Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Hampshire Election Realities

I wanted to see the Vietnam War ended and the draft ended in the late 1960s.  As a twenty-something student, I went to New Hampshire many weekends in late 1967, working for Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic primary to be held in January, 1968.  I wore holes in my woolen gloves shuffling voter cards as I went door-to-door with informational brochures and follow-up answers to voters’ questions about McCarthy’s positions on local issues.  I was colder than I’d ever been in my life, visiting one more house, and then just one more before returning to the storefront headquarters to warm up with strong coffee.  I slept on the floors of churches, Dartmouth professors’ homes, storefront offices.  I learned a lesson that appears to be as true today as it was then.

To me, the opposition to the Vietnam War was the big issue that separated my candidate from Lyndon Johnson.  But the New Hampshire voters wanted to know details of each candidate’s thinking on many issues.  It was the first time I encountered voters seeking so much information as the basis for voting.  I’m sure my parents in North Carolina read the papers and made thoughtful decisions, but we never discussed it so I was unaware of their ways of getting ready to vote.  Presenting a candidate in New Hampshire, to voter after voter who was well informed, interested, and actively seeking to make the best possible decision, I found something special: the basic wish of American voters to do the right thing. 

In 2012, I was curious to see, in these digital days, whether this dynamic had changed.  In my view, it has not.  Candidates who spent a lot of time and used a lot of volunteers working door-to-door in New Hampshire, convinced voters.  It was not so much the big PAC money for TV ads as it was caring enough to organize on the ground, to find the answers to the voters’ real questions, that counted.  I am cheered that New Hampshire voters have continued this tradition.  They are bedrock Americans.  More power to them.

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