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New Hampshire Follies

Did the people who voted on January 10 understand what they were voting for? They live in a state with more than 350 bridges listed as structurally deficient, cracked and crowded roads, and antiquated sewers and water treatment facilities in many of our rundown towns. Did they understand that the men they had chosen would not lift a finger to improve such conditions? Did they understand that without a strong central government there would be no protection for minorities and workers? Did they agree with all six candidates that their grandparents’ Social Security and Medicare are no more than “entitlements” and not the benefits for which they worked all their lives? Savvy political consultants have trained modern candidates to disguise their radicalism and present themselves to the voters as sincere family men upset with what has been done to their beloved country and the Constitution by big government, the White House, and the secular-socialist conspiracy.

There was a near-total lack of interest among the candidates themselves (except for Ron Paul) in saying anything about our national security state and its surveillance and curtailment of liberties at home, or about our decision to imprison people at Guantánamo Bay indefinitely while admitting there is no evidence of their guilt. Even worse, there seemed an assumption that no disagreement could possibly exist in this land of ours about the president’s right to assassinate or arrest anyone on the face of the earth, including American citizens.

If you had lived in New Hampshire during the primary campaign you would have heard several times a day that our mortal enemy is the government in Washington, with its huge budget deficit, taxes, business regulations, minimum wage, unemployment compensation, education grants, programs like Head Start, food stamps, and everything else that has improved the lives of Americans since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. For Ron Paul, all of these programs violate the Constitution. In other words, if we stopped aiding people unable to pay their heating bills this winter, we’d be on our way to restoring our greatness as a nation.

A local newspaper editor told me that the opinions in the many letters and e-mails he receives have become less identifiable as written by distinct individuals than ever before. From their prose it seems that their minds were apparently made up by someone else. Practically every businessman will tell you the same thing about the economy, he said; practically all the social conservatives will say that what’s wrong with this country is its moral values. The letters to the editor he receives increasingly use identical words and phrases that come from flyers the writers receive in the mail.

There were exceptions. Some of the voters put tough questions to the candidates every chance they got, often shaming the press for its timidity. If the questions from reporters in the two final debates got sharper, and they did, it was due most likely to the example set by some locals. In the end, none of the Republicans or independents I know who voted were happy with any of the candidates. They felt they had to vote for the lesser of several evils. They had a premonition, I suspect, that if the man for whom they voted were to become president, they would be as disappointed with him as we Democrats were with Obama when we discovered, to our amazement and our distress, that he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, carry out many of the promises he made.

Just a few days ago we had, at last, the first snow—six to eight inches—as if to recall the one statement of Governor Perry that may be remembered: there is, he said, no such thing as global warming.

—January 19, 2012

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