Monday, June 4, 2007

On losing the first primary and the last democrats:

That’s democrats with a small “d.” (A brilliant college professor of mine named James Morone used the size of the d to distinguish between citizens of a democracy and members of one of the two major parties in our political system.)

There was an article in the Globe yesterday morning (“Despite Challenges, N.H. Primary Thrives,” by Lisa Wangsness and James W. Pindell, The Boston Globe, June 3, 2007) about the encroachment of other states on New Hampshire’s status as first primary state. So far candidates are still paying attention to NH but they are spending less time than they used to and holding fewer small events. One long-time NH resident was lamenting the loss of intimacy in the campaign this season.

There’s been a lot of talk about how changing the order and density of the early primaries and caucuses will lead to earlier selection of the nominee and big money’s playing an even greater role in that selection. These are certainly real concerns, but there’s a threat that we’ll lose something even greater.

Reading the article yesterday, I was struck by the idea that NH in a presidential election year is one of the last places where old-fashioned democracy can be found. In this day and age when, for most of us, politicians are reduced to sound bites and scandals, NH is a place where they still kiss babies and learn voters’ first names. It’s where the talking heads sit down in someone’s living room and ask ordinary people what they think.

The whole reason other states want to move their primaries up is to try to gain back some of that attention and importance; to ensure that their votes will mean something. Unfortunately, we will probably accomplish the opposite by indulging them.

Instead of undermining the special status that makes real democracy possible in NH for a few months every four years, we need to discover ways to replicate that level of civic engagement elsewhere-- every day of every year.

The link to the Globe article can be found below.

1 comment:

nancyemck said...

You are so right! Whatever happened to talking directly with candidates about issues and concerns? By the time our candidates are "chosen" they are surrounded by handlers and spinners who are all more important than the democrats who will vote. "Town meetings" are staged and televised and only certain people (already supporters)can get in. And then the candidates say the same thing over and over again throughout the compaign. It is all too cautious and too scripted. New Hampshire has been a bastion of democracy - live free or die! - and it's a shame they are losing their special place in the primary schedule.