To DC in January for Roe+40

Roe v. Wade turns 40 in eight short weeks. I just got my ticket for a quick trip down to Washington for the March for Life on January 25. The March is an annual event, but it’s been many years since I was able to go. The expense is a factor. The White House is still occupied by a Roe supporter, though, and he needs to see that Roe isn’t settled, even after four decades, no matter what he hears from advisors or donors or even Sen. McCain.

I went to the March in 1993, the 20-year anniversary, on a day when newly-inaugurated President Clinton was featured on the morning news shows signing executive orders rolling back pro-life policies. By noon that day, I was marching with tens of thousands of people, including an astonishing number of high school and college students whose presence lifted my spirits sky-high.

The March will do more than serve notice to President Obama that we’re watching. It’ll give thousands of people a chance to be renewed and encouraged in their defense of life. It might even show Republicans a thing or two.

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Abby Johnson posted an update today about And Then There Were None, her ministry to abortion workers who want to leave the industry. See my earlier post here.  Johnson reports that business is brisk for ATTWN, and resources are too limited. This is a ministry worth supporting.

ATTWN’s update includes a report about a judge telling one abortion-industry refugee to “get over it” when she told him she would not return to abortion work, no matter how lucrative. Thanks to ATTWN’s supporters, she is getting over it – just not in the way the judge anticipated.

Gratitude, Even In November

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/333828/gratitude-even-november-2012-nro-symposium

From today’s National Review Online, this link will take you to a collection of brief reflections on gratitude. One writer in particular struck me. From Edward T. Mechmann:

“While our modern media tend to concentrate on the big picture, the reality is that a true Culture of Life is the product of a myriad of decisions made on the personal, individual level….Such small steps are invisible to our media culture, but plain to see for those who look in the right place. By the grace of God and the cooperation of everyday people, a Culture of Life is being built within the ruins of our age, one heart and one life at a time. That gives us great cause for thanksgiving.”

Math, Marches, & Minorities

The turkeys and pies will barely be cleared away before new legislators have their orientation days next week.  Legislative service (bill-drafting) requests are due December 7.  The 2013 session is in sight.

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I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming post, but the math doesn’t look good for New Hampshire’s parental notification law. Looking at the Senate alone, only nine of the seventeen senators who passed the law over Gov. Lynch’s veto are coming back. The two Republicans who opposed the bill, Sens. Odell and Stiles, were re-elected. Any repeal attempt will of course be grist for the campaign mill in 2014.

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The NHGOP will elect a new chair in two months. As an undeclared voter, this ought to be mere spectator sport for me. Instead, as a pro-life activist who has worked with terrific Republicans, I care very much about the outcome. No predictions or recommendations here,  just plenty of  interest and curiosity.

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The national March for Life will be on January 25, marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (Logistical concerns about proximity to the presidential inauguration date prompted a move from the actual anniversary date, January 22.) When I see information about buses to the March from New Hampshire, I’ll put it here in LfL. Information about New Hampshire’s own March, usually held the weekend before the national March, will be forthcoming as well.

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With the nomination of Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) to be Minority Leader, I’m guessing that New Hampshire’s House Republicans will not put a high priority on the life issues.  I expect the Democratic majority will, in a backward sort of way.

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One of the most delightful threads to read from my Facebook feed over the past couple of days has been the outpouring of congratulations to former Rep. D.J. Bettencourt of Salem and his wife Shannon on the birth of their first child, Ava. It’s simple, straightforward good news.

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Outgoing Speaker and recently re-elected Rep. Bill O’Brien of Mont Vernon prevailed in a general-election recount requested by the woman who finished just behind him: Kary Jencks, former lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

With recounts finished, the state senate will have 13 Republicans and 11 Democrats. In the House, the tally is 179 Republicans, 221 Democrats. The Executive Council has two Republicans and three Democrats. Note that both of the Republicans (Ray Burton and Chris Sununu) have voted to keep taxpayer dollars flowing to PPNNE, and they will undoubtedly be joined by the three newcomers in any 2013-2014 PPNNE contract votes.

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So what’s the civility quotient going to be in the State House come January?

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There ought to be more integration between campaign life and “real” life. As it stands, I am just now finally back into a routine with my family after four months of using my house for six hours of sleep and one midnight snack every 24 hours. The family loves me anyway. I have much for which to be grateful. I wish the same for my readers.

 

 

What I Saw at the Party

If I had a buck for every election postmortem I’ve read in the last ten days, I could pay for my coffee for a month. Some of the columns have been written by Republicans whom I somehow didn’t come across as I worked for NHGOP  this year. The tone of Republicans-lost-because-they’re-too-whatever sounds a lot like the NH Democratic Party’s published response to the recent election of Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) as the new House Minority Leader. Both seem to have been prepared in advance and then phoned in.

My own ground-game experience from this campaign gave me a view not available to the armchair quarterbacks. I came late to the party, literally and figuratively, taking the job with NHGOP in early July after most of the Victory team was already in place. For the next four months, I spent seven days a week wearing out the tires on my car as I went to every county to meet voters on their own turf. Many were Republicans, since the obvious low-hanging fruit for the volunteer harvest was going to be among them. I also sought out voters not affiliated with the GOP.

Here’s what I heard:

#1: Discouragement suppressed more votes than any law ever will.

#2: Elections turn on local relationships.

#3: Social issues matter. 

#4: Conservative women rock. 

All I had to do to begin a conversation about the election was to put on some campaign gear. Even a small GOP button on my shirt was enough to draw attention from complete strangers. This was true in every town I visited.

A vendor at the Lancaster Fair (which is definitely worth the drive)  saw my button and asked me quietly, “Do you think we have a chance?” I answered him with a firm Yes. When I told him I was working with NHGOP, he turned his booth over to a co-worker for  few minutes so we could talk. This was a registered Republican with a small business. He wondered if it was worth his while to take the time off work to vote. He was the first of many business owners who were to say to me in the coming weeks,”This guy [Obama] is killing us.” This business owner’s disenchantment with federal policy had led to discouragement that burdened him every single day. I did all I could in ten short minutes to let him know that his vote & opinion mattered and that his business was worth defending. Did this man actually vote? I can only hope so. I asked if I could share his name and his story with the local NHGOP Victory field representative, and he declined, saying he was afraid of being boycotted if he came out for Romney. A sad fear, and he wasn’t the only business owner who shared that with me.

Discouragement kept more voters away from the voting booth, and therefore the GOP column, than did the platform or voter ID or anything else. Those people weren’t reflected in exit polls because they didn’t vote. What could have brought them on board?

Hearing more from people they know and respect, for one thing. Good relationships could have won some seats, not least by encouraging people to get to the polls. In New Hampshire, perhaps more so than in any other swing state, if someone hears about a candidate or issue from a neighbor or friend or acquaintance, the voter will give more credence to the neighbor than to an entire cascade of mailers and ads. No national campaign here will overcome a failure of local connections. Neighbor chatting with neighbor – or, as Gov. Sununu exhorts, “talk, talk, talk” – goes a long way towards muting ads. I met incredible advocates for Republican candidates (as I describe below), especially in the most populous counties, but there was and is room for expansion of the team.

I saw something repeatedly among the grassroots that may have been missed by observers at a distance. Whatever any national or state candidate thinks of social issues, a substantial bloc of the rank-and-file voters I met want them emphasized, not dropped. When these issues came up as people talked to me, I identified myself as a social conservative,  just to be fair. Then I shut up and listened.

Far and away, somewhat to my surprise, the most passionate voters were upset about New Hampshire’s re-definition of marriage. (Interestingly, most of these angry voters told me they’d have no problem with civil unions.) I heard from voters who could not understand why an overwhelmingly Republican House & Senate had such trouble with pro-woman bills as the ones about keeping track of abortion complications and prosecuting people for causing a woman to lose a wanted pregnancy.  I heard from  people perplexed by campaign strategies that were all about jobs to the exclusion of social concerns. Among people who raised these topics with me, perhaps one in five expressed a desire for the GOP to write off social conservatives.

I didn’t tell these voters what to say. They didn’t need anyone to do their thinking for them.

All my travel and listening had a point: building a coalition of women who supported Romney/Ryan and other Republican candidates. Eventually, over seven hundred of us united to work for these good people. Some of our candidates prevailed, and many others didn’t. Still, seven hundred of us found common ground where we might not have seen it before the campaign. Among these amazing women was a longtime Romney supporter facing a serious  illness, who recruited dozens of volunteers for one of the Victory offices. A young woman new to campaign work volunteered to be a county chair for the coalition, and with her enthusiasm built a powerhouse team in her area. Business owners took time off to go door-to-door. Mothers of small children traded babysitting time with each other to get a turn at the phones.  I, a pro-life social conservative (have you heard?), went door-to-door with a pro-choice woman whose husband’s business is being eaten up by federal regulations. (And we had fun, too.)

From the 30,000-foot level, all one can see is the debris left by the numbers on Election Night. Down where I stand, I see new relationships, new officeholders, new activists. All of that energy and talent is very promising. I hope it’s nurtured  and not taken for granted. Such women are the cure for discouragement.

My employment and the campaign now behind me, I have restored the “undeclared” voter registration with which I’m most comfortable.  I look forward to picking up a Republican ballot again soon. Jeanne Shaheen’s term will be up before you know it.

Others will have their own perspectives. I’ll give careful attention to the accounts and conclusions of those who were in the field with me. I’ll take everyone else’s musings with a grain of salt.

 

 

 

To Win a Case, You Have to Argue It First

Predictably, some Republicans declared before 11 p.m. on election night 2012 that the party simply must lay off those nasty divisive social issues. For thirty years, after every serious Republican setback, I’ve heard the same thing. What the complainers refuse to see is that the major GOP candidates DID lay off those issues this year. The Democrats didn’t.

I emerged yesterday from four months’ employment with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. They took a chance on me, an “undeclared” Republican-leaning voter, and put me to work.  I knew this was not a year to be on the sidelines. I accepted the fact that the message from both the presidential and gubernatorial Republican campaigns was going to be resolutely economic. At no point in my employment was there any confusion about that. The “social issues,” however compelling, were to be downplayed. In New Hampshire, the results are before us. Four days ago, New Hampshire voters chose Democrat Maggie Hassan to be the next governor, spurning Ovide Lamontagne. Democrats now hold a majority in the New Hampshire House. A recount is pending that will likely result in a Senate split right down the middle. [Note: the final tally is a 13-11 GOP majority.] Nationally, the president responsible for the HHS mandate has been re-elected.

Ironically, a Democratic gubernatorial nominee who opposes any regulation of abortion managed to persuade voters that the pro-life Republican nominee was too “extreme,” while the Republican declined to address that as he kept concentrating on jobs and the economy.

There’s a case to be made that Hassan is the one who is dangerously extreme: opposed to parental involvement in an adolescent girl’s decision to abort; in favor of unrestricted abortion at any stage of pregnancy; opposed to gathering morbidity and mortality information on post-abortive women. There’s also a case to be made, locally as well as nationally, for keeping contraception a private choice without compelling other people to pay for it. Extremism reposes in the Obamacare policy that calls contraception “preventive care.”

But first, a candidate has to want to make the case, and then learn to do so effectively to persuade uncommitted voters, just as pro-life voters need to make the case neighbor-to-neighbor. Dismissing these matters as irrelevant “distractions” leads to results like Tuesday’s. We apparently have to learn this anew every few years.

Someone remarked to me the other day that Hassan won because she came across during the campaign as another John Lynch: inoffensive, likable, unthreatening. Let’s see how likable she is when the new Democratic majority in Concord tries to repeal parental notification, which I believe they will do as early as possible next year. The Republicans have yet to choose a minority leader (Speaker O’Brien, while re-elected to his House seat, doesn’t want the job), who will decide if and how a repeal effort should be handled. Not as a distraction, I trust.