Analyzing the election results

Mark Twain famously said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” That quotation can be applied to both major political parties, in New Hampshire and nationally, depending on what election is involved.This writer can remember the election of 1964, when the death of the Republican Party was reported after the Johnson landslide wiped Republicans out of office, only to have Richard Nixon elected president in 1968. Likewise, in 1974 and 1976, after Watergate, Democrats were thought to be in power forever which, of course, was followed by Ronald Reagan’s landslide in 1980 that drove the Democrats from power, reportedly permanently.More recently, Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 were thought to have banished Republicans to a minor role.Based on all of this, election night returns on Nov. 2 were not as historic or momentous as commentators wanted them to be.Certainly there were huge shifts of voter sentiment, based primarily on the votes of frustrated independent voters who swung heavily to the Republicans, but anyone who thinks this is a permanent shift does not know the lessons of history.In New Hampshire, Democratic majorities in the Senate, House and Executive Council were erased. Only Gov. John Lynch survived the Republican tide, winning an historic fourth two-year term.What does this mean for New Hampshire government?First, as every time there is a huge sweep in the New Hampshire House, at least, Republicans will have a certain number of unpredictable and unknown first-time officeholders who may be tough to manage and lead. Second, there will be a great temptation to focus on social issues, and leaders have been quick to focus on economic, budget and “jobs” issues.However, in New Hampshire, any legislator can file a bill, all bills get hearings, and all bills get voted up or down in the body in which they were introduced. Therefore, while leadership might want to stifle discussion of social and other “lightning rod” issues, it will be tough to keep subjects like same-sex marriage, parental notification laws, constitutional amendments regarding school funding and other matters off the front burner and the front page.If Republicans are too aggressive, conventional wisdom has it they will alienate the center and receive the same treatment Democrats did this year, two years hence.It is fair to predict that tax reform, new taxes and other revenue-raising devices will not be popular in the new Legislature, although those seeking to have tax reform discussed will continue to educate the populace on this needed subject, knowing the probability of tangible success in the next two years is about zero.Nevertheless, after all of the budget cutting that has taken place to date, unless the state economy improves substantially, there will be very few places to cut and a need to find revenue sources to find the one-time revenue fixes that have been used in the last couple of budgets.The responsibility given the Republicans comes with the hope of the voters that problems will be addressed, solutions will be found and that ideological purity will not be the name of the game.Both in Washington and Concord, voters seem to be saying they wanted their leaders to work together to solve the problems. Whether the results of the Nov. 2 election will result in cooperation or will lead to more gridlock probably will determine whose “death” is “greatly exaggerated” in 2012.*****On Nov. 9, Chief Justice John Broderick of the New Hampshire Supreme Court was named the new president and dean of the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Broderick’s appointment was met enthusiastically across the state, and the board of trustees of that institution hopes it will be nationally as well, to enhance the reputation of the law school.This column incorrectly reported in the last edition that Broderick retired at the end of October. Actually, he retires from the Supreme Court at the end of November and assumes his duties at the law school on Jan. 1, with his actual assumption of the role of dean and president to come Jan. 28, 2011.New Hampshire should thank the law school’s outgoing president and dean, John Hutson, for his service to New Hampshire in improving one of its fine young institutions.Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.