Thursday, April 18, 2013

Losing the Primary

Last month, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote an opinion piece that portrayed the NH and Iowa first in the nation primary status as a problem for the Republican Party, since neither state represents the GOP as a whole. Cohen thinks both Iowa and NH lean too far to the right, and that candidates who do well in these states go on to do poorly elsewhere.
I disagree with most of Cohen’s premise. I don’t think NH is further right than any of the states in the south or the Bible belt. That said he might be on to something.

The Republican Party has a big problem. Rabid ideologues were allowed to take over the party. Their course of action is obstruction. Their only plan is cut taxes and cut spending, a strategy that has been proving to be ineffective since the Reagan administration. The GOP is filled with old, angry white guys who are out of touch with the nation and the world. They have nothing but contempt for women, and their dinosaur crusade against marriage equality is becoming reminiscent of the men of my father’s era donning Beatle wigs to mock the fad of rock and roll.

The NH GOP is going to be the reason that NH loses the first in the nation primary. Some high points of the last legislature include the hijinks of Martin Harty, Speaker O’Brien, DJ Bettencourt, the Magna Carta, warning signs at the MA border, and kindergarten leading to a life of crime. All that caused the GOP to lose control of the NH House. That hasn’t cowed the minority party. They’re still behaving as if they were in control, and the Democrats (terrified of losing the majority) are allowing them to get away with it.

The NH House has an internal email system that allows voters to email legislators with our concerns and allows legislators to communicate with one another. As the whole world has learned this past week, it can also be used to send out questionable ideological material.

The House recently passed a bill to repeal parts of the Stand Your Ground bill that was passed in 2011by the laser like focus on job creation GOP majority legislature. Rep. Steve Vallaincourt made a dramatic floor speech in support of the repeal bill, and with characteristic modesty posted it to all members. Rep. Peter Hansen of Amherst responded with a missive that pointed out that Vallaincourt’s stories of travel were those of a solitary male, and what was missing from them were “children and vagina’s”. Rep. Rick Watrous responded by asking if Hansen was “really using vagina’s as a crude catch-all for women?” Hansen came back with: “Having a fairly well educated mind I do not need self appointed wardens to A: try to put words in my mouth for political gain and B: Turn a well founded strategy in communication into an insulting accusation.”

As it turns out, Hansen was wrong about his “well founded strategy in communication.” When the emails went viral, it turned out most people disagreed with his characterization of women as “vagina’s.” Most people were also highly critical of his inability to properly pluralize a simple noun.
Women, it seems, were quite offended at being reduced to the sum of their parts.

Hansen has made the typical GOP journey from refusing to apologize, to issuing a fauxpology, “If anyone was offended, I apologize,” to issuing a full apology, after his remarks were condemned in public by NH GOP Chair Jennifer Horn, and House Minority Leader Gene Chandler. NARAL NH and other women’s groups around the state are calling for Hansen to resign, but he told WMUR that he will not. Rep. Chandler appears to find the apology sufficient, and is now attempting to sweep the matter under the rug.

Peter Hansen is an elected official. For 2 days he insisted he’d done nothing wrong. That is undoubtedly what he really believes. A guy who would send that email out to the full House didn’t know or care that he was expressing contempt for women. He’s contrite now because he wants to keep his seat, and the NH GOP is desperately afraid that if Hansen resigns, and a special election is held, they’ll lose that seat to a Democrat. If they were smart, they’d force Hansen to resign, and use him as an example of the higher expectations they have for GOP legislators. They aren’t smart.

This story will be rehashed for the next year and a half, and will (hopefully) cost Hansen his seat, if he doesn’t resign. Media outlets around the world have picked up the story. Once again the NH GOP has made our state the butt of worldwide jokes.

That is why NH will lose the first in the nation primary. We used to be seen as a feisty but practical state filled with no-nonsense voters. Now, thanks to the NH GOP, we’re seen as a state full of lunatics. That makes it easy for to marginalize the state.  The first in the nation primary is a huge source of revenue for our state. Jobs are created. Media, real estate, restaurants, hotels – everyone gets a piece.

In a state where fiscal policy is dictated by a couple of dead guys, losing our primary status should be taken with the utmost seriousness. NH has long been unwilling to raise sufficient revenues to actually run the state properly. What will we do when all that primary money goes away?

It’s only a matter of time. Other states have been trying to discredit us for years now, saying that NH is too small and too white, and doesn’t accurately reflect the changing face of the nation. Every 4 years the jockeying for primary position begins anew, and so do the attacks on NH.
It’s inevitable that NH will lose that cherished spot. Who knew that the NH GOP would be working so hard to make it happen?

 © sbruce 2013  Published as a biweekly column in the April 19, 2013 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper

1 comment:

Thomas Simmons said...

As always, a fascinating and appropriately acerbic insight into Granite State politics.

I will offer this thought though: I honestly dont think that Hansen was originally using the term 'vagina's' solely as a swipe at women.

He was using it as a swipe at the chronically closeted and repressed Steve Vaillancourt's sexual orientation...only afterwards did it occur to him (or any of the GOP) that it might be taken as merely a crude reference to women. It was actually meant as a crude reference to the kind of sex that Mr. Hanson believes Mr. Vaillancourt eschews.

That doesnt make it any better.

In fact, it makes it worse.