Political Pandemic Predictions

Some fundamental changes are here to stay
Nhmag Capoff July 21 Copy

Illustration by Peter Noonan

The 2020 election was supposed to be about a lot of things, notably including the personality of Donald Trump and a roaring economy, but the onset of the pandemic not only halted life, it also put one of the more important presidential elections on pause. 

Of course, Covid also impacted every race on the 2020 ballot, canceling most traditional rallies, changing how candidates debated each other, and ensuring for the first time a huge bulk of New Hampshire residents voted by mail. 

Now, as the state appears to be in something of a recovery from the pandemic, consideration is being given to the more long-term impacts of Covid on New Hampshire politics. For those looking for a bottom line: It is totally unclear which political party benefits more. That said, here are some of the obvious effects. 

1. More of life quickly went online and will stay there.

Here, the pandemic served as catalyst for what was already going to happen: Most of life will take place online. Not every business will allow people to work remotely, not every doctor’s appointment can be a telehealth appointment, not every community meeting will happen over Zoom, not every person will decide to have groceries delivered or rely on Amazon for basic staples, but many more will.

No doubt, this will be a more efficient way of going about things, but it will also pose a crisis for communities that don’t have reliable high-speed internet. These communities will simply be left behind unless leaders there and statewide begin to address the digital divide. One other thing this digital life will do: Create neighbors who are even less connected minus the random hello in the line at the grocery store. 

It’s not exactly “Our Town.”

2. Our hot post-pandemic housing market could adjust the character of the state.

New Hampshire real estate agents say they experienced one of the craziest markets during Covid, and that they don’t expect it to really change. Southern New Hampshire is a unique gem in America: It’s close to Boston, one of the world’s most vibrant and stable economies, and features good infrastructure with nearby mountains, lakes and coast — plus low taxes. 

If, as some predict, the biggest shift ever in national workplace culture is imminent, then southern New Hampshire is set to benefit as many move out of the city for a nice yard and good public schools — now without the trade-off of a horrible commute five days a week. And those already settled in southern New Hampshire are looking to own a second home in the Lakes Region.

This has led home prices to increase 12% in New Hampshire, a market that was already going up 6% the previous year. This increase in property values will mean an increase in potential property tax revenue for local communities to invest, or a fight over how much to reduce taxes. This means New Hampshire will likely become more wealthy, more educated and older (and whiter). Poorer populations or younger first-time homebuyers simply will be priced out and forced to rent or move somewhere else.

 How that all shakes out in terms of who becomes governor is unknown, but the priorities to serve on either side of the political aisle are going to be obvious and fought over intensely following the pandemic. 

Categories: Politics