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Liam Madden is running as an independent candidate for Vermont’s lone House seat in the U.S. Congress.

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Bellows Falls candidate for Congress takes a different approach

Liam Madden enters race as an independent, with a focus on sustainability and healing a broken democracy

—Liam Madden is someone who isn’t afraid to take chances.A Marine Corps sergeant who served in Iraq, he became one of the leaders of Iraq Veterans Against the War and stood up to the Corps when it threatened to revoke his honorable discharge for his anti-war activities.After his Marine service, he got a degree in environmental studies and international affairs from Northeastern University and got into the field of climate sustainability.Madden went on to start the Green Gas Movement, a nonprofit that raises money for environmental restoration — an idea that won the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve initiative for climate change solutions in 2017.He calls himself “an independent, an entrepreneur, and a rabble rouser” who is seeking to add another title to that list — congressman.Madden is running as an independent candidate for Vermont’s seat in the House of Representatives long held by U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who is vacating his seat as he runs for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy.However, Madden said that he will stay in the race only if he can raise $10,000 by April 15. If he reaches his funding goal, he said that he will run in the Republican primary and that, if he happens to win it, he will turn down the party’s nomination and run in the November general election as an independent.He said this approach is similar to the strategy that independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has used over the years.

You can’t solve climate change without a healthy democracy’

—Madden said his campaign slogan, “Transcending Fear and Division,” does not mean never having disagreements.“It means focusing on values that supersede them, and building solutions based on a deep understanding and empathy for the differences in perspective a healthy society will always have,” he says.And Madden pointed out that what differentiates him from his Democratic Party competitors — Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and State Sen. Kesha Ram Hindsale — is that they are “well-intentioned progressives advocating insufficient solutions to problems they don’t seem to understand deeply enough.” He says that his focus is on — and he has a background in — sustainability “as the paramount issue of our time.”Madden spoke of what he calls “our deep sustainability crisis and the need to both dispel the myth that the Green New Deal is adequate, and also to clarify and reprioritize upgrading our democratic problem-solving processes.”He said that he is concerned with “the vitriol, and not being able to communicate with any kind of shared understanding of reality” that is an epidemic in social media and other venues and that “democracy cannot function like that.”Part of that milieu is what he terms on his website as “the same telltale signs of a coordinated propaganda [campaign] that I saw in relation to the war in Iraq happening again with Covid-19.” Madden said he “vociferously called attention to the threat of public health overreactions and the exploitation of fear.”“It’s hard to remember your shared values if you don’t operate with a shared set of facts,” Madden said.And the climate crisis, creating a just economy, and the crisis in democracy “all go hand in hand,” Madden said, “because you can’t solve climate change without a healthy democracy.”Madden believes that the politicians who do acknowledge that climate change is real and needs to be dealt with immediately still don’t realize the enormity of what’s needed.“I think they care and realize it is a significant problem, but how they speak about what it is going to take to do something about it is essentially some version of ‘do everything we currently do, but with solar energy or some other renewable technology,’” he said.“We can’t simply hope technology alone can solve what is more a problem of social organization,” Madden added. “There is just no way technology alone can solve climate change.”Instead, he proposes a Manhattan Project level of commitment to technologies beyond just solar and wind, and acknowledgment that we must use less energy as a society.“That’s the quickest thing we can do — use less,” he said. “But that’s the last thing any politician will say.”He gave as an example the figure that just 3 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated by solar power.“We’ve installed about 1 million solar panels [in the U.S.] in the last 40 years. It would take 3 billion solar panels just to offset the use of our cars for energy. That is just not going to happen. We’re not even close.”Madden said the nation has “to recognize that a permanent growth economy is just not possible on a planet with finite resources. We need to start thinking of how to navigate this very complex issue of transitioning to a new basis of wealth and meaning.”The unifying story that has held the nation together for generations, he said, was that Americans believed that their children would have a better and more prosperous life. But now, polls show that two-thirds of Americans now view that belief as no longer possible.“If we can’t figure out a new unifying story, we are going to ignite as a culture,” said Madden. “We need some sort of ability to fulfill our needs and create meaning in our lives that isn’t an extractive ‘we can grow forever’ fairyland economy that most people, with good reason, do not think can go on forever.”Madden said if elected, he would not serve more than three terms in Congress. He believes that term limits should be the norm for all federal offices so that politicians don’t get entrenched.He also believes that he doesn’t have all the answers, but is willing to listen in the hope of helping “to play a role shifting the conversation and expanding our imagination of what is possible, and sharpening our clarity on what is needed.”More on his platform and his ideas can be found at his website, rebirthdemocracy.com.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #657 (Wednesday, March 30, 2022). This story appeared on page A1.

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