Jim Douglas for President?

(This is one in a series of occasional essays about possible GOP nominees for president in 2012.)


Jim Douglas is the Republican governor in the far-left state of Vermont. And word is that Douglas is another good man who could possibly run for President of the United States in 2012, although he would make a great vice presidential candidate too.  Watch for both.


If you recall, Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor, ran for president in 2004 under the Democrat banner. But his campaign imploded.


Dean is a trust-fund baby, heir to the Dean Witter brokerage fortune out of New York City. So he would be expected to be a liberal. Douglas, on the other hand, comes from more humble roots so he would be expected to be a Republican truly on the side of “the people”.


Douglas has a calm demeanor and high likeability. And he has shown real concern for bread-and-butter issues, primarily economic decline and population flight from Vermont.


Douglas was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and was a Russian studies major at Middlebury (Vt.) College. He was active in the College Republicans there.


I, Nikitas, have long-time ties to Vermont. My mother came from Vermont, I visited there many, many times throughout my youth, I graduated from Middlebury (but did not know Douglas personally although he was a student there when I was a freshman), my father graduated from Middlebury, and I lived in Vermont three years in the late 70s. And that is when I came to think like Jim Douglas about the economic situation.


When I moved to Vermont in January 1978, I came to live in a community of young, liberal Democrat Ivy Leaguers from Boston and New York and other parts of the Northeast. They were nice people, but they believed in everything socialist while  I did not. They were experimenting with solar power and windmills, and even at the tender age of 25, I judged that these things did not work. I moved away in 1981 because I did not believe in their ideas about anything.


Another issue that bothered me about my Vermont neighbors is that they were elite obstructionists as were many young college-educated people of that era. They got themselves elected or appointed to planning boards and then nitpicked every facet of every economic development project, part of a bigger anti-growth trend in the region in the 1970s and beyond.


I saw this as dangerous. I realized way back then that this type of obstructionism would yield joblessness and a ruined economy for the future. And it has.


In May 1979, I attended a speech by US congressman Phil Crane of Illinois, a conservative Republican who was considering a White House run in 1980. He had come to Vermont to introduce himself as The Early Bird candidate. As Crane was speaking, I knew that I truly believed what he was saying. I have always voted Republican since.


Vermont today is in an economic freefall. After tens of thousands of educated young people and wealthy flatlanders moved to Vermont in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to operate the ski industry, retire, or go “back to the land” setting up businesses in small towns and rural areas, their influx has yielded little in long-term growth. Today Vermont has a serious problem with young people departing the state for lack of opportunity, even the children of my  contemporaries.


Here are excerpts from a news article of May 23, 2007 on wcax.com:


Governor Jim Douglas Wednesday signed legislation aimed at slowing the exodus of young people from Vermont.


…And Huckstep is not alone, many of his peers plan to leave the state in the next few years. “Personally, I don’t know whether I want to stay in state,” said Stephen Dennis, a senior at Burlington Technical Center.


…To try to entice students like Huckstep and Dennis into staying, state officials passed a $12 million Scholarship and Workforce Development Bill into law.


The bill includes $6 million for scholarships and grants, nearly $5.5 million for workforce training programs and a half a million dollars for loan repayment. (end of wcax.com excerpt)


This legislation won’t do much. The damage has been done over a long period on the grass-roots level. Growth is not likely to be affected by scholarship programs if there are no jobs when the young people graduate. As a Republican, Douglas understands the roots of all this, as do all conservatives.


Douglas was born in 1951 and was elected the 80th governor of Vermont in 2002. He has been re-elected in 2004, 2006 and 2008 but will not seek a fifth term this November.


He started his career by getting elected to the Vermont House of Representatives fresh out of Middlebury in Autumn of 1972. He became Republican majority leader during only  his third term at age 25. He left the legislature in 1979 to become an aide to Republican governor Richard Snelling and he became secretary of state in 1980, serving in that post until 1992. He challenged US senator Patrick Leahy in 1992 and lost but was elected state treasurer in 1994.


He won his first governor’s race by a small margin, and the other races by much more substantial margins. He also served as chairman of the National Governors Association in 2009-10, obviously a sign of wide respect and recognition.


Douglas has even been so brazen as to oppose a civil rights bill based on sexual orientation, and a bill legalizing homosexual marriage. How he has remained popular in Vermont is something of a mystery, but he has, with a June 2010 approval rating of 65%. And he has not yielded his stripes. He remains a real Republican.


Vermont.gov reports:


As Governor, he has focused on strengthening Vermont‘s economy, reducing the cost of living in Vermont and protecting the state’s natural environment. Reducing the high cost of health care, housing, higher education and the tax burden have been central to his efforts in making Vermont a more affordable place to live, work and raise a family. Governor Douglas has been chosen for leadership positions by his peers, having served as the president of the Council of State Governments, chairman (twice) of the New England Governors’ Conference, chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors, and the new chairman of the National Governors Association – after serving as vice-chair for the past year.


Outside of government, Governor Douglas has been active in many community organizations. He is a past president of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce and Porter Medical Center. He served as treasurer of the State 4-H Foundation and president of the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ. He has served on the boards of the Mary Johnson Day Care Center, the Counseling Service of Addison County, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra and the United Ways of both Addison County and Vermont. And he continues to serve as Town Moderator for Middlebury, a post he has held for more than twenty years.


Over the course of his career, Governor Douglas has received more votes than any other person in Vermont history, a testament to his appeal to voters of all political persuasions. (end of excerpt)


Perhaps it is his humility, common touch and common sense that appeal to all Vermonters who had a strong conservative streak for centuries – think of Vermont native Calvin Coolidge – and who see in Douglas an old-time way of thinking and governing of, by and for the people.


Whatever it is, Douglas is a straight shooter and a very nice and decent person. What you see is what you get, which is true of most conservatives. And in the age of plastic politicians like Mitt Romney and Scott Brown – whose popularity is sinking in Massachusetts – Douglas might be a very good candidate in 2012 for president or vice president. Watch for him.


Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.