Now that every New Hampshire Democrat in both the federal and state legislatures has voted against parental rights, will they pay a political price next year?
Ask a Republican primary voter.
If the GOP presidential nominee is someone other than Donald Trump, Granite State Dems could find themselves in a world of hurt in 2024. But if it’s “Trump III: Mar-a-Lago’s Revenge,” then Thursday’s vote won’t even be an electoral afterthought.
On paper, voting down SB272 doesn’t look good for Democrats. Polls consistently show voters oppose school employees keeping secrets from parents about their children’s behavior. A NHJournal/coefficient poll taken in February found 78 percent of New Hampshire voters believe parents have a right to know what their kids are doing at school regarding sex and gender.
A UNH poll taken a month later found 64 percent believed parents have “the right to be told if their minor child is being identified by the school as being of a different gender than when their child enrolled.” And 66 percent said parents have the right to know if their child “is being identified by a different name than when their child enrolled in the school.”
Those numbers in both polls include large majorities of independent voters.
Democrats don’t just disagree, they think this widely-held view is both evil and deadly — literally.
It could be that “parents are violent, hate-filled bigots who want to beat their own children to death” is a winning political message with New Hampshire voters. But maybe not. It’s easy to imagine the GOP political mail pouring into parents’ mailboxes with pictures of their local Democratic state reps and their record on voting “to let school officials keep secrets from loving parents like you.”
Imagine if a teacher is arrested for sexual misconduct with a student at a New Hampshire school. It’s not an uncommon story. What rep wants to talk about voting to let that teacher keep secrets from Mom and Dad?
But none of this matters if Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket in 2024.
Without Trump, the parents rights issue could be very potent, particularly with the affluent suburban voters Republicans have struggled to win. Just ask Gov. Glenn Youngkin in the blue state of Virginia.
Other candidates see opportunity, too.
Within hours of the House vote, GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy released a video denouncing the outcome. “Parents have a right to know about their kids: That shouldn’t be complicated. This should not be controversial. But we live in a moment when the New Hampshire House just voted it down.”
(Interestingly, Gov. Chris Sununu had no comment about the vote as of late Thursday night and rarely discusses the issue.)
But if Trump is the GOP nominee, his political presence will block the sun from shining on any other issue. The only thing Granite Staters will be voting on in November 2024 is “Trump: Yes or N0?” Republican legislators will be on the “yes” side, and they’ll be the ones who will be punished. Democrats will simply be the “Not Trump” party, and that will be enough.
It’s true New Hampshire Republicans flipped the state House and Senate in 2020 while Trump was losing to Biden by eight points at the top of the ticket. But that was the pre-January 6 Trump. He hadn’t spent two years making ridiculous claims about winning the election by millions of votes.
As 2022 showed — three MAGA candidates getting walloped by weak incumbents like Maggie Hassan and Annie Kuster — any candidate with a whiff of Trump will be rejected by Granite Staters in a general election.
Trump supporters frequently point out his political positions are popular. Like parental rights, most voters are with Trump on building a border wall, putting tariffs on China, and keeping biological males out of women’s sports. Even on abortion, Trump’s seeking a more popular, centrist spot.
But how many voters are going to cast a ballot with Trump’s name on it based on his policies? It doesn’t do Republicans any good to be on the right side of the issues if nobody’s left to vote for you because of their feelings about Donald Trump.
Then again, Trump may not be the nominee. It’s possible New Hampshire Democrats could be forced to face a younger, less polarizing Republican campaigning on popular policies while with nothing more to work with than Joe Biden, Kalama Harris, and a voting record suburban parents hate.
New Hampshire Democrats have embraced an extreme, unpopular position that hits families right at home. They haven’t gotten away with it. Yet.