Everybody’s Mardi Gras

The N.H. Republican Party doesn’t get it. Colossal electoral failure might suggest it is time for a little soul searching … a serving of a humble pie wouldn’t be bad, either. Ah well, wishful thinking. Just in case you missed a particularly illustrative news story during the flurry of activity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, let me rewind the tape. The vignette deals with politics, personalities and New Orleans, and since Mardi Gras is the last chance to have at it before the period of atonement, maybe the GOP will take a message.

Wiping out two incumbent congressman is a feat in any state, but in New Hampshire it represents the whole congressional enchilada. Charlie Bass smelled it coming, but First District Congressman Jeb Bradley got hit by a Mac truck — no, make that a “Ma” truck. Jeb and his collaborators are not taking losing lightly.

Days after Carol Shea-Porter won her First District seat, she met with the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. All of the newbies were given two minutes of access to share their top concerns for the upcoming session. Shea-Porter chose not to focus on the plight of New Hampshire in her face time conversation, rather she “used them to talk about Katrina and Louisiana and all that still needs to be done” (Times-Picayune). Days later the Union Leader’s political columnist John DiStaso shared with readers this stunning, no make that selfish GOP response: “Unnamed Republicans questioned why Shea-Porter named the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and not her home district, as her priority.”

Give me strength. Does anyone in N.H. think that Jeb or Charlie lost their races because of a failure to respond to constituent needs? Their campaign strategy was about as deep as a car detailing — save the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, preserve open space in the North Country and pretty much let it go at that. Voters in N.H. were not focused on their comfortable back yards; most of us get the fact that we live in the “most livable state in the nation” (Morgan Quitno 2006 rankings), with one of the highest per capita incomes in the country. What appalled N.H. voters was unconscionable failure at the national level. The list was compelling. It was the pathetic response to Katrina victims right after the storm and the embarrassing devastation that still describes much of the Gulf Coast over a year later. It was the lies, mistakes and collective denial of Congress to address the failure in Iraq that now threatens to bring war and chaos to the entire Middle East. It was the growing number of uninsured in this country even as the bill for health care spirals out of control. It is the truth behind global warming that is denied by a party that has decided that science is the enemy.

I don’t know about you, but I am proud that our member of Congress decided to act in the best interest of her country and her planet. How is New Hampshire diminished if our Representative tells the Speaker of the House that leadership means addressing the needs of a desperate part of our nation? (Morgan Quitno lists Louisiana as ranking 50th in the list of the most livable states in the nation). New Hampshire is important, but New Hampshire will fare well and better when our country responds to crisis effectively, no matter where it takes place. As President Calvin Coolidge (a Republican) so aptly reminded us: Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. NH

Arnie Arnesen, a former nominee for Congress and a candidate for Governor, has been a fixture on the state political scene for decades.