Protest? No Thanks

Political activism is passing New Hampshire by



illustration by peter noonan

The year 2017 may go down in US history as the time when political activism reached levels not witnessed in decades. For the first time, there was a groundswell of protestors from both the right and the left, who gave money to political candidates and followed the news in ways they never have before.

Around the country, this new level of activism led to concrete results. In New Hampshire, however, nothing has really lasted. While time is never wasted being an active citizen, the truth is that all this talk has neither led to action nor the appearance of forthcoming action — at least not as is happening around the country.

Nationwide, there have been significant large-scale rallies on the right and the left on matters ranging from science to women’s rights to immigration policies. People have taken to the streets about repealing Obamacare or honoring police or even protecting so-called white identity.

All of these causes have had real organizers, real money put into the events and real crowds. All apparently grew organically from the grassroots without relying on a political party or candidate. And, at the national level, they’ve managed to get results. A record number of candidates have already signed up to run for Congress in 2018, and they are collecting record amounts of money. The pro-choice women’s candidate fund EMILY’s List reports that a record 10,000 women contacted them in the months after the 2016 election about running for some type of office — 10 times more than contacted the group in the two years that led up to the election.

But here in New Hampshire, once the activists put down their signs and go home, politics pretty much remain the same. Sure, a healthy crop of Republican candidates is preparing to run against the state’s pair of Democratic US representatives, but it is not eye-popping. A handful of liberal activist groups have formed around the state under the name Indivisible, but their biggest action items so far seem to simply be meetings with themselves. And, yes, Democrats have won a few surprise special elections for the Legislature — notably in Republican strongholds Wolfeboro and Hooksett — but that could have been more a function of candidates and tactics than some new wave of political energy. Remember, the only major Republican incumbent on the ballot next year, Governor Chris Sununu, has only one Democrat running against him.

There are a few reasons that might explain this disparity. First, most of the real passion nationally has come from the political left in response to President Trump and Republican politics as a whole — but, in New Hampshire, the entire delegation to Washington is already composed of Democrats. Second, the Granite State already had a culture of political activism, so the new groups that have formed don’t exactly shake up the system. Third, it might just be part of the traditional Yankee stoicism that, while some tend to get worked up for this item or that cause, most just go along living their lives.

New Hampshire will likely continue to be a low-tax state with little government involvement. It will continue to cling tightly to a “Live Free or Die” mindset. And if some people want to go to the Statehouse steps and act out of their First Amendment right, well, that’s fine, as long as they don’t expect everyone else to join them.

More politics features you might be interested in

Women's Wave

#MeToo might sway the 2018 midterm elections.

Future Shirk

Both parties have big identity issues to face - but will they?

Examining NH's Own JFK Assassination Mystery

Investigating Bill Sullivan's role in JFK's death.

Bidding Carol Shea-Porter Farewell

Carol Shea-Porter was ahead of her time.

Should Outdated Laws Stay or Should They Go?

Even “outdated” laws have staying power.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

  1. Washington New Hampshire
    Washington is one of New Hampshire’s most overlooked towns, and it also happens to be one of...
  2. Pets to the Rescue
    Some animals are more than pets — they can comfort, teach and assist their humans in a number...
  3. A Closer Look at NH's Own Seth Meyers
    The “Late Night” host returns to New Hampshire for a good cause
  4. Guide to Retirement Living and Continuing Care
    The concept of retirement and senior living is not what it once was.
  5. Vermin Supreme
    Getting to know the fringe presidential candidate who has been running for office since 1992
  6. Dining Off the Beaten Path in Portsmouth
    The up-and-coming Islington Street in Portsmouth's West End has it all - except the big crowds.
  7. No Man's Land Between NH and Canada
    The tall tale(s) of two boundary markers
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags