New Hampshire voters are facing gasp-inducing prices to fill their oil tanks and turn on the electricity. Southern New Hampshire, including Manchester and Nashua, is in the top 10 markets for the highest inflation rate. No region of the country will be hit harder by the Biden energy policies than New England, where the words “shortage” and “brown out” now regularly appear in reports.
And yet a majority of the same Granite Staters who will pay these costs just voted to keep the incumbent Democrats in power, even increasing their numbers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Actually, the right question is “why?”
“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how,” wrote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and this midterm election suggested he was on to something.
One of the most common cliches of pre-midterm punditry was, “This election will be about kitchen-table issues.” A close runner-up: “People vote their pocketbooks.” They are “how you live” issues. Paying the bills. Personal economic comfort. Cash in your pocket.
And the cliches were completely wrong. Yes, Republicans won a majority among voters who said the economy was terrible. But those voters were already more likely to be Republicans.
The problem is that, among those who described the economy as “not so good,” New Hampshire Democrats won by 31 points according to exit polls.
The same with the 12 percent of Granite Staters who “somewhat disapproved” of Biden. Typically, the party out of power would win those by 20 points. Instead, they went +47 for Democrats.
And as Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics noted Sunday, “The biggest stunner was independent voters, who went for the incumbent party by two points, 51-49, after four straight midterm cycles of breaking in favor of the out-party by double digits.”
Truly astonishing numbers, reflecting the fact most voters agreed Democrats are not getting the job done and a majority voted for them anyway.
Because they weren’t voting on the “how,” they were voting on the “why.” Their beliefs. Their cause.
When the final numbers are in, it is likely that New Hampshire voters under age 30 turned out in unusually high numbers, and that they dominated the same-day registrations. They didn’t show up to cast a vote on inflation policy or a rebuke to excessive government spending. These younger, more idealistic voters were motivated by the Democrats’ message to cast a vote to save America.
They voted to save women from a “Handmaid’s Tale” future, to defend our democratic system from MAGA “semi-fascism,” as President Joe Biden put it. They showed up not to save money on their energy bills but to save democracy itself.
They were voters with a cause, and they overwhelmingly voted Democrat.
Other voters may roll their eyes and dismiss their alleged ‘cause’ as ridiculous. New Hampshire’s late-term abortion ban isn’t changing and the record turnout is a rebuke to the “Democracy in Danger” charge. So, how did Democrats convince those voters that the fate of our republic was at stake?
The Democrats didn’t convince them. The Republicans did.
Thanks to Gov. Chris Sununu, there were more than 350,000 potential Republican votes in play last Tuesday. If the rest of the ticket could have kept 90 percent of them, the GOP would have swept Tuesday night.
But just 275,000 people voted for Don Bolduc and a combined 277,000 for the two Republican House candidates, Bob Burns and Karoline Leavitt.
It turns out that nominating Trump-backed candidates who wholeheartedly embrace ludicrous theories about stolen elections, vaccine microchips, and high school “Furries” isn’t just embarrassing to Republicans. It also drives Democrats to the polls in droves.
Remember the red-hot contest between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown in the 2014 midterms? Total turnout was around 490,000. Then came Trump. Turnout in 2018 jumped to 565,000.
Last Tuesday, it soared to 620,000.
Because NHGOP primary voters insist on embracing the cult of Trump, because they mandate candidates show fealty to him — and prove it by publicly embracing his most ludicrous claims — the party is represented by candidates like Bolduc, Leavitt, and Burns. Those candidates in turn drove up turnout among Democrats, guaranteeing their own doom.
Candidates like Bolduc and Burns also depressed GOP voting. While 97 percent of Granite State Democrats backed their party’s nominees, just 89 percent of Republicans did the same for their party’s picks. That was how Hassan went from a skin-of-her-teeth win in 2016 to a double-digit blowout last week.
Sununu has reduced the 2022 election results to a single sentence: “The voters want to fix policy, but they voted to fix ‘crazy’ first.”
The long-term challenge for New Hampshire Republicans, particularly in federal races, is that the state is so wealthy and families are so prosperous that they can afford to vote on issues like abortion and election integrity and other abstract concepts even when the economy is lousy. Voting their “why” isn’t actually that much of a sacrifice for their “how.”
Nominating Trumpian Republicans and arguing that voters will accept their eccentricities in exchange for low taxes and more GDP growth hasn’t worked since 2018. What has worked is a pro-choice moderate who “supported the Republican ticket” but wasn’t thrilled about it. A Republican who has been willing to criticize Trump publicly, but not gratuitously.
Sununu’s example shows there are plenty of Granite Staters who will vote Republican. The job of the GOP is to give them Republicans they can vote for.