The township of Dixville Notch doesn’t always get it right (former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg won there), but then neither does all of New Hampshire all of the time.
The spectacle of our democratic process hard at work was evident Tuesday as Granite State voters flocked to the polls to cast their presidential primary ballot. There was lots of indecision and last-minute choices, while the up-close-and-personal experience of a presidential campaign made a good deal of difference. That is a good thing; New Hampshire voters tend to be very engaged and knowledgeable voters, and their preferences do count.
I think Thomas Jefferson perhaps said it best years ago: “A people who believe they can be both free and ignorant believe that which never has been, and never can be. A democracy presupposes an informed electorate.” It’s right up there with Ben Franklin’s quip after the Constitutional Convention when asked what kind of government we would be getting: “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Keeping it, of late, has proved to be more challenging than at any time in our history. The rule of law has been under assault by the rule of personal whim, vituperative retribution, and interference in the normal governmental process to twist and turn the results in a way that supports the view of our increasingly autocratic leader.
It is hard to support 25 candidates against one. The field will now narrow and the candidate to take on President Donald Trump will become clear with each ensuing primary.
As the smoke lifts in New Hampshire, a couple of things are becoming clear. First, Joe Biden has lost his front-runner status with his fifth place finish. His candidacy itself may indeed be finished.
The big winners were South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg with 24 percent and U.S. Sen.Amy Klobuchar with 20 percent — they placed second and third, respectively. Bernie Sanders, although first, is left wth a victory that rings hollow at 26 percent, considering the rising tides of Klobuchar and Buttigieg. Amy Klobuchar’s late surge in support, buoyed by her Friday night debate performance, probably kept Buttigieg from upending Sanders completely in the final tally.
Massachusets’s Sen. Elizabeth Warren should have fared better than 9 percent in her neighboring state and I think her campaign is now seriously imperiled. Joe Biden ( also 9 percent) is clearly on the downhill trajectory.
So thank you, New Hampshire, for showing us that elections can work, even if caucus results can be confusing and muddled. There’s nothing like a good old voting machine to make the difference clear. And the turnout in New Hampshire appears to have exceeded all previous primaries. That did not happen in Iowa, so it is a good omen going forward. Voter enthusiasm is on the upswing.
The old political adage “Vote early and often” clearly applies to New Hampshire, and for that, we thank the citizens of the state whose motto, prophetically, is “Live free or die!” Now it’s on to Nevada and South Carolina, with a bit more clarity, a renewed sense of optimism, and an enduring sense that votes do count, winning does matter, and democracy is a vital and virtuous process.