Every other year, since 1970, Vermont voters have had the option of choosing Liberty Union Party founder Peter Diamondstone to represent them in Congress.
And every other year, for forty-two years, they have chosen someone else. Now he’s back on the ballot – and new generations of Diamondstones are joining the patriarch’s cause.
It’s a political dynasty of sorts. The Diamondstone dynasty – although one that rarely sees any of its own actually elected.
Peter Diamondstone is 78 years old now. He uses a cane to get around, he has some health issues. Tropical Storm Irene flooded his Brattleboro home, and then this summer, a fire burned it to the ground.
"Because my leg, and the flood, and the fire. I mean I’ve been through one of the worst years of my life. But I don’t feel frustrated about what I do."
What he does is carry the Liberty Union Party’s message of pacifism and socialism to as many ears as he can — this year in a bid for the U-S Senate. You’ll find Diamondstone, as ever, passing out flyers on the town common, traveling to debates on public cable channels, trying to catch some time with reporters. And despite three decades without ever coming close to a majority vote – he’s satisfied.
"I’m the most successful candidate in Vermont history. I’m not a very successful politician. And what that means is I bring a message, and I give voters the opportunity to find themselves and their own truths, instead of judging who’s going to win, which is the worst evil and which is the least evil."
It’s a civic attitude that seems to be embedded in the family gene. One daughter is seeking the state treasurer’s office this year. One son, a seat in the state Senate. Another is standing for the House.
"And my daughter, my younger daughter, is a lister in Townsend and will be on the ballot for lister again in March."
"So you’ve created a cottage industry.."
If we had had more kids we could of run the state… And they are brainwashed."
He’s half-serious about that. Sitting across the dinner table, Daughter Jessica Diamondstone gives a knowing grin: It wasn’t easy growing up in a political household.
"When I was growing up, he was my hero. And then when I grew up a little bit more, he was my monster. And I was, I think, appalled, by how swept into his propaganda. We all were."
But she adds that the party’s message of social and economic justice ultimately lured her back into the fold. And this year, when her father asked her to help the party maintain some gender balance on its ticket, she agreed to put her name on the statewide ballot, for treasurer.
"There was this integrity around what he was saying that held true even through the storm of those rebellious years."
For some in the family, however, joining the cause may not be so much a matter of struggle and choice as just… inevitable.
At 20, Grandson Owen Diamondstone Kohout, is the youngest in the clan whose name will appear on a ballot somewhere in the state. He’s up for a state legislative seat. And he’s adept at fleshing out Liberty Union principles – calling for universal health care, pay equity, and economic independence for Vermont.
And like his grandfather Peter, and many Liberty Union candidates – he insists he’s on the ballot mostly and simply to make sure voters have a choice.
"A chance for another voice that might be different, to be heard. I feel that just people hearing another option from a politician, that in itself may create change."
And whether or not any of the Diamondstones really want to serve in office, they clearly find the enterprise entirely engaging.
Even Owen’s 13-year old sister XX YY. At the start of this dinner, she’d excused herself from the table with the hint of a teenaged eye-roll. But by the end, she was tuning in from the next room, and she piped up… "How old do you have to be?" For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Fred Bever.
The eldest Diamondstone thinks, after three decades with little electoral success – and a roster of 60 or so active members, he and the party have nonetheless helped to re-shape Vermont’s political landscape.
"Since Liberty Union was founded, this always-Republican state – since then this state has probably become the most left-leaning state in the union and… Well there’s no measurable way to say what influence Liberty Inion has had on that happenineg. But it’s had some influence. "