The following column was published on Feb. 18, 2017.
At the last count, 17 Democratic attorneys general have condemned President Donald Trump’s executive order, concerning foreign terrorist entry into the United States, with synonyms the left reserves for actions it despises — “unconstitutional, un-American, and unlawful.” In their defiance of the temporary ban, these officials are joined by 53 percent of Democrats (according to a Reuters/ Ipsos poll) and the Republican governor of Vermont, Phil Scott.
Casting Trump as Goliath to his David, Scott proclaimed, “I’m going to do everything I can to protect the rights of all Vermonters and the human rights of all people — that includes standing up to executive orders from Washington that cross legal, ethical and moral lines.”
Conducting a simple Google search would deliver ample legal analyses proving that the executive order does not violate the rights of Vermonters or the rights of Vermont as a sovereign state. Congress has afforded the executive branch plenary or absolute power over immigration. Presumably, mundane research is no match for the drama and thrill that animates a messiah complex.
How else can one explain Scott’s decision to convene a special cabinet that will examine the executive order’s noncompliance with state and constitutional laws? The unspoken premise of the investigation is to resist a rogue president who willfully infringes on states’ rights and the liberties of Americans. The far-left proclivities of Vermont’s political elite likely explain the Orwellian ring to the cabinet’s title, “Civil Rights and Criminal Justice” (see “1984”’s “Ministry of Truth”). And given that Scott is a seasoned “Never Trumper,” his attribution of malice to the president’s actions is not unexpected. Indeed, Scott’s undue opposition appears to betray a personal animus for the president, which is unfortunate because Vermont needs all the federal help it can receive.
The state government — controlled by an alliance between the Democratic Party and the Sanders-esque Progressive Party — has turned Vermont into a laboratory for experimental legislation informed by radical leftist doctrine. As a result of punitive tax burdens and anti-business regulatory policies, the state has seen stagnant net job growth, no real income growth, and a mass exodus of young and middle-aged residents. Additionally, more businesses and high-income taxpayers have left the state in recent years, as the interests of powerful lobbyists and labor unions outweigh those of the common citizen. Not surprisingly, Vermont has ranked either 49th or 50th in the nation for its economic outlook over the last decade.
Scott won the governorship on the promise of revitalizing economic development and restoring affordability to Vermont. Why then has he shifted the focus of his two-year term to the national stage? It is disheartening to imagine that Scott would find virtue-signaling so irresistible that he would rather grandstand than address local problems. But sanctimonious is as sanctimonious does. Citing a dubious conflict between Trump’s executive order and the Fourth Amendment (that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures), Scott declared that he will not cooperate with the federal government to enforce immigration orders. He will also ask the Legislature to prohibit local officials from similarly assisting federal authorities. That a Republican governor would adopt a hard-line commitment to sanctuary status is indeed staggering.
In a recent interview, Scott denounced Trump’s measures as the “wrong way” to address national security concerns. He could have discussed what he deems as better approaches in a constructive dialogue with the president. Instead, he has chosen to oppose the rule of law in a fit of self-righteous indignation. Ultimately, it makes little sense for the governor of the second least populous state to resist a temporary moratorium on immigration from terrorist hot spots, identified by the Obama administration no less, during which the U.S. government intends to upgrade vetting procedures for visitors, immigrants and refugees.
Unless Scott is chasing national fame and recognition by the mainstream media, in which case he is right on track. There is no better way to win applause from the left than by moral posturing and subverting American politico-legal institutions. Gov. Scott has every freedom to seek the limelight in this fashion. However, he would make a far more convincing anti-Trump rebel had he the intellectual courage to add “Democrat” next to his name. Perhaps he will by November 2018.
Meg Hansen is a regionally syndicated columnist from Vermont. All views expressed are those of the author alone