Republican, Democrat, Progressive, Liberty Union, Green, Rainbow. Vermonters are used to a wide spectrum of parties crowding the ballot every two years.
But who is behind some of the more recent parties to emerge, including the Peace and Prosperity Party? And – a new entry this year – the VoteKISS party?
It’s not a party dedicated to the costumed-rock band KISS, nor is it an homage to the affectionate act of kissing.
"Keep it short and simple is the way I pronounce it – but most people think of it as ‘Keep it Simple Stupid. I just sort of politically corrected it," she said.
Laurel LaFramboise, launched the VoteKISS party this year from her rural home in Chelsea, after spending two years obsessing over its principles and mechanics. Now she’s the party’s U.S. Senate candidate – and her son Andre’s running for Congress. "It’s a revolutionary new way of voting. And instead of candidates, you’re voting for bills that a candidate represents," she said.
LaFramboise is frustrated by the climbing national debt and she thinks she can break
the cycle with a new system: Candidates would write three bills before they could stand for office, and then circulate them to the electorate. But otherwise, no campaigning – just the power of ideas competing in the civic marketplace.
LaFramboise’s own campaign is no frills. Zero frills, really. And it may not have been possible, she says, but for the relative ease of access to Vermont’s ballot. "It’s one of the few states left that an ordinary person can get on the ballot. It only takes 500 signatures whereas in most states it’s 100,000 to get on the ballot for U.S. Senator," says LaFramboise. "It’s ridiculous. So this is one of the few places where someone like me, who has no influence and no real voice, can at least get on the ballot and use that position to at least show up in a few places."
"Media access. Let me say that again. Media access. As a candidate, you get media access."
That’s Peter Moss, weighing in on what a shoestring campaign gets from a position on the ballot. Moss is a former EPA engineer who retired to Fairfax in 2000, and promptly created the Peace and Prosperity Party. He’s run every two years for either the House or the Senate – this year it’s the Senate. But like LaFramboise, he spends as little as possible publicizing his platform.
"I have just spent $300, and I will stop at four. You don’t even have to report until 500. And moreover I do not accept a penny, from anybody, ever. Because money is not the solution. The biggest problem for both major parties is corrupt money in politics."
So, like LaFramboise, Moss wants to squeeze money’s influence out of the system. But he has a darker view of what’s gone wrong.
"The reality is.. the Bohemian Club."
Moss says there is a shadowy organization of powerful elite, known as the Bohemian Club, which is pulling the strings that make our politicians dance. He admits it’s a conspiracy theory, and exposing the BoHos, he says, is the mission of his candidacy.
"My job is half done. Because every day I notice more people realizing that what they see and hear and watch on the television and the mass media doesn’t quite stack up to what they believe. And once that smidgen of suspicion is planted, it grows, and grows, and grows!"
There’s precedent for that, actually, and in Vermont. It was back in the 1820s and 30s, when, says Vermont historian Gregory Sanford, many Americans were nursing a sense of grievance against the political powers of the day.
"That oligarchs and elites were meeting secretly, and taking decisions and eliminating opportunity for the common citizen. The focus of this was the Masons, who were seen as an organization where those elites got together and made their plans, excluding the rest of the citizenry."
But Sanford says that the anti-Masons were different from loner candidates like LaFramboise and Moss. They took the time to create a robust organization, ran candidates for local office, and for a brief period took control of the Legislature and governor’s office.
Still, candidates like Laurel LaFramboise and Peter Moss are very serious about their messages – even if realistic about their chances of actually getting elected.
Note: There are other candidate on the ballot representing little-known parties, including Cris Ericson of United States Marijuana and independents such as Emily Peyton and James "Sam" Desrochers.