Favorite Non-Fiction Books, #91: Four Trials
A Cautionary Tale
Folks, we've all heard the line before: Republicans want to fall in line, Democrats want to fall in love. Case in point, 2016 - against all common sense, rank and file GOP voters turned out for a nominee they admittedly weren't comfortable with, while their counterparts among Democrats lamented the far less significant (and often fallacious) shortcomings of their own candidate and stayed home or voted for a third party to allay their broken hearts. How did that turn out?
Don't fall in love, gang. Stop looking for the 100% fit. As former NYC Mayor Ed Koch once said, if you agree with me 75% of the time, vote for for me. If you agree with me 100% of the time, get your head examined.
In 2003 I was chairing the Exeter Select Board. At the time, 16 scant years ago, Exeter was not yet the blue bastion it would become. If you lived in Exeter you were represented by Republicans from the White House to the US Congress to the Governor to the NH legislature to the county seats. In fact, the highest ranking Democrat representing Exonians was, well, me. I bring this up because when the first wave of Democratic presidential hopefuls started coming to town in 2003, I got the calls from campaigns looking to play in the 03833. Gephardt, Dean, Clark, etc. I can remember having a drink in August of 2003 at Jumpin' Jay's in Portsmouth with then-Senator John Edwards, and being attracted to his focus on income inequality and expanding opportunity for the working class. I signed on, and would be with him through that cycle and the next.
This proved to be a mistake. Among other things, in 2007 I was chairing the Exeter Democratic Committee and both the Obama and Biden people were actively seeking my support, but I stuck with the Edwards crew out of loyalty. More loyalty, it turned out, than the guy had to his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth. I had never fallen in love (not like 1991/92 and Governor Clinton - a story for another time), but I certainly had made political common cause with a candidate who turned out not only to be deeply flawed, but a real asshole. More fool I. As awful as the Bush Jr. second term was, at least the American people weren't saddled with this fraudulent jerk as VP.
So why do I include this book among my favorites? Because it's a healthy reminder not to fall in love. It's a healthy reminder that while I'm a trained political scientist and an experienced veteran of the arena, I am utterly capable of misjudging people. So don't fall in love, folks. Neither am I advocating a blind "fall in line" mantra. Both are lazy. Instead, stay awake. Stay alert. Listen, watch, read, engage. Like many of you, I'm delighted by the horde of candidates who are offering their services as President of the United States. And like many of you, as a New Hampshire citizen I take very seriously our role as the first interviewing committee for the gig. So ask good questions, stay off Twitter, and judge these women and men on what they've done and what they propose. When you find one you can get behind 75% of the time, that's probably your horse. The only way you're going to agree 100% of the time is if you run yourself (and maybe not even then).
And remember, don't fall in love. It's politics, not a barn dance.