September 16, 2007


With primary near, the Granite State is rockin': Hanging on — for now — to the nation's first presidential primary, residents are in their element. (John M. Glionna, 9/16/07, Los Angeles Times)

Politicking here is like a step back in time -- an old black-and-white photograph compared to the colorful frame grabs that follow in most other states. Candidates like Jimmy Carter, Jack Kemp and Bob Kerrey played checkers with a general store owner, and Gary Hart threw an ax at a woodsman convention.

"New Hampshire brings campaigning to a human scale," recalled Hart, a Democrat who ran for president in 1984. "Voters there know their politics. They've opened doors for dark-horse candidates -- that's the beauty of the state."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee for president in 1988, relished New Hampshire's retail politics. "You're in a lot of living rooms and backyards," he said. "I enjoyed that a hell of a lot more than the post-nomination drill -- up and down on planes giving airport speeches."

New Hampshire's tradition of micro-democracy dates to the 1700s, when town hall meetings originated in New England. Today, the state holds 200 elections at the town and school district levels every year, with races for statewide offices, including governor, every two years.

Per capita, New Hampshire boasts more people who have sought or served in office than any other state. Its Constitution requires one state representative for every 3,000 residents -- currently a 400-member House of Representatives. In California, the equivalent would be a 12,000-member Assembly.

"A political culture was born here and has been nurtured over time," said Michael Chaney, president of the New Hampshire Political Library. "Participation in governing has been in our DNA since the beginning."

Websites here monitor not just whether White House hopefuls have visited the state, but where and how often. A higher percentage volunteers for campaigns than anywhere else. School textbooks instruct fourth-graders to "support and cherish this enduring tradition."

On primary day, roughly 70% of the state's 700,000 registered voters usually show up at the polls, a rate that's twice the national average. In 2004, one in four New Hampshire residents said they had met at least one of the candidates in person.

Residents don't get involved just for the money the campaigns bring to the state. According to a 2000 study, the economic effect of that year's primary was $306 million, a small fraction of the state's gross product of $42 billion.

"People say the primary is a cash cow," said Chaney, "but that's not the case. This is just what we do."

It's entirely appropriate for the state that adheres most closely to the Founders' vision to have an outweighted say in the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 16, 2007 12:14 PM

NH has gone from solid red to Purple and will be solid Blue soon as the influx of MA Dems north of the border completes the transition.

As the state trends blue it moves farther away from the Founder's vision, negating your point.

Posted by: AWW at September 16, 2007 4:00 PM

You're confusing the color of party with the color of politics. Our Blues are redder than your Flatland Reds.

Posted by: oj at September 16, 2007 7:13 PM

I was just commenting this weekend on the nationalism of VT and NH (which are more alike than citizens of either state would care to admit). Both states are rabidly xenophobic and both feel that their states are Jerusalem, for example.
I never experienced that growing up in a defense industry town in CT. Our neighbors were all from out of state and nobody ever really gave a damn. But in VT and NH, being classed as "native" is what is most important.
It's all pretty pathetic once you get right down to it. I'm about ready to tell both states to go to Hell and quit this retarded, self-absorbed region altogether.

Posted by: Bryan at September 17, 2007 7:26 AM


Posted by: oj at September 17, 2007 11:23 AM

Technically, aren't I a warlock?
Anyway, I hate to ask for a clarification of your eloquent rebuttal but could you deign to tell me just why I'm a witch?
Is it because I
A) Pointed out that VT and NH are more alike than different
B) Expressed frustration at the rabid xenophobia that is endemic to both states (but you're not a Nativist, nosir)
C) Dared to disagree with one of your Holy Opinions, which are the same thing a everybody else's facts?
Anyway, seeing as you call people "witches" and "anti-human monsters from beyond the moon" simply for liking the wrong baseball team or thin crust pizza, I don't really care overmuch about your judgement.

Speaking of the allegedly fire-engine red New Hampshire...I was driving through Hanover on my lunch break just now and there's this music blasting out across the town green. I can't put my finger on it - some kind of orchestral score. Then the lyrics start in and it's "Who Am I This Wonderful Morning" from the Oliver! musical. Yeah, that's some red state you've got there, Orrin. Cranking out show tunes at top volume! Why, I thought I was in Mountain Pine, AR for a couple of seconds there! No wait, I was in more-liberal-than-Berkely Hanover.

Posted by: Bryan at September 17, 2007 1:06 PM

I played the undertaker in Oliver!. Anyone who doesn't appreciate its fine melodies ought to be burned at the stake.

Reminds me of a story though...

Freshman year at Colgate we organized a game of cricket on the Quad--with a sawed off hockey goalie stick as the bat, milk crates as the wicket and an electric-taped tennis ball. Whipped up some pinkgin and cranked Gilbert & Sullivan out the windows of our dorm. A couple profs had to interrupt the game to cut across the Quad and one, turning to the other, noted: "At least we're recruiting a higher class of ruffians these days."

Posted by: oj at September 17, 2007 4:14 PM