(Ed Note: Part Moved below the fold)
New Hampshire Democrats got it right when they nominated Maggie Hassan as their candidate for governor. Hassan breezed to victory 57 percent to 40 percent over Ovide Lamontagne in the General Election. Why did Hassan do so well?
One reason is that her centrist views matched those of the electorate. When New Hampshire Democrats nominate moderate candidates for office, they do well. When Democrats veer to the far left for their choices, often they don’t do well. Gov. John Lynch, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and former congressman Dick Swett come to mind as other moderate Democrats who have prospered at the polls.
Hassan confirmed her reputation as a fiscal conservative and social progressive in her opening remarks about the upcoming state budget. An Associated Press article (11/26/2012) reported “Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan warned New Hampshire agency heads Monday that their spending requests for the next two-year budget are unrealistic. ‘The requests total far more than our economy and taxpayers can afford,’ Hassan said in opening three days of budget hearings on agency spending requests.”
In a second AP story (12/03/12), Hassan was quoted as saying, “People understand we continue to be in tough economic circumstances and I was clear in the campaign we weren’t going to do everything at once. Regardless of political party and interest, people understand we need to be fiscally responsible. That’s the cornerstone of New Hampshire government and what people expect,”
The press was quick to applaud Hassan. The Keene Sentinel (12/29/12) noted, “As Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan readies for her first budget-planning season in the state’s corner office, she got started on a good note this week by promising a measured approach.”
Fosters Daily Democrat (11/29/2012) wrote, “Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan was right on the mark Monday when she told state agency heads their spending requests for the next two-year budget cycle were unrealistic.”
The Nashua Telegraph (11/30/2012) added, “So far, though, Hassan is off to a promising start in the weeks leading up to her Jan. 3 inauguration. We like what she told the overeager department heads. We like that she continues to stress a bipartisan approach to government – something sorely lacking in the current Legislature. And we like that she set up informal transition teams to travel across the state in search of wisdom from leaders in business, education, health care, transportation and other key areas.”
Progressives, to their everlasting credit, defend the dispossessed – the poor, minorities, the disabled, and the elderly. It takes a person with a well-developed conscience to take the part of people different from themselves. Republicans, by comparison, stress self-reliance to the point where the fate of those who can’t care for themselves seems of supreme indifference to them. “If only the destitute tried harder, they could be millionaires.”
Some Democrats become so concerned and compassionate about the needy, however, that they ignore the bottom line. Yet, no matter how pressing human needs may be, only so much tax money is available to meet them. Nevertheless, when some on the far left encounter Democrats like Hassan or Lynch who focus on fiscal responsibility, they tend to mutter in their beards, “We’ve elected a Republican.”
No, you haven’t elected a Republican. You’ve elected a centrist who understands that unless the economy is healthy, then everyone, including the needy, is going to suffer. A healthy economy generates the revenue which makes it possible to help those in need.
John Lynch sometimes gave the impression that the last place he wanted to be seen was in the company of Democrats. It was bad for his bipartisan image. Yet,during the 2011-2012 legislative session, when Republican supermajorities threatened to steamroller appalling legislation past enfeebled Democratic minorities, it was John Lynch who stood tall as a Democrat and vetoed these bills. These vetoes helped Democrats avoid a legislative calamity.
And so it is likely to be with Maggie Hassan. Those on the far left will grumble that she is too business friendly or too bipartisan or too fiscally conservative or that she isn’t providing enough money for this worthy cause or that one. Yet, with Hassan as governor, Democrats can be secure in knowing that she will be there when it counts – opposing so-called Right To Work legislation, opposing private school vouchers, supporting Planned Parenthood, defending public education, and opposing restrictive photo ID bills.
Fiscal conservatism combined with social progressivism has worked for Democratic officeholders in the past and will work in the future. For that is where the heart of New Hampshire really lies.