Thursday, November 16, 2006

Our "Network" Moment

The elections are over and the spin has begun. The recently deposed party and their media mouthpieces would have us believe that the reason for their grievous loss is the war in Iraq and that dissatisfaction with the war trickled all the way down to NH state legislators. It’s a disingenuous spin that allows the GOP to blame the president without taking any responsibility for their own conduct – or the way they ran their own races. It’s also creating a lot of whining, that in the interest of full disclosure, I confess to be enjoying.

It seems a very long time ago since we saw President Bush emerge from a plane in a manly flight suit with the banner “Mission Accomplished” displayed behind him. Since that premature announcement of victory, thousands of US and untold numbers of Iraqi lives have been lost. At least $380 billion dollars have been sent over there, resulting in no measurable improvement. The war goes on, the spending goes on, and so does the dying. Months ago, the President told a writer that he would stay the course in Iraq, even if the only people who agreed with him were his wife and his dog. A couple of weeks before the election, in an attempt to save his party, he told us that “stay the course” had never been their philosophy. With utter arrogance and stupidity, it never occurred to them they’d lose control of the House and Senate, so a little over a week after Bush told us that Rumsfeld was doing a fantastic job, he got the Brownie treatment, and was pushed on to his sword the day after the election. Too little, too late.

The war was certainly a factor in the humiliating rout the GOP endured last week, but it’s not the only reason for those losses. To blame the war is to ignore the widespread lobbying corruption that has led to arrests and investigations – as well as to bad legislation like Medicare Part D. To blame the war is to ignore the sex scandals – and the fact that House Speaker Hastert ignored Rep. Mark Foley preying on pages. To blame the war is to ignore the dissatisfaction with the booming economy we hear about, but aren’t experiencing ourselves unless we are among the wealthiest one percent. To blame the war is to ignore the dissatisfaction with the divisive public discourse of the last six years. Above all, to blame the war is to ignore how angry voters are at the disastrous fiscal policies of the Bush administration – policy that has tripled our deficit, burdening future generations with debt. The 109th Congress didn’t do anything and the people know it. November 7 was our “Network” moment – the national equivalent of throwing our windows open and shouting, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more!”

As the nation went, so went the state of New Hampshire. For years many of us have longed for the time when NH would became a two party state – never expecting that it would happen overnight. The GOP has had control of the NH House since the Civil War. That long reign has at last come to an end. The Democrats now have the majority in the House and Senate, as well as the Executive Council – and all of this under a Democratic Governor. Both of our incumbent US Congressmen were voted out. The NH spinmeisters and pollsters are rocking and rolling – notably Andy Smith of UNH, who despite an abysmal job of pre-election polling and predicting, is still lauded as some sort of expert. The spinners only seem to talk to political insiders, which tends to limit their perspective. On a post-election NH Outlook segment, the most unbiased viewpoint came from Tom Fahey of the NH Union Leader.

Smith and the other spinners seem to think that Governor Lynch had the longest coattails in history, and that combined with anger against the war is what caused the complete upheaval in our state. This is such a glib, skim-the-surface look at what happened that all who spew it should be embarrassed and possibly unemployed.
For decades, the GOP has run on the same platform in NH. “No New Taxes/Cut Spending.” That old tired mantra was bound to run out of gas – and this was the year. Gubernatorial candidate Jim Coburn’s entire embarrassing campaign consisted of bellowing that the Democrats want an income tax – despite John Lynch’s vow to vote against one. For the last 6 years, we’ve had professional fear-mongers on the national level giving us color coded alerts. The “tax and spend librul” saber rattling pales in comparison.

NH GOP incumbents feel entitled to their seats. For a very long time, all one had to do to be elected was be a Republican, and do convincing public imitation of sanity. They didn’t bother to campaign – they didn’t have to. I read a newspaper story a few elections back where a then-incumbent from my district spoke of how he just put up a handful of signs and that was his campaign. How many Republicans knocked on your door and asked for your vote? The incumbents were lazy. They marched in party lockstep. They weren’t paying attention to how things in our state are changing.

Did the war sweep ‘em out? I don’t think so. Across the nation people were fed up with the GOP – and that includes NH. This was a vote for change. People are tired of sending the same people to Concord, where nothing changes. NH has the 7th highest housing costs in the nation, high energy costs, high health care costs, and low wages. The issue of school funding has dragged on for decades. All the GOP had to offer was “no taxes, cut spending.” That simply isn’t enough any more.

My favorite complaint has been about straight ticket voting. For years, the Democrats have introduced legislation to eliminate straight ticket voting. For years, the Republicans have fought to keep it, because it helped keep them in power. This year it worked against them, and suddenly the straight ticket has become an outrage!! The last vote on straight ticket voting was in January of 2006. You can look it up on the NH General Court website, under roll call votes – and find out who voted for it. A yea vote is a vote to ITL or kill the bill eliminating straight ticket voting. Be sure to note how many of the losing incumbents voted to kill the bill.

This election was a cry for change. Let us hope that change ushers in a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to work together for the best possible future.

“People voted for change, they voted for an agenda – and you can hear it, but they also voted for civility.” NH’s newly elected Congresswoman – Carol Shea Porter

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