The presidential primaries in NH are a snapshot into a government by the people, for the people. They, and the caucuses in Iowa, allow “we the people” to meet our future president in an intimate way not possible anywhere else–not possible in large, urban towns; not possible after the national excitement builds and crowds grow exponentially. The NH primaries are a time that we can bare our national, and personal, concerns to a potential president–one on one. And they are a time that we can hear his personal convictions and decide for ourselves if he is genuine.*
John Adams said, “You will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” In honor of John, I decided last month to see candidates in a variety of venues, from a quiet meet-and-greet to a packed rally, and make an informed choice.
New to the Granite State (home of the nation’s first presidential primary), I was dizzy with excitement these last few weeks. Born and raised in Delaware, I am a native First-Stater; I’ve always liked being first. The thought that as a Granite Stater I get to truly be one of the first voters in the nation to make my choice heard, well, that was exhilarating.
Add some picturesque snow to the mix…
… and really, who wouldn’t want to live in New Hampshire in an election-year January?
The Nation’s First Presidential Primaries
My first presidential primary election as a New Hampshirite I was a lucky lady in an amazing candy store where the options were many, the variety profound, and the choice all mine. For a 3-week period in January and early February, I was giddy with the notion that in roughly one hour or less drive north or south, on any given day, I could see almost any one of the presidential candidates who were vying for my vote.
I became hooked on the excitement after my first meet and greet last month, when I realized that the next POTUS was not only within an hour’s drive on any given day, but I very well might be able to get up close and personal and talk to him. The whole experience has been so exciting, I thought I’d share some details. Some insight into life in the state of the nation’s first primaries in January of a presidential election year. Insight into our democracy at work, on the ground. Insight into a month’s worth of hundreds of Town Hall meetings held by more than a dozen candidates, and filled with real people… talking to real candidates… about real issues.
So stick with me. Over the next few weeks, in between breaking ice on water tubs and mucking stalls…
I’ll give you a little glimpse into the first presidential nomination primaries in the nation. A little glimpse into the interactions I had with presidential hopefuls that lead up to the day I could step into my town hall, confident of which candidate’s circle I would color in with confidence.
Up Close and Personal
Coming from diminutive Delaware, with three puny electoral votes, I am not accustomed to presidential visits in my state. The closet I’d ever been to a candidate was when he and six of his body guards brushed past me in one of his crowded casinos in Jersey. He was barking out orders over the sounds of slot machines, and it was decades before the casino billionaire got the notion to run for the highest office in the land.
Having never had an opportunity to shake a presidential hand, I was shocked when I found a link to an online campaign tracker that listed every single stop of every single candidate who was in New Hampshire in the weeks leading up to the state’s primary.
I grabbed scrap paper and scribbled an itinerary.
One daughter stated a desire to meet every one of the five candidates, both Republican and Democrat, whom she felt had any chance of being our next President, because then she could say, with certainty, that she had talked with a United States President. Life got in the way of reaching that goal. In the end, I attended six events in all, for a total of four different types of venue (a Meet-and-Greet, three Town Hall meetings, one rally, and one voting-night celebration that turned out to not be much of a celebration), seeing three different candidates.
My 6 Presidential-ish Experiences
For today, I thought I’d paint a picture of the types of venues the presidential hopefuls offer during NH’s primary season. In upcoming posts, I’ll share more details about the candidates, their actions, their words, and their impression they made on me.
When I heard that a presidential hopeful was planning on hanging out at a little country store 5 miles from our home, I knew my daughters and I were going. You see, pretty much nothing is 5 miles from our home. Heck, the nearest traffic light is 11 miles away. A presidential hopeful was coming to our little corner of nowhere to talk to a handful of people to find out what issues were important to us. I confirmed on the little store’s Facebook page. We and 18 others were definitely attending. Yes, 18. Parking was filled when we arrived. But parking at the White Buffalo consists of 6 spaces squeezed beside their propane tanks and under their sign proclaiming the number of delicious fudge flavors they make every day. I parked across the street, in a field. Our snowy boots stepped onto the wide-planked, smooth-worn floorboards in the country store, walked past the counter where we’ve purchased mint chocolate chip fudge many times before, walked around the canned goods and the cereals, and stood near the Pepsi display, waiting. We recognized a few faces from the softball fields. Talked with others, many also clad in muck boots and Carhartt jackets, about the day’s bitter wind and frozen hen eggs in our coops. My daughters and I were surprised that we couldn’t see the mic where the candidate would be speaking, because more than a dozen different news channels were represented by more than two dozen people and all their paraphernalia, and they were stationed at the bottleneck area of the small store, at the top of the two steps that lead to a small platform usually filled with 3 or 4 tables, for sitting and enjoying a piece of pizza.
We realized later, after the candidate and press had left, that a few dozen people were seated in folding chairs, lined up where the dinner tables usually stand, facing the back wall of the store, where the temporary sign declared we could trust this candidate. But until then, all we could see of that area was through the small screens on the cameras in front of us.
But from our vantage point, we did see the large bus pull up outside the front windows. Within minutes, the candidate was down the main aisle, past the chip display and milk and soda refrigerators, removing his layers of scarf, hat, and gloves as he shook hands with a few people and neared the back platform. He spoke for about 20 minutes then explained, jokingly, he would answer–or dodge–as many questions as he could before his bus had to move on to the next town meeting.
He left the way he had entered, stopping to shake both my daughters’ hands and pause for me to get their picture. We talked briefly, then enjoyed watching how he interacted with others on his path as he made his way back toward the fudge counter and eventually on to another stop.
–Town Hall Meeting–
The past month, we sat in on town hall meetings in an American Legion lodge, a banquet facility, and a refurbished mill. There were certainly differences among the candidates as to how the meeting was run, but overall the format was the same. People arrived early, hoping to snag seats near the candidate so they could get a good picture or shake his hand.
But long before the candidate arrived, those who had seats at all, even in the back row, were happy they were not one of a hundred or more people who were standing around the edges and back of the room.
Music was playing; each candidate having their own soundtrack they would repeat at each meeting. (When I noticed candidates were playing certain songs multiple times, I looked some up and learned that candidates actually pick theme songs. Somehow I never knew this.) Depending on his time crunch, some politicians worked the room, entering through an opening in the crowd that their campaign workers had cleared as he arrived. Other times, they would simply appear in the front of the room and start in on their speech. Some had supporters who seemed to travel with them and deliver the same testimonials about the candidates pre-meeting, others just played their soundtracks while the room anticipated their entrance.
When it was time for questions, I was always pleasantly surprised at not only the variety of questions but also the personal nature of each one. One man was disabled and felt crushed by the medicare system and wanted to know how Senator Cruz would help him have a job and become self-sufficient. Another gentleman shared the first name of an illegal immigrant he has had in his employment for years who was one of the best employees he ever had and a man whose family was relying on his paycheck; he wanted to know if Senator Rubio would want to see his friend deported and his family left without a provider.
It was obvious that the NH residents came out to meet these candidates to not only hear the candidates’ views on important subjects, but also voice their own concerns as well, doing their part to leave these candidates with some snapshots of down-home American concerns and daily worries, hoping that if he becomes president he will remember the plights of the average American and long to make a difference.
Of all the venues available to us, we enjoyed the rally the least. The one we attended did nothing to shed light on the candidate’s detailed plans, but served as an hour-plus live commercial filled with meaningless rhetoric. I should admit, though, that many in attendance seemed to enjoy the experience, almost like fans at a rock concert, waving signs instead of lighters and cheering instead of singing. I’m glad we went, to have a comparison to the smaller meet-and-greets and town hall meetings, but beyond that I was tired and ready to go home before it ended.
Our final primary week activity, after waiting in an unusually busy town hall to place our votes, was to attend a post-election celebration. Turned out to not be much of a “celebration,” since our choice candidate placed 5th in the state primary, but we were glad we went. It turned out to be a capstone on our first ever NH presidential primary. But more about that in a future post.
I Prefer Muck Boots to Political Shoes
I’ll share a few more upcoming posts about my presidential experiences this past month. I’ll share about my conversations with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, up close and personal, and my overall impression of the two men that ultimately led to my voting decision. Then I will gladly step out of my political shoes and back into my muck boots and get back to sharing about business-as-usual around the farm.
*While it was pretty amazing to have not one but two possible 2016 presidential nominees who were female, I, sadly, didn’t get to meet Carly or Hillary. To avoid the awkward he/she construction, I intentionally chose to refer to all candidates as male in this post.
“When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth. ” 2 Samuel 23:3-4