Last week I spoke with someone who is not a Democrat about recent comments by John H. Sununu. My friend asked, with some frustration in his voice, "Why doesn't someone tell him to just shut up?"
The former governor, along with former Republican governors Steve Merrill and Craig Benson, participated in a panel discussion about why Barack Obama was reelected. Sununu said that the President won the election because Democrats were able to turn out voters who are dependent on government. He used the example of Cleveland, stating that Democrats ran up big majorities there.
Why the reference to Cleveland, and not, oh, say, Concord, where President Obama racked up 67 percent of the vote, compared to Romney's 32 percent? Or Portsmouth, where the President doubled up Romney, 8,848 to 4088?
The answer could be that Cleveland's population is 53.3 percent African-American, or it could be because there are neighborhoods in Cleveland with a double-digit unemployment rate. Whatever the reason, Sununu's statement that President Obama was reelected because he appealed to those dependent on government was an insult to the American people and an insult to the 52 percent of the voters who gave Barack Obama a Granite State victory.
Sununu's comments reflect a troubling belief system that is not his alone. Merrill said he agreed with everything Sununu said. Benson went even further, stating the Democratic Party appeals to people by promising "stuff."
What all these former governors essentially believe is that most voters are lazy and can be bought with the dole. They are blind to the vast majority of Americans who are a hardworking people looking for an honest day's pay for an honest day's work, people who are strivers who want to support themselves and their families, regardless of race or ethnicity. The former governors are so ignorant about their fellow citizens that it is a wonder any of them ever managed to get elected to anything. No wonder there are those who just do not want to listen to anything they have to say.
Sununu, Merrill and Benson must not read the newspaper stories about thousands of people showing up at job fairs, like the one sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus in Atlanta a year ago. So many people showed up they had to stand in line for hours; some collapsed in the August heat. They haven't spoken to people here in New Hampshire who work two jobs to get by. They certainly haven't been talking to the people who work low-wage jobs for the dignity of a regular paycheck, even though their company's wage and hour structure means they qualify for food stamps. They don't know the college students taking out back-breaking debt for the opportunity to advance.
In the world of Sununu, Merrill and Benson, it is wise policy when they want to take or give away government help to those who don't need it. But when it is helping low-wage employees who aren't paid enough to insure their kids, or middle-class families trying to save their homes or send their kids to college, well, that's just us good-for-nothing Americans wanting stuff.
Compare those citizens to Sununu, who lost his government job as George H.W. Bush's chief of staff over his use of government jets and limos, to attend political fundraisers and visit ski lodges, golf resorts and his dentist in Boston. One trip, to the Vail ski resort, cost taxpayers $86,330. Talk about government dependency!
Then there is Benson, who said the Democratic Party promised voters "stuff." Here is my definition of wanting "stuff": taking millions in state and federal tax incentives to expand in Ohio, as Cabletron did. Cabletron promised to provide employment in exchange for the incentives, then subsequently closed the plant, leaving hundreds out of work.
Then there was Benson's war on the business profits tax. In 1990, Cabletron threatened not to expand in New Hampshire if the state did not reform the BPT to Cabletron's liking. Cabletron sued the state, claiming the tax was unconstitutional, refusing to pay $13 million in taxes until the law was changed. Merrill must remember Cabletron's demands; in 1993, Benson said that Gov. Merrill had promised to do whatever Rhode Island was doing to get Cabletron to expand there, "times 10." Times 10? Now that is giving away "stuff!"
It is time for Sununu, Merrill and Benson to stop trying to delegitimize Barack Obama's election with this notion that somehow those who voted for Romney are pure of heart, while those who did not are greedy moochers. It isn't true.
We voted for President Obama because as patriotic Americans who want what is best for our country, we think he will do a better job than Mitt Romney.
Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.