background and Vermont issues. He thought it was all about “the movement” and capitalism, and ended up declaring he didn't want my vote.

Creating Real Change (Video preview)

WPKN, 3/25/2019, interview with Scott Harris 

As I recalled it years later in The People’s Republic, after listening to his analysis of monopoly power and national corruption, I asked Bernie about his personal history and views:

“Obviously, you haven’t been listening to me,” he replied. “Do you know what the movement is? Have you read the books. Are you against the war in Vietnam?”

“Yes,” I said, “but you’re a person, not a movement.”

“You don’t understand. It’s the Movement that’s important. Are you for it? If you’re not, I don’t want your vote.”

Explaining that I needed to know more about Liberty Union, his political party, and the candidates themselves proved useless. Sanders became increasingly frustrated with my equivocal attitude.

“I don’t need your help,” he said finally. “We don’t have to prove anything to you.”

“You have to prove you’re a basically good person if you want my vote,” I explained.

Sanders shot back, “I don’t want your vote.”

Despite that inauspicious start, I have voted for Bernie Sanders more than a dozen times in the 47 years since then, in races ranging from Mayor of Burlington to Congress and US Senate. And he has certainly become more willing to talk about himself. For a while, before he became Burlington mayor, he rented an apartment across the street. Only once have I actively opposed his candidacy, although we have definitely disagreed, sometimes publicly, about priorities and tactics.

Recent Stories
Bernie’s Red Vermont (Politico, June 13, 2019)
Is Bernie a NIMBY? (Mother Jones, September, 2019)
Working with Republicans  (Wall Street Journal, September, 2019)
In the 1970s, while I worked as a journalist, as well as for state and local government youth and anti-poverty programs, he ran for governor and US senator, supported unions and activist campaigns, and worked and struggled on as a film producer and freelance writer. We sometimes wrote for the same publications, and I once invited him to opine about mass media for a weekly newspaper I edited.

Among other things, he said that the owners of the TV industry wanted to “brainwash people into submission and helplessness” and create “a nation of morons.” 

In late 1980 we agreed to work together in Burlington's upcoming elections. I was still editing the Vanguard Press, an alternative weekly, while chairing the local branch of the new Citizens Party; he was a veteran of four statewide races and had recently formed an independent coalition in Burlington. 

We both wanted to run for mayor, at first. But he was battle-tested and a more natural politician, while I had a job that I enjoyed and wanted to keep. In the end we met privately to talk it over. Soon afterward I withdrew from the mayor’s race, instead joining him on a coalition ticket as a City Council candidate. He won by 10 votes, with 40 percent in a four way race. I lost with 42 percent in a two-way race and returned to the editor's desk. 

It was the start of multi-party politics in Vermont and led to the formation of the Vermont Progressive Party, the most successful alternative to the two majors in the country, electing local, legislative and statewide leaders — up to the level of lieutenant governor — for over 30 years. 

Throughout Sanders’ eight years as Burlington mayor we remained coalition allies, often working together, but also disagreeing when necessary on development and peace issues. At one point that meant he presided over my arrest (with many others) outside an armaments plant. Peace groups were protesting gatling gun production and pushing for economic conversion. He felt we were blaming the workers and should protest instead at a congressional office.

On the day of the sit-in, Sanders was sullen and conflicted. He argued with the Chief of Police about videotaping the protesters, but also criticized an attempt to defuse the situation by asking General Electric not to ship arms for the day. The night before the event he contacted me to warn that the chief’s assurance about no shipments was inaccurate. He had demanded that the company be told to conduct “business as usual.”

After four terms as mayor, Bernie was elected to Congress in 1990, after coming close two years earlier, and didn’t lose another race until the campaign for president in 2016. (Before that announcement, he had already competed for office 20 times, most in statewide races, won 14 of them, and participated in hundreds of debates and public forums.) Meanwhile, I went on to edit other publications, defend immigrant rights in New Mexico, run a bookstore in Southern California, and manage Pacifica Radio, the progressive listener-supported network.

Earlier, I mentioned the one race (so far) in which I didn't back Bernie. In 1986 he had been mayor for five years and saw a chance to run for governor. But the Democratic incumbent was Madeleine Kunin, who had been in office less than two years and was the state's first female chief executive. In the end, I couldn’t support Bernie that time and instead found myself role-played him in a private mock debate with Kunin.  

Recently, Michael Kruse focused on this period for a Politico cover story, particularly on the relationship between Bernie and Jesse Jackson, who ran for President in 1984 and 1988. By 1986, as Kruse explains, “the Rainbow Coalition that Jackson’s ’84 campaign had spawned had grown in power in Vermont. Sanders, who was running for governor, couldn’t ignore it. Nor, however, could the state’s energetic contingent of Jackson devotees avoid Sanders, considering the sway he had over progressives in Burlington and beyond. A symbiosis between the two outsiders started to materialize. Sanders didn’t join the Rainbow; he wasn’t much of a joiner, period. But he ‘realized the necessity of participating in broader coalitions if he was ever to take his vision beyond the city limits,’ progressive organizer and journalist Greg Guma of Burlington wrote in his 1989 book, The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution. ‘He was looking to hold onto that base of support so he could challenge from the outside,’ Guma told me.”

As Bernie retired from his role as mayor  -- to prepare for the next chapter, national office -- I published a book about what had occurred and changed over the past two decades, The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution. In 1990, after defeat by Republican Peter Smith in a congressional bid, Bernie came back and won. That led to eight terms in Congress — before moving on to the Senate and, eventually, his presidential campaign.

In 1998, while working for another Vermont weekly, I interviewed Bernie privately about his philosophy and plans. By then he had made peace with the Democratic Party, often a target during his third party and Burlington years. But he could already envision a run for president and was certain he would "do well." 

Summing up his concerns in another era of scandals and corruption, Bernie explained, “You have two political parties that are controlled by monied interests. You have a corporate media. When you talk about consolidation, you are talking about oil and gas, banking, and perhaps most importantly, the media – where there are very few voices of dissent regarding our current position on the global economy."

“That gets to even the more fundamental issue – the health of American democracy," he said. "Do people know what’s going on? And how can they fight what’s going on? I fear that they don’t.”

One of Bernie's other frequent complaints is that his opponents don't take strong and unequivocal stands, that they are basically all the same while he is different, and that the current rigged game and level of inequality are "totally outrageous" and unacceptable. 

He is adept at sarcasm and irony — and does have an inside voice, but his main style is proudly declarative. Bernie effectively channels and expresses what feels to millions like righteous outrage. He can be brusque, but he also comes across as fundamentally honest. Athough even his fans gently mock his hair and age, most supporters respect and trust him. For many it feels like love. It boils down to one key attribute — authenticity.

In 1976, Bernie was the first "third party" candidate in Vermont to force his way into a statewide TV debate. He was running for governor for the second time. Seated between the Democrat and Republican, State Treasurer Stella Hackel (later Director of the Mint) and millionaire businesman Richard Snelling, he effectively conveyed the idea that there was little difference between them. It didn't win him many votes that time. But he made the point more effectively in the 1986 race against Kunin and Peter Smith. That time he got more than 15 percent, respectable for an independent. Four years later he was in Congress, after defeating Smith, the incumbent, as well as the Democrat in the race. 

Through all the races and years he has become adept at spinning virtually any question to repeat his carefully honed points, often without directly answering, and remains relentlessly on message. But he is ready to strike back, at the media, or even a member of the public, if he feels defensive or offended. I've seen him shut down a press conference when he doesn't like the way things are going. It happened again in 2011, the last time we were in a small room together. 

The topic was Lockheed Martin and its relationship to Sandia Labs, which he was welcoming to Vermont. 

In the mid-1990s, he had led the charge against $92 billion in bonuses for Lockheed Martin executives after the corporation laid off 17,000 workers. He called that “payoffs for layoffs.” In September 1995, after his amendment to stop the bonuses passed in the US House, Lockheed launched a campaign to kill the proposal. 

In 2009, he was still going after Lockheed in the Senate, calling out its “systemic, illegal, and fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.” By then, however, he had visited Sandia headquarters and come away eager to have a satellite lab in Vermont. 

At the end of 2010, ten days after the mini-filibuster that jump-started a “draft Bernie” for president campaign, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss announced the results of his own Lockheed negotiations, begun at billionaire Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room. It took the form of a “letter of cooperation” to address climate change by developing local green-energy solutions. Lockheed later backed out. 

By 2011, however, Sanders was also supporting the Pentagon’s proposal to base Lockheed-built F-35 fight jets at the Burlington International Airport. If the fighter jet, widely considered a massive military boondoggle, was going to be built and deployed anyway, Sanders argued that some of the work ought to done by Vermonters, while Vermont National Guard jobs should be protected. Noise impacts and neighborhood dislocation were minimized, while criticism of corporate exploitation gave way to pork barrel politics and a justification based on protecting military jobs.

When Vermont’s partnership with Sandia was officially announced on Dec. 12, 2011, Gov. Peter Shumlin didn’t merely share the credit. He joked that Bernie was “like a dog with a bone” on the issue. But the launch ended abruptly after a single question about the city’s aborted partnership with Lockheed Martin. Before a TV reporter could even complete his query Sanders interrupted and challenged it. Lockheed is not “a parent company” of Sandia, he objected.

And then, as is often the case when faced with unwelcome questions, he declined to say much more – about Lockheed Martin or the climate change agreement Mayor Kiss had signed, the standards adopted by the City Council, the mayor’s veto, or Lockheed’s subsequent withdrawal from the deal. Instead, he turned the question over to the representative from Sandia, who offered what he called “some myth-busting.”

It was more like an evasion. All national labs are required to have “an oversight board provided by the private sector,” he explained. “So, Lockheed Martin does provide oversight. But all of the work is done by Sandia National Laboratories and we’re careful to put firewalls in place between the laboratory and Lockheed Martin.”

In other words, trust us to respect the appropriate boundaries, do the right thing, and follow all the rules. Moments later, Sanders announced that the press conference was over.

Despite such blind spots, Bernie can be quite appealing to white working class voters, and even to some conservatives. Hillary Clinton thought she was tweaking him in 2016 on gun issues; she was really playing into his hands. Sanders is certainly pragmatic and savvy enough to realize that being a bit “moderate” on a few issues (like guns, drugs and defense) can help, in the south and in general. During the 1981 campaign — his first victory — he ran against a large property tax increase being proposed by the mayor. At the same time he insisted that “large institutions” and the wealthy should "pay their fair share." It was a sweet spot he will attempt to find again. 

Running against someone like Trump, an alleged billionaire,  should make it even easier for Sanders to talk about oligarchy and define the race as the climax of an historic movement. He frequently talks about "making history." In many past mailings he has also referred to how powerful right wing forces are out to get him, something that has helped to keep his base motivated. And he has long defined his campaigns in stark but convincing terms — a choice between oligarchy or democracy. It is increasingly hard to disagree.

Before the 2016 race, I helped Seven Days develop an interactive timeline: Bernie’s Journey

2015-16 interviews include:

International Business Times: Bernie Sanders' Debate Plan 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Progressive Eclipse: Burlington & Bernie Sanders (Series)

Listen to "The People’s Republic: Upheaval, Realignment and Pollina’s Winding Road" on Spreaker.
New Podcast: THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC #1 (July 12, 2019) 

A serialized examination of the 
most successful progressive 
movement in the last half century

In 1989 The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution described the rise of Vermont's progressive movement. But many things changed after Bernie Sanders moved onto the national stage, while new economic and political challenges created pitfalls. Putting Burlington's story in a larger context, this sequel also explores the impacts of the Occupy movement, the struggle to overcome the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, and other challenges. But the main focus is Sanders' rise and the hotly contested 2012 mayoral race in which developer Miro Weinberger beat Republican Kurt Wright and Independent Wanda Hines. In a May 4, 2015 interview with Scott Harris on Between the Lines, series author Greg Guma discusses the potential and challenges of Sanders' presidential candidacy.

Progressive Eclipse takes a closer look at why progressives found themselves on the defensive despite a record of success. It also examines the decision by Sanders and Mayor Bob Kiss to invite military contractor Lockheed Martin to Vermont and other problems that emerged after Burlington launched a municipally-owned cable TV and fiber optic system. Revisiting several Progressive administrations, it chronicles the twists and turns that led to Sanders' presidential run and Weinberger's mayoral victory. The Prologue is included below, a complete e-book is available from Amazon, and the following chapters are available online:


“It’s time for a change. Real change.” That was Bernie Sanders’ slogan in his 1981 campaign for Mayor of Burlington.

The race had begun as a long shot but Bernie turned his shoestring operation into a real challenge. Nevertheless, even on March 3, 1981, Vermont Town Meeting Day, the incumbent and the local Democratic “old guard” still expected a decisive victory. After all, Ronald Reagan had been elected President only four months earlier. Sanders was no threat, they assumed, nothing more than an upstart leftist with a gift for attracting media attention.

Bernie wanted open government, he said, and different development priorities. He opposed an upscale Waterfront project and an Interstate access road to downtown.

He supported Rent Control. “Burlington is not for sale,” he declared. “I am extremely concerned about the current trend of urban development. If present trends continue, the City of Burlington will be converted into an area in which only the wealthy and upper-middle class will be able to afford to live.”

The incumbent mayor, Gordon Paquette, was a working class guy from an “inner city” ward who had grown up delivering bread and started his political career in 1958 as a Democratic alderman. By managing a patronage-based coalition known as the Republicrats, he had reached what turned out to be the pinnacle of his power as Burlington mayor from 1971 to 1981.

People called him Gordie, a street-smart political operator who knew how to appeal to Irish and French Canadian residents while meeting the needs of the business community. Comparisons with Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley were not uncommon. But demolition of an ethnic neighborhood near the Waterfront and a “master plan” to replace it with an underground mall, hotel and office complex had made him some enemies.

Cracks in the fa├žade of public calm slowly opened toward the end of the 1970s. Speculation drove up land values and rents, deepening the city’s chronic housing shortage. A restless youth culture emerged. Despite decent commercial growth, revenues couldn’t keep pace with the need for services. And the next steps in the city’s “urban redevelopment” vision would be disruptive – a highway into the center of the city, private waterfront development, and a pedestrian mall in the heart of downtown. The total cost, including public and private funding, was projected at more than $50 million. The local atmosphere was anxious and unsettled.

In January 1981, Paquette was nominated after a caucus fight for a sixth term. In previous races he had sometimes run unopposed. This time he prevailed in the caucus over Richard Bove, owner of the popular local Italian restaurant that bore his name. Afterward, Bove bolted the party to run as an Independent. Since Paquette was still a Republicrat at heart Republican leaders decided not to oppose him and instead banked on his re-election.

His main opponent became Sanders, a former “third party” radical running as an Independent who opposed Paquette’s proposed 10 percent increase in property taxes and promised to work for tax reform. He had never before run for local office, or even attended an entire City Council meeting. The recently formed Citizens Party, which had backed environmentalist Barry Commoner in the 1980 presidential election, ran three candidates for the Council, also known as the Board of Aldermen. The incumbents generally attempted to ignore their opponents, assuming that these electoral activists had no chance of upsetting the status quo.

But Bernie was hard to ignore, and local leaders of both major parties underestimated the growing influence of neighborhood groups, housing and anti-redevelopment activists, young people, the elderly, and the city’s countercultural newcomers. They also shrugged off the possibility that some of Paquette’s past supporters might want to send him a message.

By the time Sanders and the mayor finally faced each other over a folding table at the Unitarian Church tempers were hot. Bernie exploited rising local anger by linking the mayor with Antonio Pomerleau, the white-haired godfather of Vermont shopping center development. Pomerleau was leading in efforts to turn Burlington’s largely vacant waterfront into a site for commercial and condominium development.

“I’m not with the big money men,” Paquette protested. Frustrated and desperate to counter-attack, he warned that if Sanders became mayor Burlington would become like Brooklyn.  He looked honestly shocked when people hissed at him.

On March 3, with a few thousand dollars, a handful of volunteers and a vague reform agenda, Bernie Sanders won the race for mayor by just ten votes. Burlington had elected a “radical,” a self-described socialist who was determined to change the course of Vermont history. A Citizens Party candidate for the City Council, Terry Bouricius, meanwhile became the first member of the party elected anywhere in the country. In an odd twist, Bouricius won in Ward Two, the same place that had given Paquette his first term on the City Council 23 years earlier.

Prior to Sanders and the Progressives, Burlington had become a cultural backwater run by an aging generation, unresponsive to the changing needs of the community. If you attended a council meeting the first question often was, “How long have you lived here?” Political competition was the exception. Clannish Democrats and compliant Republicans made the rules.

The next three decades proved just how much the political establishment underestimated Sanders’ appeal, not to mention the potential for a progressive movement in the city and across the state. By 2011, the Queen City was known nationally for its radical mystique and “livability,” transformed from a provincial town into a cultural Mecca, socially conscious and highly charged. Over the years Burlington’s progressives not only consolidated a base in local government, they challenged the accepted relationship between communities and the state, and helped fuel a statewide progressive surge. They also weathered the storms of succession struggle.

Three progressive mayors managed Burlington for 29 of the 31 years after Sanders’ first win. Although Democrats continued to dominate the City Council during most of that time, and a Republican candidate for mayor could still win, a multi-party political system had changed the shape and style of city government, and, beyond that, fundamentally altered Vermont’s political landscape.