Robert Caro tells a story of Lyndon Johnson's first days as President. Kennedy had been assassinated and Johnson met with some of his top advisors to plan his first speech. They were unanimous in advising him to steer clear of civil rights in the speech, because that was just not a winning argument with the majority of the public.
Johnson's now famous reply: “Well, what the hell's a presidency for?” He made civil rights the main focus of his speech and it started the momentum that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
The Democrats in the Vermont House are faced with a similar situation. As Paul Heintz reports in Seven Days, Speaker Shap Smith supports earned sick days for Vermont's workers, but is unlikely to bring the bill to the floor because of concerns that he might not have the votes to pass it.
He may be right. We know that Smith has been very effective as Speaker, and the ability to count votes is a big part of that effectiveness. On the other hand, the Democrats have super majorities in both the House and the Senate. There are workers in every House and Senate district who are sometimes faced with the choice between going in sick or staying home and missing a day's pay.
If we can't stretch sometimes to achieve something important for the working people who should be the central concern of the Democratic Party, I have to ask: What the hell's a majority for?
The Democrats have an opportunity here to stand squarely on the side of Vermont's working people. Wouldn't you like to see them take it?