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...
Sunday, December 05, 2010
In my blog and in message board discussions concerning the Tea Party, I have been consistent in my predictions: The Tea Party has had strength because they have been unified in what they have opposed; but, when the time comes when they are forced to agree on what they are actually in favor of…, well, it is then, I predict, that the movement will fracture. It is far easier to agree on a common bogeyman than to agree on the solution or replacement for the bogeyman.
Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips’ comments over the last two weeks on voting rights might just convince many Tea Partiers that they have signed on with a lunatic, and precipitate that fracture.
On the other hand, if the Tea Party rallies to his defence, we are in bigger trouble as a nation than I had ever dreamed.
On his Tea Party Nation internet radio program on November 17, Phillips said:
"The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn't you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you're a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you're not a property owner, you know, I'm sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners”
I kid you not. His comments can be heard here:
These comments are devoid of reason. Has he ever been to Manhattan, and seen city block upon city block of apartment buildings…places where thousands of people live in units rented from absentee landlords who live somewhere “roomier?’
Can he truly believe that these thousands of people have no interest in their communities? In their children’s schools, their garbage pickup, the traffic patterns in their neighborhoods, crime in the streets and subways they use to go to and from work, and their fire and police protection?
Who does he thinks serves on community boards and Parent-Teacher organizations and Parks Commissions? Landlords? Or the mere residents, the renters whom he feels have a lesser stake in their community?
Does he think they don’t pay sales taxes and income taxes and meals taxes every day?
It is unfathomable to me that a political leader would actually suggest this as a rational policy. This is the kind of thinking that lead to the Scottish Clearances and the Irish Famine in another century – the notion that ‘tenants’ were merely ‘problems.’
In an effort to make sense out of his statements, I thought perhaps he was simply putting himself in the place of an 18th century aristocrat, and explaining why they may have included property requirements for voting in the late 1700s.
But then, two days ago, Phillips sent out an e-mail designed to rally his supporters in response to the outcry about his comments. In it, he referred to a Property-owning requirement as a “wise idea”:
"A couple of weeks ago, on the Tea Party Nation radio show, I was talking with David DeGerolamo of NC Freedom about the Founding Fathers and the original Constitution. During the course of our discussion, I mentioned that the founding fathers limited voting rights to property owners. I commented this was a wise idea."
He made no retraction. No clarification. In fact, he confirmed his position. He then went on to criticize those who objected to his comments, saying that the “left went nuts,” “spastic” and “into hysteria.”
Not just the left, Mr. Phillips. Seniors in Nursing homes. College Students. Renters. Single parents living in shelters for the abused. Native Americans on Reservations. Grandparents living with their children. None of whom would qualify for voting rights in Mr. Phillips’ world.
Mr. Phillips seeks a wholesale evisceration of American democracy and the US Constitution, which permits no other qualifications for voting other than being a citizen 18 years of age or older.
No poll tax. No literacy test. No Property-ownership requirements.
And hopefully, no successful Tea Party efforts to change this.