By MATT MURRAY
For the Monitor
Saturday, July 19, 2014
We are well into the 2014 election season, and there’s a lot at stake.
Not just control of the U.S. Senate, as newly minted New Hampshire resident Scott Brown ignores his GOP primary opponents in his rush to target incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Not just the perversity quotient of the U.S. House, as primary voters sort through which candidates – representing which wing of the Republican Party? – will challenge Democratic incumbents Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.
Not just the balance of power in the New Hampshire General Court, as we’re still trying to forget – or at least recover from – the two-year reign of House Speaker “Bully” O’Brien.
I hate to mention this, but there’s also the 2016 presidential campaign right around the corner. And if we’re going to fulfill the responsibility of the “First in the Nation” primary, then New Hampshire needs to have solid – and sane – political parties.
You see, New Hampshire is the focus of a unique political experiment, started in 2001 by then-Yale doctoral student Jason Sorens. His idea was to get 20,000 activists to move to a single state with a small population and an easily accessible government.
“Once we’ve taken over the state government, we can slash state and local budgets, which make up a sizeable proportion of the tax and regulatory burden we face every day. Furthermore, we can eliminate substantial federal interference by refusing to take highway funds and the strings attached to them. Once we’ve accomplished these things, we can bargain with the national government over reducing the role of the national government in our state. We can use the threat of secession as leverage to do this.”
Snowplowing? Bridge safety? An adequately funded judicial system? Public colleges? These things are nowhere on the Free Staters’ priority list.
No, the Free Staters – at least those in Keene – seem to be more interested in marijuana and videotaping the city’s parking enforcement officers.
Here’s where it gets serious: Free Staters don’t care about political parties. That’s how two Free Staters, who lived in the same house, ran for state representative on opposite sides of the ticket. (The Democratic candidate won.) Free State candidates don’t advertise their allegiance to the project, they just join up with a political party and run for office.
In their 2012 election results roundup, the project outlined the progress they had made: Over the past eight years, FSP participants who have become state representatives went from zero to 1, to four, to 12 to 14 in 2010, to eleven this cycle. Only 1,100 movers are on the ground. With only 5 percent of the goal movers in New Hampshire, political FSP participants held onto the status quo while Republicans got trounced. Baby steps, people. It ain’t called a “project” for nothing!
Twenty-thousand movers could translate into 200 state reps, half the house. Imagine what fun would ensue.
One-fourth of the legislators identified as belonging to FSP ran as Democrats.
And now it’s 2014, election season again.
Is it going to get even weirder this year?
Sen. Peter Bragdon is retiring, and “Free State” mover Dan Hynes is running for his seat. Apparently Hynes has offered free room and board to FSPers willing to work for his campaign.
And here’s what his campaign website says about why he’s running (under “Smaller Gov”): “Dan Hynes opposes government regulations that force people to do things against their will, or that prevents them from doing things that bring them happiness as long as it does not harm other people.”
But don’t we need rules about which side of the road to drive on? Laws to protect property? What happens when the things that make one person happy conflict with what makes other people happy? What happens when most people want to have our highways plowed, but some people don’t want to pay for it?
People actually think that this kind of chaos is a good idea? And they’re moving to New Hampshire to create it?
Hasn’t New Hampshire already had enough nuttiness from our politicians? Can’t we all agree that we need a functioning government? And rational political parties? And that Granite Staters don’t really want to secede from the United States?
This election year, we need to pay close attention to who we’re voting for, where their allegiance lies and what sort of a government they believe in (if any).
There’s a lot at stake.
(Matt Murray is the creator and editor of the NH Labor News, an online blog that focuses on politics and their effect on working families. He lives in Merrimack.)