Here’s a quick quiz. What do you have to type into Google for autofill to give you “liquor store, lottery and DMV” as the first three results?
That’s right, New Hampshire! The state you’re aware of only because the national media won’t shut up about it being a swing state in this election. Judging by the amount of time each candidate has spent in New Hampshire (Mitt Romney plans on concluding his campaigning in Manchester), I would say that New Hampshire’s ride is far from over. It’s concerning to me how much stock the rest of the country puts in this tiny state of 1.5 million people. In fact, I can’t impress upon you enough how concerning this is. Despite what the news has led you to believe, New Hampshire exists in some strange alternate universe.
I know because I live there.
No, really — hear me out. New Hampshire has no sales tax and no personal income tax. You don’t need to wear a seat belt while driving if you’re over eighteen, which seems reasonable when you consider that most people start driving at fifteen-and-a-half. We may be the only state in the union where Same-Sex Marriage was approved within the same two-year period where lawmakers OK’ed bringing an AK-47 into the state legislature building.
Perhaps it’s right, then, that New Hampshire gets so much national attention. Its state legislature is majority Republican, yet on the major issues it continues to be as liberal as the states around it. For a long time New Hampshire was a symbol of how political parties could work together to accomplish progress on things like education and job creation. It was a symbol for political cooperation, however unfriendly.
Under constant political pressure, however, the state seems to have lost its mind. The house majority leader, William O’Brien, has come under fire for banning news reporting in the statehouse (unconstitutional), cutting UNH’s budget in half to satisfy the small budget deficit and forcing through a voter fraud bill. The latter was justified because college students are “foolish” (no, really, he said that). This is an alternate universe so extreme that a member of O’Brien’s own Tea Party caucus gave him a Nazi salute when he opposed the voter fraud initiative.
The degree to which New Hampshire is a political circus and the amount of national media attention it gets are intimately connected. As election seasons get longer and longer, New Hampshire’s universe gets weirder and weirder. Local politicians that were receptive to political compromise before are wary of taking any risks now that they hold national attention. Home-grown extremists are bolstered by people in states far removed from New England, people who know nothing about the character of the small state on television which seems to hold so much sway on the national scale. This might be great for Tea-Party supporters in Texas, but it is slowly destroying New Hampshire. Our state is based on a delicate balance of conservative and liberal ideas, a balance that has more or less worked for decades. Liberal values like commitments to equal rights and expansive public education have kept us in-sync with New-England and allows us to be a part of a hugely important region. Conservative values like low taxes for small businesses have kept us unusually competitive for our size. We are a unique and important part of this country, but the more national attention we get, the harder it becomes to make New Hampshire anything but Massachusetts’ Wal-Mart – a place for people to buy cheap things.
For the sake of my state I would like to remind everyone that we only have four electoral votes! It’s mathematically impossible for us to alter this election. Sixteen percent of our economy is based on trees changing color! So please, for the good of the country, do the Granite State a favor.
Don’t mention us on TV, don’t talk about our politics, don’t use us as your tax haven/one-stop liquor store/fireworks boutique (I’m looking at you, Massachusetts).
Free us from this alternate universe.