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Your Turn, NH: New Hampshire conservatives paid the price for their bad ideas

November 18. 2012 6:32PM

On Election Day, despite the concerted efforts of John Sununu, Ovide Lamontagne, Frank Guinta, William O'Brien, and the New Hampshire Union Leader to turn the Granite State into the South Carolina of the Northeast, voters from Portsmouth to Pittsburg rose up to say, "The (Tea) party is over!"

While Donald Trump and an assortment of radio talk show loonies respond to the "unthinkable" results of this election with pronouncements of the "end of democracy as we know it" and calls for a second American Revolution, calmer minds discern other messages:

1. Demographics count. No party can write off a sizeable chunk of the electorate, especially one that is growing dramatically, and remain a viable player on the national stage;

2. Women vote, and they remember! Try to parse "rape" or pay lip service to "equal pay for equal work" and you're likely to rue it come Election Day. Right-wing misogyny is the proverbial kiss of death when it comes to winning elections;

3. Attitudes toward gays and issues important to them are inexorably trending toward acceptance and accommodation. Like it or not, America today is a whole lot closer to "Modern Family" than it is to "Leave it to Beaver";

4. Voter suppression tactics are counterproductive. Even the perception that efforts are being made to disenfranchise the young, the elderly and minority groups energizes those constituencies to show up in force on Election Day;

5. Hoof and Mouth Disease is unfortunately not confined to cloven-hoofed animals. Sometimes a single statement or even a single phrase ("the 47 percent" or "self-deportation") can send a political campaign into a death spiral;

6. Know when it's time to leave the stage, and have the wisdom to do so. On these pages many weeks before the election, Fergus Cullen, in deference to Republican prospects, advised the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, William L. O'Brien, to call it a day and not run for reelection. But the poster boy for overreach, putting personal ambition above party, declined the invitation and became the lightning rod around which Democratic candidates from the governor-elect to local officials rallied their troops and drove voters to the polls. As the Kenny Rogers song says, "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." O'Brien didn't, and a good part of what happened in New Hampshire on Tuesday sits squarely on his doorstep;

7. Nobody likes a bully. Whether that bully is an anonymous billionaire funneling millions of dollars into Super PACs to buy an election or a newspaper running puerile front-page editorials denigrating a sitting President, Americans of every political persuasion take umbrage at the absence of what they consider fair play, and they vote accordingly.

All of which brings us to The Morning After. The GOP today, licking its wounds and asking Why and Whither, stands at a crossroads, and in a way the Union Leader does, too. Both need to ask whether, by their conduct and their choices in the past election, they have bought a one-way ticket to irrelevance, and their responses to that question will likely dictate their fortunes going forward.

For the GOP, a reminder: The relevant words are "We, the People," not "We, the Wealthy, White People." And why is it that the party of "freedom and liberty" can't seem to keep their noses out of our relationships, our recreational and reproductive choices, and our bedrooms once they ascend to power?

For the Union Leader, a bit of advice: Think occasionally in shades of gray; the world is not all black and white. Endorsing anyone with a pulse who wears an elephant pin on his or her lapel vitiates the value of all your endorsements and implies that there is, for example, no intrinsic difference between a Michele Bachmann, say, and a Jeb Bush. True conservatives, and most independents, know otherwise and would summarily dismiss the one while embracing the other.

Bruce Farnum lives in New Boston.

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