When I first set up my blog, I knew there was one topic I’d never approach: politics.
Turns out in a New Hampshire in January… in January of presidential primary season… a girl can’t HELP but approach politics. In fact, politics comes to her. Last winter, politicians came to American Legions, high school auditoriums, country churches, and the little country store on the corner. Giant buses rolled in with candidates’ mug shots and tag lines on each side. The state was abuzz with talk of the candidates at every turn, in every corner. And hundreds of cameras, microphones, and steno books spilled into every venue…
… setting up squatter‘s rights where there was no room; towering above onlookers, with no thought of actually squatting down so anyone behind can see.
In a local country store, my daughters and I were surprised that we couldn’t see the podium where the candidate was speaking, because more than two dozen news channels were represented by more than four 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 the small speech platform.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, about three other giant cameras stationed themselves to our left, in front of an obstructed view of the podium. Their corresponding reporters would periodically make obnoxious sounds and flamboyant gestures, overpowering parts of the senator’s speech. Their goal was to get Mr. Cruz to look in their direction, for a better photograph, that was indeed probably not much different than the 2,080 previous shots they had taken of him all across New Hampshire.
Even though he was only ten feet from us, all we could see of Senator Cruz, at the ironically named “Meet and Greet,” was the image we could glimpse through the small screens on the cameras in front of us. I was truly shocked at the rudeness of the press in the few hours that we spent in that little country store. Even if the women’s designer bags and hairdos, in lieu of baseball caps and ponytails, and the men’s argyle sweaters and black shiny loafers, in lieu of muddy work boots, didn’t scream “outsider” in our tiny farm town, their attitudes alone would have labeled them as such.
Since our family’s move, from suburbia to a small farm in small town, USA, I’ve felt blessed on a daily basis.
But the past month I’ve felt richly blessed to be, more specifically, a New Hampshire resident in our great democracy. This is exactly how a government of the people should work. Every man and woman who wants to lead this great country should have to make themselves available to answer directly to the people, and that’s what happened this winter in small country stores, rural American Legion offices, and school auditoriums all around the Granite State.
A Third Party
The discussions, though, are not just between the candidates and the people. On every shoulder and behind every elbow of the people there is a third party, who isn’t a separate party really at all, but–very often–an extension of the Democratic party. Regardless of each reporter’s personal political stance, they–just like all of us–also have preconceived notions and personal theories that will sway their portrayal of any given situation. Although one khaki-clad reporter I talked to from California did not come across with a political agenda, per se, in his article where he quoted me, he certainly had an original, preconceived thesis. He quoted just the right amount of my statements to uphold that thesis.
I attended many Town Hall meetings in January and early February, and at the last one, after many minutes of heartfelt discussion one-on-one with Rubio, both my 15-year-old daughter and I were interviewed by 3 different reporters: a young, golden-haired gentleman from California, a middle-aged man with the Associated Press, and one quiet, white-haired reported from Kasich’s home state of Ohio.
In the California article, to make my quote support his theory, Mr. Nash (the reporter from the Golden State) did quote my words word-for-word, just out of context and incompletely. You see, Mr. Nash had a theory that Rubio was working hard to pull Cruz supporters to the Rubio campaign. It was surely even an accurate theory, but I wasn’t the correct interviewee to support his theory, so he just reported part of my words. He wrote that he spoke with “a 46-year-old homeschool mom who said she was torn between Cruz and Rubio, finding both senators articulate avatars of the conservative philosophy.” He went on… “Now that I see what happened in Iowa, I came off the fence,” the mom said in an interview.
What Mr. Nash didn’t explain what I told him first thing in our probably 5-minute-long interview, which was that I was a Rubio supporter from the beginning. Then I met Ted Cruz and was pleasantly surprised that he impressed me as genuine. (I didn’t feel that from debates, his commercials, and different details I had read about him.) Then, I explained to Mr. Nash, I watched polls and knew if Rubio dropped too low I could, with good conscience, vote for Cruz if I felt a vote on Rubio would be wasted. After seeing how many Iowans agreed with me, and after meeting and talking with Rubio in person, I decided to definitively put my vote where it was to begin with, with Marco Rubio. On a side note, Mr. Nash, although not the most talented man at summarizing another person’s views accurately, did in real life look like a golden boy from the Golden State, showing an uncanny resemblance to Brad Pitt.
Unfortunately, no matter how attractive the reporter of a lie may be, as Winston Churchill said, “A lie gets half way around the world before Truth has a chance to get his pants on.” I’m not saying that all reporters lie (at least not intentionally). But they are biased, with their own personal view points and their own world views, and they are quite skilled at twisting facts to fit nicely into their outline.
Mr. Nash gave me one more inaccurate quote in his little article. He quoted the 46-year-old homeschool mom saying, “I hope the Trump supporters are going to wisen up and realize that he can’t even begin to be elected, and they’ll go to Rubio, too.” In reality, this was only a smidgen of my comments about Trump as well, making it appear that I felt there was no way Trump could ever win the nomination. In additional remarks, which weren’t quoted, I explained to Mr. Nash that I did not mean, literally, that Trump wasn’t able to win, but just the opposite. I was afraid, even back in early February, that he could win the Republican nomination, when in my opinion, there were much better, more conservative and morally upright candidates. Yes, I was concerned that Trump could win the nomination and, hmmmm, there might be an ugly run for the presidency offering a situation where no one truly had a candidate they could fully stand behind. So my meaning, which didn’t make it into the article, was “Trump can’t even begin to be elected if we as a people value our country and all that is at stake… if we want a leader of substance, character, and well-grounded, level-headed policies, we can’t elect Trump for the conservative leader of the Republican party.”
Like it or not, and whether they ever disclose full, unbiased truth or not, reporters are a staple of the primaries. They brighten up a room with enough radiant light to make a room unbearably hot, even on a cold February day.
They literally take over any area in which they are allowed to expand, like the downtown Radisson where we went to hear Rubio’s speech on the night of the NH primary. The Boston newscasters literally had a full-scale news desk set up in the front hotel lobby, complete with a hanging trellis of lighting, multiple cameras for multiple angles, and about two dozen large-screened monitors on rows upon rows of tables.
But before you even got to the Radisson, you had no doubt where the political circus was that night. Bright lights, huge tents, multi-level camera platforms, and even a CNN reporters’ trailer on an elevated lift, all pointed the way to the center ring of the political craziness.
Even after they had been standing for three hours to guarantee their front-row status, eager teen voters and patient, tired elderly ones were deprived of an intimate view of the candidate by camera men and women who waltzed in minutes ahead of the senator and blocked all views with their camera screens and flashes.
I decided that all reporters in the Radisson that night had a specific agenda and a predetermined thesis in mind for the evening as I watched all of them parade right by a man worthy of talking to, without asking him a question. A man who had obviously been a part of this political circus for quite some time and who seemed unphased by the craziness of it all. He was there under the bright lights, far behind tall cameras, elbow to elbow with other crazies like my daughters and I, just hoping for a conservative leader this time around (and of course a winning political pin).
The reporters-by-the-busload frenzy during the months leading up to the New Hampshire primaries does pay off, literally, for the Live Free Or Die state. Because, let’s face it, all those members of the press do not live for free… In New Hampshire (according to the U.S. Travel Association), visitors in town for the campaign spend approximately $350 per day on transportation, hotel rooms, meals, rental cars and the other basic needs. In hotel revenue alone, it estimates an extra $8.9 million. So I guess they all spend plenty to rest easy when they lay their heads down at night, regardless of the circus and confusion they participate in each day.
“But the media has wrested complete control from the parties and candidates over everything….[it’s] become a circus.”–Mark McKinnon
My other posts in this series on the 2016 NH presidential primaries:
A post about the day When I Met Marco Rubio.
One about the different venues in the NH primary and what it’s like to meet the candidates.