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Editorial: Welch’s decision rooted in the importance of institutions

When Rep. Peter Welch made his decision last Friday to seek reelection to Congress, his decision was the result of several days of pondering how he could best serve Vermonters. The root of that decision was based on his years of building relationships on both sides of the political aisle and what he hopes to gain from that.
In a phone conversation Friday, Welch said Vermonters from all over called to urge him to both stay in Congress to try to make Congress work better and to come back home to Vermont and use his energies, political experience and integrity to keep the state moving forward.
While admitting it was a tough decision to make, Welch, 68, chose to stay in Washington because he believes the institution of Congress needs to be defended, supported and recast as a governing body Americans once again believe in and trust.
“What we’ve seen in recent times is an attack on and breakdown of our political institutions,” Vermont’s lone congressman said, adding those attacks have been led by Tea Party members and their ilk as a way to discredit an active government and promote their political agenda — one that tears down government, rather than build it up.
The antidote, Welch says, is to have faith in America’s support of institutional integrity, and to apply a civil approach to politics. He notes that his success in working across the political aisle is due to building personal relationships within both parties, giving him a “constructive voice” that both sides trust.
That’s no small achievement and Welch said it played a big part in analyzing how he could best serve Vermonters.
Those years of relationship building, Welch confided, would not easily be replaced, and gives him a change to help make Congress work better. That’s vital to Welch because he believes that strong institutions are essential to effective government. “I don’t think we can go forward unless we have strong institutions,” he said.
He related a story of his freshman year in the Vermont Legislature, arriving eager to agitate against the status quo. Instead, former Addison County Sen. Arthur Gibb took Welch aside, told him the Finance Committee needed a young, smart lawyer, and gave him a constructive, important role to play working inside the system and, ultimately, making the institution stronger. It was Gibb’s “extraordinary commitment to the integrity of the institution,” Welch said, that “washed away inclinations to be an agitator.” Back then, he said, you didn’t have to win every political battle, and there were lines you didn’t cross if it damaged the institution. Welch would like to see those lines reestablished in Congress.
The political forces today working against rebuilding the nation’s institutions “are brutal,” Welch admitted, but he also sees a growing frustration with the political dysfunction and partisan attacks that undermine the presidency and Congress.
“Making Congress function for the American people is no easy challenge, but it’s a challenge I have embraced with optimism, enthusiasm, and determination since 2007,” Welch said in his announcement Friday. “In order to succeed, legislators must find common ground and put practical progress over political posturing, just as Vermonters do… While being governor would be a distinct honor, I believe I can best serve Vermonters by continuing the hard work of getting Congress back to work for Vermont and the nation.”
It’s an exemplary reason on which to base his decision.
Now let the horse race for governor begin.
Angelo S. Lynn

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