(POLS 123 A 11204)

Spring 2008



Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays  12:20 – 1:10 pm


Lafayette 100


Frank Bryan




Room 503 Old Mill Building

Office Hours:

Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays 10-noon, and by appointment

Web Page:







First Hour Test

Wednesday, Feb. 27


Second Hour Test

Friday, April 4


Paper Due

Friday, April 25


Final Exam

Friday, May 9, 3:30




Frank Bryan and John McClaughry, The Vermont Papers

Frank Bryan and Bill Mares, The Vermont Owner’s Manual (on reserve)

Frank Bryan, Real Democracy: The New England Town Meeting and How it Works

Michael Sherman (ed.) Vermont State Government Since 1965 (on electronic reserve)


Plus assigned readings on reserve.  Reserve readings are a key requirement of the course.  Be sure to consult the readings list at the end of each section of lectures.


TOWN MEETING DAY ACTIVITY (One Required) Either Saturday, March 1 (limited number available); Monday night March 3; Tuesday day March 4; Tuesday evening March 4 (limited number available). 


Attendance at class Friday, February 29, and Monday, March 3 is mandatory. Because of your town meeting field trip, class on Friday, March 7, is cancelled.





Students are expected to attend and be prepared for ALL regularly scheduled classes.




Students are expected to arrive on time and stay in class until the class period ends.  If a student knows in advance that s/he will need to leave early, s/he should notify the instructor before the class period begins.




Students are expected to treat faculty and fellow students with respect.  For example, students must not disrupt class by leaving and reentering during class, must not distract class by making noise, and must be attentive to comments being made by the instructors and by peers.




Instructors will inform students of any special alterations to the syllabus.




Students are expected to check their UVM and WebCT email for this course on a regular basis.



Introduction:  This course treats the government and politics of the state of Vermont in the context of conceptual frameworks found in political science.  It therefore has two goals:


1.   To give the student a firm grounding in the governmental institutions and the political processes that make the Vermont political system work.


2.   To deal with some of the "great questions" that political scientists seek to answer.  Here the intent is to teach basic concepts by using Vermont as a case study.


To do this each section deals with one or more fundamental questions in political science and asks:  What light does the Vermont experience shed on this question?  Is what we have learned about any given general construct (by studying Vermont) particular to Vermont?  Is it different elsewhere?  In America at large?  In other American states?


Obviously knowing the Vermont case thoroughly is essential.  But it is equally essential to be able to think about Vermont in terms of what it teaches us about social science.  Examples are:


·        Does the coming of a two-party system in Vermont verify the hypothesis that competitive party systems are beneficial to the less fortunate in society?


·         Does the proliferation of interest groups in Vermont since the 1960's bear out the hypothesis that as "special interest politics" grows in influence the power of democratically elected legislatures declines?


·         Does Vermont's two-year term for governor support the hypothesis that longer terms for executives are more conducive to efficient government?


·        Does the Vermont town meeting show that the founders were right when they warned about the dangers of direct democracy?


Method of Instruction:  Lecture-Discussion, individualized projects (optional) and a "participant observer" town meeting project.


Writing Assignment:  Town Meeting Paper (10-15 pages) Some library research required plus self-generated town meeting data.





Part I:

Vermont Politics in a Systems Context


A.  ". . . I shan't be gone long" Does the “real Vermont” exist?


B.  Living in the Backbeyond—Historical Footprints


C. Above the “Optimum Climatic Area”–the Socio-Economic Setting



Required Reading:

Bryan & Mares, The Vermont Owner’s Manual (on reserve)


Frank Bryan, “The Back Beyond” (on reserve)


Duane Lockard, Vermont:  Political Paradox (on reserve)


Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers, chapters 1-3         




IMPORTANT NOTE:  At this time you should begin reading Real Democracy. You will be tested on Chapters 1-7 and 12 on the first hour test on February 27.



Suggested Reading:

Earle Newton, The Vermont Story


Charles Morrissey, Vermont:  A History



Part II:

The Constitutional ContextConstraints on Political Action


A.  Vermont in the Federal Matrix


B.  The Vermont Constitution


C.  Changing the Vermont Constitution



Required Reading:

Frank M. Bryan, “Reducing the Time Lock on the Vermont Constitution” Vermont History (Winter, 1976), pp. 38-47 (on reserve).


Hill, in Sherman 17-30 (on reserve)



Suggested Reading

Murray Bookchin, The Vermont Constitution



Part III:

Political Socialization


A.  The Political Culture of Ruralism


B.  Country Mouse and City Mouse


C.  Technology and the Axioms of Conflict



Required Reading:

Frank Bryan, Politics in the Rural States–Introduction (on reserve)


Frank Bryan, “How to Preserve the Vermont Character,” (on reserve).


Porter and Terry, in Sherman 107-137 (on reserve)


Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers, chapters 4-5



Part IV:

Town Meeting


A. The Town's Role in Vermont Politics


B. The Nature of Town Meeting


C. Patterns in Attendance and Participation


D. What the Future Holds



Required Reading:

Bryan, Real Democracy, chapters 1-7, and 12



Suggested Reading:

Jane J. Mansbridge, “Town Meeting Democracy” in Peter Collier (ed.) Dilemmas of Democracy (New York:  Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1976), pp. 148-177.




John Guy LaPlante, “What Killed the Town Meeting.” Nation 180 (February, 1958), pp. 96-7.




Andrew Nuquist, Town Government in Vermont (Government Research Center, The University of Vermont, 1964).



Part V:

Interest Groups, Parties and Elections


A.  The Changing Nature of Interest Group Politics


B.  The One-Party Era


C.  Breakthrough Politics


D.  New Patterns in the Election Fabric



Required Reading:

Bryan, in Sherman 53-76 (on reserve)




Clark Bensen and Frank Bryan, “Strengthening Democratic Control: Vermont’s 1986 Election in Historical Perspective,” Vermont History (Fall, 1988).  (on reserve)




Graff, in Sherman 77-91 (on reserve)




Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers,  chapters 6-7




Supreme Court Case Randall, et al v. Sorrell, et al (on reserve)



Suggested Reading:

Bensen and Bryan (two other articles on the elections of 1984 and 1982, published in Vermont History, fall of 1985 and fall of 1983).




Edward P. Brynn, “Vermont’s Political Vacuum of 1845-1856 and the Emergence of the Republican Party,” Vermont History 38 (1970), pp. 113-123.




George T. Mazuzan, “Vermont's Traditional Republicanism vs. the New Deal:  Warren R. Austin and the Election of 1934,” Vermont History39 (1971), pp. 128-141.




Melvin S. Wax, “Vermont’s New Dealing Yankee,” Nation (1949) pp. 659-660.



Part VI:

The Legislature


A.  The Reapportionment Revolution


B.  Correlates of Voting 1947-1982


C.  The Politics of Innovation and Metamorphosis Denied



Required Reading:

Frank Bryan, “Pivot Point for Democracy,” (on reserve)


Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers, chapters 8-9


Sanford and Doyle, in Sherman 31-52 (on reserve)



Suggested Reading:

Frank Smallwood’s Free and Independent (in paper) published by Stephen Greene press (1976) is the best account of legislative politics in Vermont.  It is enjoyable reading and should be on the shelf of every serious scholar of the Vermont political process.




Vic Maerki, “A Vermont House Gets Remodeled,” Reporter 33 (October, 1965).



Part VII:

The Governorship


A.  The Governor in Comparative Perspective


B.  Ranking the Governors



Required Reading:

Fitzhugh, in Sherman 91-106 (on reserve)


Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers,  chapter 10



Suggested Reading:

Frank Bryan, “The Governorship:  People, Position, and Power” in Joseph Milbourn (ed.) New England Politics (on reserve)



Part VIII:

The Bureaucracy:  Implementing Policy


A.  The Structure of Bureaucracy


B.  Overlays of Confusion


C.  Where is the buck, anyway?



Required Reading:

Douglas, in Sherman 137-156 (on reserve)


Bryan and McClaughry, The Vermont Papers, chapter 16



Part IX:

The Judiciary, Adjudicating Policy


A. The Judicial System


B.   Choosing Judges



Required Reading:

Dooley, in Sherman 187-242 (on reserve)