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Basking

02/26/08 5:55PM By Philip Baruth
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(HOST) For complex reasons having to do with frontloaded primaries and competing slates of superdelegates, Vermont’s Democratic Primary seems certain to actually matter, this time around. Commentator Philip Baruth is a novelist who teaches at the University of Vermont, and he's loving it, so much so that he'd like to offer a modest proposal for keeping this new feeling alive.

(BARUTH) With Vermont's Town Meeting Day primary coming up quickly, certain things remain shrouded in mystery, and certain things have become dazzlingly clear. On the mystery-shrouded side, we have the fate of the Michigan and Florida Democratic delegations - not to mention the name of the Democratic nominee himself or herself. We also don't know whether Mitt Romney's left hand knows that his right hand spent 42$ million dollars of his own money on a socially-conservative makeover.

What we do know is this: Vermont's primary matters this time out, really matters, and it feels fantastic.

Somehow, we've gone through an almost metaphysical change. We've always been pretty scrawny, in the electoral scheme of things, but now it's as though we sent away for some product or cream in the back of a magazine, something that worked, against all odds, and now we've buffed out, and suddenly John McCain's swooping in for a rally, just - you know - just to be with us.

Okay, he only wants to be with us at the airport, in a hanger, and then he's gone. But still, that's a relationship, of a sort.

It's a pretty heady feeling. Hillary Clinton is running ads to let us know that she hears us. Barack Obama is ready to turn the page, but only if we'll help, only if we'll take that page between our sticky, maple-syrupy fingers and turn it with him.

It's all about us, this time. New Hampshire's past history. They had their moment earlier this year, and believe me they basked in it. But now we're basking, New Hampshire. You hear that? We're basking, and we're basking like we've never basked before. Because on March 4th, every eye in America will be on Vermont, watching our every focus-grouped, over-intellectualized move. Except, you know, for the hundreds of millions of eyes that will be on Texas and Ohio instead.

Still, we're loving it. And something else has become clear as well: we can't ever let this feeling go away. Which is why we have to take the bull by the horns, now, while we have leverage. That's right: I'm talking about moving our Primary up to compete directly with New Hampshire's, passing a statute in the next two weeks, while all the remaining Presidential candidates will still nod their heads blindly at whatever we say. Howard Dean is the head of the DNC, and Howard Dean owes us all big time.

Whatever may happen to the Florida and Michigan delegations, the primary calendar has already changed forever. The only question left, at least for you and me, is this: Are we just going to sit back and do nothing while our neighbor New Hampshire is openly stripped of all its former glory - or are we going to jump in and cart some off for ourselves?

We're basking now, Vermont, and we can bask like this every Presidential season. All we have to do is pass a law mandating that we feel this good every four years. Sure, New Hampshire will threaten to advance their primary by a week. But I'm betting we'd win that little staring contest. It's hard to get too high and mighty with folks who share your border, and know your secrets.

Now is the time, people. Quick, before the clock strikes midnight, and we have to go running down the palace stair to our coach, leaving just that one muddy Timberland boot behind for John McCain to find.

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