Over Thanksgiving weekend, I made my first visit to the land of Bernie Sanders: the city of Burlington, Vermont. The experience was more or less exactly what I expected. Progressive propaganda was on full display across the city, from the “F— Trump” stickers plastered around the walls of local bars to an ocean of Ukraine flags flying from homes—with precious few American flags to be seen.
Seeing leftist propaganda in a liberal hipster city like Burlington is nothing new, especially since my last two stops were Austin, Texas and London, England. What was most notable from my trip, however, was the willingness of the locals to discuss openly about how progressive policies have hurt the city—specifically, the “Defund the Police” movement.
I was staying in town with my fiancée’s family, all of whom have been lifelong Democrats (with the exception of my fiancée, of course, who became a registered Republican after witnessing the dark side of Democrat policies when she moved to Los Angeles). They explained to me how the city council voted to cut the police department’s budget by 30 percent and allocate the funding to “social services” and “racial justice needs,” which went just about as well as anybody with the most rudimentary critical thinking skills could have predicted.
Shootings in the city quickly rose. Burlington averaged two shootings per year between 2012 and 2019. Twelve people were shot in 2020, 14 in 2021, and it’s 23 and counting in 2022. Granted, these are nowhere near the numbers I was familiar with growing up in Baltimore—but a 10-fold increase in shootings in three years is of note.
Over the summer, my fiancée’s Uber driver told her a concerning story of a previous passenger, a trainee at the local police academy who claimed they were being taught not to report shootings unless a bullet actually struck somebody. It’s part of an effort to keep the crime statistics low.
In addition to the shootings, Burlington has also experienced a rise in car and bike theft, drug trafficking, and retail theft. My soon-to-be mother-in-law explained that at the local grocery store she frequents, a man walks in each day, takes a bottle of wine, and walks right out. The staff is well aware the man is stealing. They’re not supposed to report nonviolent crimes due to the lack of police support. In addition—and not at all a shock to anyone—many officers have left the police force because, for some reason, some people don’t want to put their lives on the line for a city that hates them.
Burlington’s attempt to appease the Black Lives Matter fanatics has backfired, both in the streets and in the press. The city made national news when its newly appointed “director of police transformation” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) was caught in a plagiarism scandal, highlighting the problem with progressives in government just using woke issues to cash in without actually putting in effort for their community.
Even one of Burlington’s more liberal city councilmembers, Zoraya Hightower, admitted that defunding the police force had “unintended consequences” and led city officials to “a situation I think nobody wanted us to get to.” And yet, she maintained her support for defunding the police. She even gaslit citizens who are reasonably concerned, because that’s always a good way to treat the people who decide if you get reelected or not.
According to NBC News, when told by a store owner that his staff no longer felt safe working in the evenings, she snarkily remarked, “In Burlington, Vermont?”
When I see the real-life implications of these failed progressive ideas that I’ve been warning against since before they were put into practice, it can be easy to take a non-empathetic stance on people’s complaints. But when you talk with the people of Burlington, it’s clear their virtue signaling does not have deep roots.
Burlingtonians have found themselves in a similar situation to many Americans all across the country. Democratic leaders have absolved themselves of actual leadership and instead allowed radical progressives to bully them into submission. Evidently, they’d rather fail the cities they were elected to protect than risk being tarred as bigots. Progressive demands are constantly changing, and by the time one policy fails, another flawed one is proposed.
The problem is far from Burlington-exclusive. Many “socially liberal” moderates and classical liberals across the country saw progressivism as the shiny new thing and an innovative way of looking at community organization. Now that they’re paying the consequences, they must ask themselves a very important question—will they learn from their mistakes or continue to kowtow to radical progressive demands?
If the answer is the former, we may actually have a chance at mending some of the political divide in this country, allowing people of all backgrounds and political beliefs to experience a better quality of life.
But should liberals choose to act as stubbornly as Burlington’s city council, cities across the country will continue to crumble—and Americans will suffer more than ever before.
Which will it be?