Despite his outspoken support for their cause, the Black Lives Matter organization in New Hampshire attacked Gov. Chris Sununu for “welcoming white supremacist” Donald Trump to New Hampshire.
“It’s not lost on us that the same @GovChrisSununu who called us a ‘leading voice’ with ‘the right message’ is now welcoming a white supremacist who called Black Lives Matter a ‘symbol of hate’ to the Granite State. Your actions speak louder than your words, Governor,” the Black Lives Matter Nashua organization tweeted.
BLM activists are organizing a protest in Portsmouth a few hours before President Trump’s scheduled rally on Saturday, and the organization claims it has received an “overwhelming response.” As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 1,300 people on Facebook had expressed interest in participating.
“When we say hate has no home here, we’re talking about you, @realDonaldTrump,” they added. “This won’t be the first time a white supremacist has planned a rally on New Hampshire’s Seacoast, but we will be ready to make our voices heard.”
The Seacoast rally is apparently a reference to a KKK rally held in Rochester, N.H., in 1924.
“As governor, I’ll be there to greet the president as any governor would,” Sununu said Tuesday, though he refused to commit to attending the rally itself. “I don’t know if I’ll be part of any large gathering,” he demurred. Sununu did, however, pledge to wear a mask when meeting Trump.
BLM’s criticism of Sununu is particularly noteworthy because he’s been a tireless supporter of their movement since the protests in response to George Floyd’s death — which Sununu pointedly calls a “murder” — began.
“This morning I called the organizers ahead of the George Floyd march in Manchester to let them know the State of New Hampshire stands with them in their calls for justice,” Sununu said on June 1, the day of the first major protest in the Granite State. “This important conversation must continue and we must constructively work together as a nation to ensure there is change.”
Sununu faced significant backlash at the time from advocates of reopening New Hampshire, who pointed out he was supporting gatherings for political causes that he would never allow for businesses and workers trying to pay their bills.
Now he’s under fire from local BLM activists for not taking action against Trump’s visit, though it’s not clear what action Sununu could take. And yet, the governor told NHJournal, he still supports the BLM cause.
“We very much support the Black Lives Matter message,” he said Tuesday in response to their criticism. “But the idea that I can prevent the president from coming, or that that would even be appropriate, isn’t really practical.”
Sununu went on to single out New Hampshire’s BLM organizations for “acting constructively and productively…. they’ve done a very good job, not just of having a message, but managing it in a very good way.”
Sununu spent most of Tuesday’s regularly scheduled COVID-19 presser being peppered with questions about Trump’s visit, many of them from the national press. Reporters repeatedly insisted Trump’s visit was violating New Hampshire’s policies —or at the very least, its general strategy — for handling the pandemic.
Asked about the large crowd expected to attend Trump’s rally, Sununu pointed out that the state allows such gatherings, though with limits on capacity such as 50 percent for concert venues.
Left-leaning media outlets like the Boston Globe and InDepthNH erroneously claimed that, under current state policy, Trump should be forced to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to New Hampshire. Sununu reminded reporters that self-quarantine is only for people from outside New England who are visiting for an extended period, like staying at a resort or hotel. “People come into New Hampshire for a one-day visit all the time.”
“If you are just coming in for an event or going shopping here, then the 14-day quarantine doesn’t apply,” Sununu said.
The big question, however, is political. Why is Sununu supporting a movement that’s openly partisan, is calling the leader of his party a “white supremacist” and is attacking him, too?
Answer: For the same reason he’s refusing to throw Trump under the bus. What’s the upside?
By supporting the BLM movement, Sununu undermines Democrats’ attempts to turn him into Trump, Jr. And he does it without having to do what Sen. Dan Feltes and Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky have done: Wholeheartedly embrace a list of demands from an extremely progressive group whose specific policy proposals are less popular than their overall message.
And by simply not denouncing Trump — by avoiding a petty political fight over masks or rallies — Sununu avoids annoying the NHGOP base, but without embracing a Republican president who’s underwater by double digits in New Hampshire.
Activist BLM voters are never going to vote for Sununu. They’re progressives. There isn’t a Republican who’ll ever get their votes. Their attacks remind moderates that Sununu’s one of them.
And by attacking Sununu for not treating Trump the same way they do, Democrats are reminding local Republicans that he’s one of their own. Even members of the cranky, ReopenNH wing of the party are likely to respond with, “Hey — anyone Ray Buckley hates this much can’t be all bad.”
Sununu’s going to have a few more uncomfortable days leading up to Saturday’s rally, but the final result is almost certain to be a net plus for his 2020 campaign.