Monday, January 7, 2008

The New Hampshire Presidential Primary

This morning we drove out to do some errands prior to leaving for our winter bluegrass trip. As we approached the bank in the center of town we realized that a John McCain rally was about to begin. After parking, we went over to the bandstand in the middle of the park and were told that McCain was expected in about half an hour. I went across the street to finish our banking while Irene grabbed the McCain sign a worker offered her and started waving it. Now, we’ve been married for nearly forty-four years. It’s a mixed marriage (i.e. we belong to separate parties), but after all these years we’re still talking to each other. We watch lots of TV news, we discuss the issues and the candidates a lot, sometimes we argue, we’ve even been known to stop talking for a few hours, but, for the most part, it’s been an amicable disagreement that we both enjoy. Attending political events and being involved in this election has been an important part of the season.

We moved to New Hampshire for our retirement for a number of reasons, mostly to be nearer our sons and their kids when we’re at home. Elder son is an attorney whose career has been very much involved in New Hampshire party politics, and Irene went to a number of events during the 1996 presidential election year. She had told me how exciting it was, but I sort of discounted the New Hampshire primary as an important event in thinking about our move here. Well, I was wrong and it really is exciting. The New Hampshire primary will be held tomorrow. We’re stopping at the polls on our way south. In the general election our votes often cancel each other out, but this year we each believe our vote will count and that it will be important.

Actually, we’ve only gone to see two of the candidates in person. We went to see John Edwards at two rallies, the most recent about two weeks ago. He was preceded by Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne who sang a couple songs before introducing Granny D, a nonagenarian who walked across the United States in support of campaign finance reform and lost to Judd Gregg in the race of U.S. Senate. She introduced Edwards. Edwards is handsome, dynamic, and passionate about the importance of achieving his goals. He exudes confidence and sincerity. Irene found herself rising to applaud his money lines and really taken by his wife Elizabeth. The whole event was both moving and persuasive.

This morning, John McCain walked across the street from his bus, the Straight Talk Express, hit the rostrum full speed, and gave an enthusiastic and believable stump speech. He emphasized his connection to veterans, his distance from George Bush on matters of deficit spending, and from almost everyone in his support of the military surge. He said that while people might disagree with him on specific issues, they would never doubt his integrity or his commitment to the American people. He was particularly strong in his support of medical care for returning veterans. The presence of retired Senator Phil Gramm of Texas at the rally was mute testimony to McCain’s commitment to fiscal conservatism. (I mentioned to Senator Gramm that we had heard him give the fourth of July speech in the football stadium in Tyler, TX in 1976. He remarked I was giving away my age.) By the end of the rally Irene was enthusiastic and I was confident that if McCain won the election we’d be in good hands. As a matter of fact, while we both know this will be an important election, each of us is confident that the choice this year will be between two strengths, not a “hold your nose” election.

Beyond the rallies, our phone has been ringing off the hook and the doorbell chimes daily with canvassers coming to extol the strengths of another candidate. Democrats have been more in evidence than Republicans, but both have appeared. Each of us has been polled on the phone by a national polling organization, Irene by LA Times/Bloomsberg and me by Pew. After a while we’ve begun to feel that not only does our vote count, but that our vote will help to mold the votes of those in later primaries. It’s really good fun and makes us feel as if we’re involved in an important aspect of the American experience.