Sunday, January 23, 2011
In the wake of yesterday's election of Jack Kimball over Juliana Bergeron as New Hampshire State Republican Chair, many news articles have attempted to present this as a battle between "two sides." And in America, we tend to simply battles into just two sides: Republicans vs. Democrats, Packers vs. Bears, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Toby Keith vs. The Dixie Chicks. But the reality behind the scenes is that the state GOP can be divided into at least three different factions, and the direction the party - and the State - will take is a function of how those coalitions come together - or fall apart - on individual issues.
In brief, the three main factions are The Establishment Yankees, The Theocrats, and the Libertarians.
The Establishment Yankees are best represented by the House of Sununu and the House of Gregg, two Republican families that have dominated NH politics for 40 years. These two families provided State Party Chairs, Senators, Governors, and White House Advisors (Sununu The Elder was Bush the Elder's Chief of Staff). And while the Sununus tended towards very conservative politics, their base has been the old tyme Republicans who worked the polls in the past, provided the votes, and had moderate tendencies (The McCain - Romney faction)
The Theocrats are a vocal, blistering minority of social conservatives, most of whom have moved in from out of state. They belong to Bible, Pentecostal, and Independent Churches. The Home Educate in droves. They are Pro-Life. And they have found their voice in the Cornerstone Policy Institute and its mouthpiece, Ken Smith. They are both fiscal and social conservatives, but it is the social issues that inflame their passions and drive them to organize and campaign and vote. When choosing candidates, they are the ones most likely to ask in a knowing whisper, "Is he saved?"
The Libertarians draw from two sources: young, fresh blood, drawn to the Granite State by its traditional bent towards libertarianism and publicity from organizations such as the Free State Project and the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance (Not to be confused with the House Republican Alliance); and from old tyme Yankees who have rejected some of the 'entrenched' politics of the Establishment Houses (see above). This group is fiscally conservative...but quite socially tolerant, if not liberal. This is the faction within the GOP seeking to preserve Marriage Equality through a variety of approaches (including getting government out of marriage all together), and support medical marijuana (as well as outright decriminalization).
To muddy the waters, there are many news reports trumpeting the success of Tea Party favorite Jack Kimball. But the Tea Party movement, while united on fiscal issues, is extremely fractured on social issues, and does not speak with one voice (a mistake often made by those on the left when commenting on the Tea Party).
And so, the recent election fell along these lines:
Julia Bergeron, Chair of the Cheshire County GOP, who rose through the ranks working within and for the party. Unsurprisingly, she had the support of The Establishment, including most of the GOP Senators, 4 of 5 Executive Councillors, and the House of Sununu.
Jack Kimball, former candidate for Governor, businessman, and Tea Party activist.
But where did they stand on the issues?
Juliana Bergeron was seen by some as a 'moderate,' by others as a conservative...and Marriage Equality was the lightning rod issue. Bergeron was not very clear where she stood: she voted against including an anti-same-sex marriage plank in the state GOP platform, and afterwards stated, “I’m 100 percent for our platform, but we have to respect those who don’t agree with every portion of it..." But she also made statements such as, “I have never been a proponent of gay marriage; I support traditional marriage." Her attempt to negotiate a bitter feud between pro-Equality and Anti-Equality Republicans in the Town of Swanzey resulted in her being seen as 'liberal' on this issue: she lost the support of Cheshire Republican strongman (and former NH Christian Coalition Chair George Fellendorf), and could not secure the support of one of five Executive Councillors, David Wheeler of Milford, a hero of the Theocrat faction.
Kimball, on the other hand, who cut his teeth on fiscal, not social, issues, came out with this beaut: “I won’t tolerate our party deviating from its conservative platform,” he told NHJournal.com. “I plan to get involved in activities at the Statehouse if and when I think we are straying from our platform."
In getting elected, Kimball attempted to make his agreement with the socially conservative platform very clear.
However, his actions belie his words: He then said Thursday he would name abortion rights supporters and U.S. Senate candidates Bill Binnie, of New Castle, and Jim Bender, of Hollis, to co-chair the GOP Finance Committee. Binnie openly appealed to abortion rights supporters in his unsuccessful campaign for Senate, and while news reports claim that he supports the the state’s same-sex marriage law, he told your Blogger, to his face, that he opposed it.
In the end, Bergeron had the Establishment. Kimball had the Libertarians (who were suspicious of Bergeron's moderation on fiscal issues) and the Theocrats, who were unimpressed with the strength of her support for the social issues in the Platform...though it's not certain that Kimball's action will support his words.
It was a close vote: 222-199.
Now, the straw poll...the media are announcing Mitt Romney's win among the delegates (an Establishment win), even if they are ignoring Ron Paul's second place showing (a Libertarian win).
But the "other story" is the poll that is not being reported. Delegates were asked, in a second poll, to indicate ALL the candidates they could support. Here are the results:
Tim Pawlenty 46
Michele Bachmann 44
Mitt Romney 42
Rick Santorum 41
Sarah Palin 38
Ron Paul 38
Jim Demint 34
Mike Huckabee 29
Mike Pence 24
Paul Ryan 24
Gary Johnson 20
Rudy Guiliiani 20
Haley Barbour 19
Newt Gingrich 19
John Bolton 15
Judd Gregg 15
Joe Arpaio 12
Donald Trump 11
John Thune 10
Mitch Daniels 9
Herman Cain 8
Jon Huntsman, Jr. 6
George Pataki 5
Scott Brown 4
John Cornyn 2
Tom Tancredo 1
Steven King 1
Notice the cluster of hard-line social conservatives at the top of the list: Pawlenty, Bachmann [shudder], DeMint, Huckabee, Santorum, Palin.
Notice the Libertarians in the second tier: Paul, Johnson
Notice no one gets more than 1/3 of the delegates voting.
Any appearance of a united, monolithic NH Republican Party is a news media invention. Any announcement that the "Tea Party" has taken over is premature and unhelpful. The NH GOP remains divided between its three camps. In the short term there will be an unpredictable dance between these camps..in the long term, as The Establishment dies off and loses ground....we will see a war between social conservatives and social libertarians. Who knows how far off that was is...