Thursday, April 5, 2007

Primary Shmimary

OK, I'm from New Hampshire. I grew up here and I am raising my children here on purpose.
I lived elsewhere for almost 22 years. Midwest actually -- Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. That was a great experience and I am glad to be back. I have always carried within me a deep and abiding affection for this state, it's land, it's people and it's institutions. I have found it to be home in a way I have never found with any other place (although I have certainly been to other places that I liked A LOT!). It has always been Where I Am From.
Having said that, I gotta ask, what is UP with the Political Primary thing?
I must admit, I am not a person who is highly engaged in politics. I mostly watch from a detached distance, noting with a certain amount of what I believe is healthy skepticism (but not really cynicism) the people and events of the political arena. I once thought I might like to be involved in politics but as I get older I suspect that I really don't have the stomach for it. If offered the opportunity to be King, I would probably jump at it. But campaigning for office, haggling over budgets, allocations and legislative votes just lacks the color and vigor that you get with a crown and scepter.
So I watch the whole flap over primary elections -- what state should go first? What state is representative of the nation? How much money this, and how many campaign trips that. I hear local politician get positively frothy at the mouth over the prospect that some other state should DARE to get in front of NH in the primary. It is our SACRED birthright as Granite Staters. We have the experience, we have the traditions, we have served the country well since...well, since primaries all started. Oh...and when was that? Oh like a whole 40 years ago? Whooopeee!
As one who has no dog in this hunt (other than actually living here) I gotta say that all strikes me as a rather steamy pile of hooahh. There is no doubt that first in the nation status in the primary elections is good for our ego, maybe for our economy, and certainly for our political status. But beyond that, I fear that it actually has very little benefit for the nation as a whole. I don't think our track record is really THAT good. To adamantly require NH to have the first primary in the nation strikes me as a largely self-indulgent, mostly self-promotional position.
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with self-promotion. I suspect, however, that in this case it may be coming at the expense of the whole nation. I would say the same of any other state that made such a demand for their state. I recently heard of a proposition for regional rotating primaries, where the country would divide into regions, each region holding its primaries at the same time. The regions would rotate the order every 2-4 years. Now this strikes me as eminently fair and feasible. It would make it easier and more effective for the candidates to campaign, and it would share the glory (and the responsibility) around the country. I do not believe that NH would be diminished in any significant way, in any way that REALLY counts, by this kind of arrangement. It would be a change, and it would affect some businesses and institutions. By and large, however, most people here would shrug, and get back to business.
I saw a T-shirt once that said, "NH. Go away and Leave us Alone." Because I think there is actually some truth in that, I believe that letting go of our first in the nation primary would be somewhat more than OK with most folks.
If this gets out, I may find my citizenship in NH revoked and be forced to be the only person in the entire state to pay sales tax. If so, I'll be letting you know where you donate to my legal defense fund.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot's wife said...

The old joke about the NH primary goes like this. Someone asked an old timer what he thought about a certain candidate. "I don't know yet. I've only met him three - four times." As a transplant from Mass. I love the NH primary and actually think we are good for the country. We are small enough that you can make an impact with time and not just money. Many of us are passionate about it and spend a lot of time listening to and meeting the candidates. Your kids, especially Emma are at a really good age to take to events to meet people who will shape their future. I remember taking the boys to a free dinner at a West Side of Manchester club (French Canadian of course) to hear Al Gore the first time he ran. I was interested because at that time he was the only pro-life Democrat in the race. (How times have changed!) We happened to sit near the door Gore came in and the boys were awed by the Secret Service guy with the earphone guarding the door. As Gore gave his speech we pointed out to the boys how the speech was aimed to press certain buttons ie. the veteran button, the French button, etc. Maybe that's why Jonathan is a political junkie like David.