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A Bike Trip Through Vermont Makes Buzz Realize There's A Whole Lot Of Democracy Going On-- In Places Other Than Texas

Jeezum Crow: Buzz just got back from the land of the leaves, bike-riding our butts off in the rainy, chilly, hilly terrain of Vermont so we could watch the foliage turn colors and say, "Now that was a vacation." But with a state about the size of the Panhandle's handle and a population peopled by expat liberals from the Sixties, there's an amazing amount of democracy going on.

Many was the hill, dale, Ben and Jerry whose yards bore signs endorsing the candidacy of one of the six politicos running for governor. Can't imagine Texas having even a fringe candidate running from the United States Marijuana Party, though Buzz feels a certain kinship from our college daze with all strains of libertarianism. Vermont even has a secessionist party (Second Vermont Republic), not just a governor who kinda sorta suggests secession to curry favor with Tea Party Types. And in this land of 450,000 registered voters, 405,000 of whom vote, these aspiring guvvies have debated 10 times and plan on three more before Election Day. And yet Texas, with its 13 million registered voters, can't convince frontrunners Rick Perry and Bill White to debate each other. Even once.

Perry's excuse is lame. That White hasn't released all his income tax returns shouldn't be a precondition to debate, it should be part of a debate. Or three. And what a sad state we are in when our sitting governor won't even sit down with the editorial boards of major Texas newspapers to seek their endorsement. If The Dallas Morning News gives Perry its endorsement, it makes a mockery out of its entire endorsement process. The Observer doesn't endorse candidates—never has. What we do endorse is a spirited public debate, not taunting spokespeople or vicious attack ads whose purpose is to take a big enough soundbite out of the other guy that all debate will be shut down.

Buzz caught some of the 10th debate on Vermont Public TV after sinking into a formless heap on our bed at the inn. Sure, the inevitable political posturing took place; Republican Brian Dubie talked about saving jobs, Democrat Peter Shumlin talked about saving the environment. But personalities emerged, a clash of character that glimpsed their grace under fire. Maybe Vermonters got to know their candidates better, which will enable them to exercise their franchise in a more informed manner. The only thing Buzz got to exercise was our legs, which are still friggin' killin' us after those steep hills.

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