Growing up, my mother always used to sing the 1970’s Carly Simon classic “You’re so Vain” while doing some cleaning (and dancing) around the house (Looking back, I’d like to think this was directed towards her attacking of the dust bunnies rather than my lounging lazily on the couch with the family dog).
As I have been hunkering down in Manchester for a month of excitement and political drama, I can’t help but find myself humming my mother’s favorite old tune. Isn’t there a certain vanity in believing that a tiny, ethnically homogenous state possesses all the necessary capabilities to so drastically influence the selection of presidential candidates? Moreover, the New Hampshire electorate fully embraces this somewhat self-anointed godliness of presidential-picking clout.
And yet, this embrace by the Granite electorate fosters an atmosphere of retail presidential politics unseen almost anywhere else in the country. If you are campaigning for president, you go to New Hampshire, you knock on doors, you shake hands. There’s no two ways about it. The principle benefit of this is direct candidate-voter interaction. That is what democracy is supposed to be about-- selecting a representative you know and trust.
But why New Hampshire? Yes, there is a historical explanation for the elevated importance of this primary. Yes, wresting primary power from this politically strong “granite state” seems near impossible. However, with an ever-changing national electorate, and for the hope of a reinvigorated American democracy, we should continue to ask ourselves, “Why you, New Hampshire? What makes you so special?”
It is something worth reflecting on, “so vain” or not.
--Alex Betley is a junior from O'Fallon, MO studying Politics, Economics, and Social Thought. He is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the nominating process of presidential candidates.