Sound of Silence

Savor this brief political vacation

illustration by peter noonan

If you are among those who feel like politics never end in New Hampshire, then I invite you to take this opportunity to step outside, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

That silence you hear results from the one month every four years that Granite State politics goes on vacation.

The political calendar everywhere runs in cycles. In New Hampshire, it goes like this: Midterm elections lead to an intense year of the presidential primary season, which leads to the presidential election year. After that, negotiations to craft a new two-year state budget take place at the Statehouse.

But then, once all of that is done, there is a glorious, once-every-four-years summer. There’s no campaigning. There are no
political television ads. There’s no Statehouse squabbling about taxes, spending and social issues.

The political atmosphere starts to slow down in July. By August, it’s usually all quiet on the political front.

Instead, the state’s conversation reverts back to boat speed limits on Lake Winnipesaukee and whatever the crazy kids are doing on Hampton Beach.

It’s not like this in other states. Even in neighboring states such as Vermont and Maine, politics is not a nearly full-time thing. Campaign seasons are a few months instead of a few years. Even contests for offices like state Senate are several times more expensive in New Hampshire than in those states. And the scene in Massachusetts is much more representative of the national political landscape, where one party or the other dominates and folks talk about something other than politics while getting a haircut.

It wasn’t always like this in the Granite State. For a century, most elections were simply a matter of which Republicans were on the ballot, and there wasn’t much point in campaigning so early. Even the legislative sessions and presidential primary seasons lasted just a few months. Now, New Hampshire is a swing state, and there are already a half-dozen candidates running for major office 18 months before the 2018 midterm elections. But even these candidates will likely take a vacation in August.

In 2017, New Hampshire residents really deserve a break from all the politics. These past four years have been particularly intense. Besides the unprecedentedly long presidential primary season, there was the 2014 US Senate race, which, at the time, was the nastiest and most expensive in state history. That race was soon topped by the 2016 US Senate contest, both in terms of tone and money. And all of this, of course, took place in a coarsening political era of Donald Trump.

This is not to suggest that policy issues aren’t important. There are activists who will want to fight for their side. However, they will find that, for a single month, they will be pretty lonely holding signs along the side of the road. Heck, they might even get unfriended on Facebook.

So gas up the car, take social media off your phone and talk about something without any larger political meaning. You might even make friends with someone with totally different political beliefs.

It’s August 2017, and the only flip-flops around should be the ones on your feet.

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