Despite himself, Donald Trump may do better than it appeared four days ago, but if New Hampshire voters can teach the country any lesson, it’s that the conservative message is not lost, or even assimilated into Trumpism.
As a New Hampshirite myself, I understand the baked-in individualism and screw-you-populism of the state psyche. Back in the 1980’s when the state tried to both increase the toll amounts and simultaneously devalue the prepaid tokens commutes bought, toll revenues went down. I was one of those many drivers who used backroads on my 50-mile each way commute two days a week to send the idiots in Concord a message. They got it, and restored the higher values of commuter tokens. This was over $0.25 a day. Imagine what the GOP can learn about more important issues.
George Will wrote about how Sen. Kelly Ayotte may be poised to keep her seat because of ticket-splitters in N.H. One fact that he cited was worth noting:
Last week, UMass Amherst/WBZ released a poll of likely voters, including those “leaning toward” a candidate, showed Ayotte with a 4-point lead. Which must reflect the fact that, in a survey of eight swing states, New Hampshire had the largest portion of voters (9.7 percent) intending to vote both for Clinton and for a Republican Senate candidate.
My brother, who still lives in the state, remarked to me several times how he sees lots of Ayotte yard signs, and a good number of Trump yard signs, but rarely if ever in the same yard. The latest four polls since 10/17 all show Ayotte up (Monmouth shows a tie). This indicates the brief dent Ayotte suffered and the boost Democrat challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan received was short-lived and due to very specific remarks about Trump being a “good role model.”
Here’s the lesson: Trump is a terrible candidate. But the party is not one man–or woman. Trump exists because voters are fed up with politics as usual, with politicians promising fiscal sanity but delivering more entitlements, debt, and “free stuff” for people who already live their lives on the government’s daily feast of benefits.
Trump being a terrible candidate should not stop conservatives–even those light on social issues like Ayotte–from sticking to their core message. Being on or off the Trump Train or #MAGA! message should not define who a conservative is or isn’t. New Hampshire voters get that because of a long history of separating conservative fiscal, economic and patriotic values from the more personal issues of faith. Liberty is the liberty to believe what you want and keep the government out of it.
The state with the largest political deliberative body (and every little town having a board of selectmen) demonstrates that small government is still the lynchpin and keystone of conservatism. Where government permanently intrudes, liberty cannot thrive. Government can help restore liberty by addressing inequities, but it never does that–it always takes up residence and kills the thing it claims to defend.
The fact that N.H. voters reject Trump but rally to Ayotte is good news, and a good lesson for the GOP. Maybe if, after Nov. 8, we were to receive that lesson, the party might just survive.