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Cog Contributors React To The N.H. Primary

Left, Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reacts to the cheering crowd at his primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. Right, Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. (Both photos, AP)
Left, Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., reacts to the cheering crowd at his primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. Right, Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a primary night rally in Manchester, N.H. (Both photos, AP)
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Donald J. Trump and Bernie Sanders are the big winners in New Hampshire.

Cognoscenti contributors Margaret Burnham, Renée Loth, Julie Wittes Schlack, Taymullah Abdur-Rahman and others share their thoughts on the outcome of the first in the nation primary.

We’ll be adding more reactions as they come in.


Prof. Margaret Burnham, Northeastern University School of Law

As the campaign heads to points South, all eyes are on black voters, traditionally Democratic but also, it’s worth remembering, usually significantly to the left of their party. Predictions that this is solid Hillary country may prove correct, but let’s not ignore the reality that the Sanders's victory reflects fundamental changes on the American left to which black voters have been key. Black votes are as much Bernie’s to lose as they are Hillary’s. From Harold Washington’s insurgent campaign for mayor of Chicago in the 1980s to the election of the late Chokwe Lumumba as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi and Bill de Blasio in New York City, black voters have been at the heart of virtually every major successful campaign to mainstream progressive politics.

The 'un-electable' canard is a carcass -- but only if you can attract black voters.

Black voters are not all sitting in their church pews waiting to be courted by Bernie. But neither are they prepared to get excited about a progressive campaign that clumsily sidelines race, fails to heed advice to embed in communities of color, deprecates as far-fetched reparations (and not free college?), and belittles race-focused organizations like Black Lives Matter as divisive “identity politics.”

It’s true that Sanders can’t succeed without black votes, but the real truth is that no progressive campaign can succeed nationally if it cannot grasp that race is a form of class and that economic subjugation is a form of racism. To win from here on, Sanders will have to catch up with the former New York senator, whose deeper experiences on race matters are to her advantage, and Clinton will have to move beyond the Children’s Defense Fund to embrace younger African-Americans who are as troubled by climate change, avaricious capitalism, and an imperial foreign policy as Democratic voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.

It’s a new day out here: each could take a page out of the playbook of socialist city councilor Kshama Sawant in Seattle. The “un-electable” canard is a carcass — but only if you can attract black voters.


John Sivolellapolitical commentator

New Hampshire primary voters didn’t hold back expressing the angry discontent that much of the country feels toward dysfunctional D.C. politics.

Problem is, the system is broken largely because the middle ground of compromise has mostly disappeared, and yet voters opted for populists on either side of the aisle.

This isn’t a criticism as much as it is an observation. Many motivated primary voters have apparently lost faith in the national political system and are willing to figuratively blow it up and start over.

The ramifications for the two parties, however, may be light years apart.

...if Trump somehow prevails in the primary, the GOP will be changed forever and may even splinter.

For the Democrats, this was probably Bernie Sanders’s high point. Although Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate who has yet to show the ability to inspire, her establishment organization is far ahead nationally. She will regain her footing in the South.

Sanders is no Barack Obama. But he is doing his job by pushing Clinton to address a policy agenda she’d rather avoid and forcing her to veer far left.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are moving into murky, uncharted waters. As someone who supported Marco Rubio as the new face of a party on the ropes — young, an optimistic success story as the child of Latino immigrants, smart on complex policy issues — it was disappointing to see him fade dramatically after the debate debacle. It remains unclear whether he can recover.

In the meantime, though, the GOP narrative has yet to unfold. The party hasn’t coalesced around a realistic alternative to Donald Trump. This division reveals its weakness and identity crisis. And if Trump somehow prevails in the primary, the GOP will be changed forever and may even splinter.

But for now, the GOP carnival moves on to its next stop.


Renée Loth, writer and editor

Even before the winners of the New Hampshire primary were announced in the hair-trigger seconds after the polls closed Tuesday night, it was pretty clear who had lost. The Establishment — the Washington pols, the big money lobbyists and campaign contributors, the indifferent corporations, the elite media, and party insiders of any stripe — took the kind of merciless drubbing that almost makes you yearn for someone to call the game early.

Bernie Sanders, who swept nearly every demographic group in the admittedly narrow swath of voters that comprise the New Hampshire electorate, delivered a rip-snorting victory speech that fairly spat the 13-letter word. Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Big Shorters on Wall Street all were “put on notice,” he said to delirious crowds. Hillary Clinton still has the time and resources to pick off delegates in the coming primaries, but she has clearly under-estimated the hunger Democratic voters are feeling for gutsy, unscripted, passionate debate — what Sanders called “Big ideas, not small ideas.”

It’s deeply unsettling to see the depth of disgust voters are displaying this year toward anything that seems centrist or even rational.

Senator Marco Rubio, whose turn atop the Republican carnival wheel was so fast his strong Iowa showing barely clicked, was said to have crashed because of his robotic performance in Saturday’s debate. It is true that in exit polls a significant two-thirds of New Hampshire voters said the debate had a role in determining their vote. But Rubio’s biggest liability was that he was clearly the latest best chance of the Republican party insiders to stop the whirlwind that is Donald Trump. It was no secret that panicked party regulars hoped to coalesce behind the youthful, Hispanic senator from the big state of Florida. But New Hampshire was having none of it.

It’s deeply unsettling to see the depth of disgust voters are displaying this year toward anything that seems centrist or even rational. But the Establishment has failed too many struggling Americans in too many ways, and on this snowy New Hampshire night, at least, it deserved to lose.


Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, Harvard University Muslim chaplain 

I'm a pragmatist. For all of the tax hikes and Wall Street regulation that Sanders promises, I just don't think he can get it done in a Republican majority senate. If we've learned anything from Obama's presidency it's that Republicans can be obstructionists when and where it counts.

Hillary, on the other hand, is our best bet if we want practical results. There's no time to get halfway behind an idealistic candidate who'll just be stonewalled.

I believe that if voters had to choose between a radical Trump and a sober Clinton, Clinton wins every time.

If it's a battle of ideas, then okay let's vote for Bernie, but if it's a battle for results then we must gather in groups with one battle cry: "Hillary in 16!"

We need someone who has experience, the ability to navigate complicated relationships, works well under pressure and, frankly speaking, would have superb counsel from her spouse.

I believe that if voters had to choose between a radical Trump and a sober Clinton, Clinton wins every time.

Democratic voters have probably been guilty of too much head-in-the-clouds dreaming. But if we want to keep our beloved country out of the claws of Trump then we must get past the Utopian future that Obama attempted and Sanders promises and focus on the measurable outcomes that a President Hillary Clinton will guarantee.


Julie Wittes Schlack, writer

Dear New Hampshire Primary Voters,

Forget the oddities of your primary system –--one in which a CNN exit poll estimated that 35 percent of Republican primary voters and 41 percent of Democratic ones were Undeclared. We know that at least some Democrats, finding either Clinton or Sanders acceptable, chose to vote in the Republican contest to ensure that the candidate you perceived as most toxic didn’t win it. We also know that some Republicans who were (astonishingly!) torn between Trump and Sanders, chose the Socialist because — despite our national history of red-baiting — you found him less offensive.

We are still left with the fact that according to at least one poll, you favored “shares my values” over “electability” as an important criterion in your decision-making by a ratio of 3:1. You chose inspiration over pragmatism.

But the “political revolution” that Sanders speaks of (and that voters in both parties seem to long for) must be driven by both heart and head, and cannot be embodied in a single candidate. As presidential historian Doris Kearns Godwin has often noted, presidents who accomplish big, improbable change — whether it’s defeating Jim Crow once and for all or creating an economic safety net — rise to their challenges on the crest of mass movements. Breaking up the big banks, narrowing the income gap, addressing global warming, defeating the gun lobby, and ensuring that black lives matter to all will require the slow, sustained, political climate change borne of countless meetings, marches, and community organizing.

Voting isn’t enough, but it’s an essential step in the longer, harder trek we must find a way to take together.

So to the roughly 60 percent of Democratic voters who Felt the Bern on Tuesday, take it from one who campaigned tirelessly for George McGovern over 40 years ago that as important as your vote may have been, much more hinges on the actions you take in the months and years to come. And to the Trump voters, I respectfully suggest that the threats you perceive (albeit through a miracle of misdirection) will not be overcome simply by voting for the candidate you think of as the “outsider.” (Nobody who’s made it this far is an outsider — certainly not a billionaire real estate developer who inherited his father's wealth and is just smart enough to not acknowledge that even if he never lifted a finger, his invested money would breed an obscene amount more.) He’ll find it harder to divert your gaze if he makes it into the Oval Office and fails to transform your lives through the construction of an eight billion dollar wall.

But to all of you — Democrat and Republican alike -- thank you for being sufficiently thoughtful and engaged to turn out in record numbers. Voting isn’t enough, but it’s an essential step in the longer, harder trek we must find a way to take together.

Yours in long memory and unexhausted hope,

Julie


Janna Malamud Smithpsychotherapist and writer

As with all horror movies I somehow can’t turn off, I’ve watched the New Hampshire Republican primary through the little cracks between my fingers as I’ve held my hands over my eyes. And I’ve plugged my ears with my thumbs to mute the screaming. I’m relieved that it’s over.

I suspect Trump’s victory will further panic and fragment the Republicans. And in that way it will help the Democrats hold the White House in November. Still, his possible candidacy seems absurd — like a tasteless joke that we collectively can’t stop cracking. For the moment, I’m just numb. But set down this: Donald’s is not a normal ego, it’s a hydrogen filled zeppelin. And if he ever becomes president, odds are he’ll flame out like the Hindenburg.

I’ve watched the New Hampshire Republican primary through the little cracks between my fingers as I’ve held my hands over my eyes.

Yet which of his colleagues might one wish for instead? In spite of my attempts to listen to all the Republican candidates, I haven’t heard anything that would make me vote for any one of them. I’m frankly baffled why anyone would vote for men who are nasty simply for the sake of self-aggrandizement, deeply confused about what makes for weakness and what for strength, filled with violent fantasies on international subjects they know little about, overly eager to pander to religious extremists, disingenuous about racism, hateful toward refugees and immigrants, and so hysterically set to trample women’s right to choose.

With so much at stake, my heart is in hiding. As is my soul. I’m holding my breath, hoping calmer minds will prevail.

And the Democrats? I’ll vote for either Bernie or Hilary. If either wins, I promise I’ll feel grateful through thick and thin. Should I lapse, just whisper, “The New Hampshire Republican primary” and I’ll find religion anew.


Ben Jackson, writer

So. It’s done. Bernie Sanders has won the New Hampshire Democratic primary, and Donald Trump has won the Republican primary. In the presidential race, the outsiders have gained the inside track — for this week, at least.

While it remains unlikely either of these two will go on to win the nomination, the message from the voters is clear: the status quo does not work, and they are angry about it. The very few voters who have had the chance to speak have spoken fairly clearly: they want a president from outside the mainstream.

These voters have a fundamental problem, however: they dramatically overestimate the power of the president.

How well do you think a congress controlled by Paul Ryan ... will work with a President Trump? Or a President Sanders?

Sure, a president whose party controls both houses of congress, which we are likely to see if a Republican is elected, will have an easier time than President Obama has had of enacting her or his agenda. But a president who has consistently bucked the party which nominated them? How well do you think a congress controlled by Paul Ryan — a consummate insider who has already criticized Trump’s divisive rhetoric — will work with a President Trump? Or a President Sanders?

Likely not much better than they have with a President Obama.

So. If these voters want change, they’ll need to change more than the president. They’ll need to kick their own congresspeople out. They will need to elect a congress ready to do away with the partisanship and vitriol currently crippling our government and dividing our people.

Until they do, it won’t matter who wins New Hampshire, or who wins the White House. President Sanders? President Trump? The new boss will be the same as the old boss: crippled by a do-nothing congress and the electorate who continues to enable it.


Carol Roseexecutive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts

New Hampshire, like Iowa, saw extraordinarily high voter turnout —  including huge numbers of new and independent voters. Exit polls show that many people did not make up their minds until the last few days — a trend that has become stronger over the past several elections. That so many people stepped up to take part in our democracy is noteworthy and  exciting — but raises concerns about Massachusetts laws on voter registration. By not allowing same-day registration, too many Massachusetts voters miss the opportunity to have a voice in our political process.


We’ll continue to add reactions as they come in.

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