Welcome to the politics of Dreamland
The Wednesday after Father’s Day, I had a minor medical procedure that involved mild anesthesia. As I drifted off, I had a dream about the U.S. and New Hampshire’s election year from here on. It made the experience easier:On the national scene, the campaign stuck to issues. As one commentator suggested, and both campaigns agreed, many matters were off the table. After all, both President Obama and Mitt Romney have stable, loving marriages, exemplary children, fascinating and unconventional family histories that demonstrate how the American dream and experience still can work, and are people of faith, even though those faiths differ. Both are role models, and the election of Obama four years ago was an historic demonstration of progress for the country, recognized by those who voted for him and for those who didn’t. Romney’s election would be an historic overcoming of prejudice against his religion, were he to be elected. With candidates like these, in my dream, there was no need to get personal, and the campaigns kept to the issues, with candidates appearing at a number of debates to discuss issues in depth. The resulting publicity and free coverage made spending the billions of dollars raised unnecessary, so much of the money was donated to charity.Voters, impressed and motivated, turned out in record numbers. As a result, they elected a Congress relatively evenly split, but motivated to follow the example of their parties’ leaders, work together, and solve the problems the voters sent them to Washington to address.Given a large number of freshmen, elected on the platform that “getting results is more important than getting re-elected or getting a retirement plan,” the nation was put back on track rather quickly.In the New Hampshire of my vision, statewide candidates also had the realization that they should stick to discussion of issues, having looked at their personal stories.The leading candidates for nomination for governor in both parties, Maggie Hassan and Ovide Lamontagne, in fact, discovered they liked each other and had much in common personally. Both attorneys, they had accomplished much in their lives, professionally and personally, and each had a commitment to a disabled son now grown to young adulthood, who turned a challenge into a gift, and who gave each candidate motivation to making the state better.With that common ground, the campaign for governor remained civil and uplifting, resulting in good voter turnout and a focus on what is best for New Hampshire, with all candidates explaining his or her views carefully and without personal rancor.Following the gubernatorial candidates’ example, candidates for Congress found they liked each other (Bass and Kuster really knew that already), and candidates for Executive Council, Senate and House generally stuck to the issues.When the votes were counted, candidates who had acted inappropriately were defeated, balance was restored to the Legislature, and the resulting composition proceeded to elect leadership dedicated to traditional New Hampshire legislative civility, the right of each representative to express his or her convictions without retribution, and the House joined the Senate in fashioning a budget that recognized that education, welfare of vulnerable citizens, and protecting the environment were goals as worthy as defeating or silencing any discussion of how and how much revenue the state raises to address its problems.In fact, the Legislature studied how revenue is raised, realized there was too much emphasis on business taxation and the local property tax, and began to do something about it. At the same time, it refused more opportunities to change the New Hampshire way of life by sending proposals for expanded gambling to the junk heap once and for all.Local officials also recognized the folly of their ways, and fashioned budgets that addressed the educational needs of their young people, and began the process to remove “tax cap” provisions, having learned that those straitjacket proposals had been based on a phony premise that high inflation was a constant feature of the economy.Comforted by my fantastic vision of my state and nation, the medical procedure was uneventful. Then I woke up to the real world …Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.