The Non-stop Season
Both presidential primaries and Christmas are becoming permanent
Illustration by Peter Noonan
As the leaves fall and the snows begin, the advertising signs along New Hampshire roadways tend to change as well, but there are two kinds of signs that seem to know no season.
One sign is for the Christmas store that sells all kinds of tree ornaments, Santa dolls and other knickknacks. The other signs come in all colors, shapes and sizes for presidential candidates queuing up for the state’s first-in-the-nation primary in February.
But the thing is, these signs aren’t just here in December. Both types of signs have been in the ground for a long time.
Over the last 20 years, both the Christmas season and election season have become year-round and never-ending.
Permanent Christmas stores are no longer just cute mom and pop places in the touristy Lakes Region and White Mountains. They’ve become big box stores that can be found out near the Wal-Mart and Home Depot just about anywhere in the state.
And when it comes to presidential campaigning, there is rarely a month that goes by — even in the slowest period of the four-year presidential election cycle — without some politician from someplace making a visit to see if he or she has a shot at becoming the next leader of the free world.
The expansion of both election season and Christmas season is driven by the same commonly accepted logic: When hunting for gifts or votes, it is better to shop early and often.
For holiday shoppers, the best deals and the coolest presents may be found when they shop for loved ones in September. Retail stores, some of which can make around 30 percent of revenue from the Christmas season, have every economic reason to begin the season as early as possible and make it last as long as possible. Plus, if you read the signs along the road, you’ll know there is no better time to buy Christmas lights than when they are on sale in January.
The political infrastructure in New Hampshire also encourages a permanent campaign. Candidates are told that the way to win in the Granite State is by cultivating as many personal relationships as possible and locking down endorsements as early as possible. Campaign staffers and consultants also have the economic incentive to make every day election day.
With that being the case, if a person knows they want to run for president, then why wouldn’t he or she start two years out? Even if the decision is not to run at all, just visiting the state to speak at a fundraiser could help his or her political stature nationally.
Whether any of this is a good thing is a different question entirely. New Englanders particularly like living in a place where they can experience the changing of the seasons, so the blurring of lines can be annoying.
For those who cannot wait for the holiday season or election season to be over, I have bad news — on the day after Christmas and Election Day, there are only so many days left until the next one.
So, whether gift or candidate, by now you should know what you’re going to pick. You’ve had plenty of time to shop around.