By Steve Reno, Leadership NH's Executive Director
Over the last two days, I have responded to four telephone surveys, two in-person canvassers at my front door, and three on-line surveys. Clear evidence that politics are alive and well in the Granite State.
Yes, several of these inquiries have come at inopportune moments in my day (or evening). Yes, some of them have masqueraded as independent pollsters while touting their candidate. Yes, it’s time-consuming and frequently tedious to feel obligated to engage in conversation when one knows from the outset that you have a very different starting place than your interviewer.
But it’s those young fresh faces that appear at the front door and who stand on the porch in the cold and press their views that keep me engaged. Long after I am gone, it is they who may well be making policy for our communities or our nation. The time spent with them now may well be mutually beneficial: encouragement to them and reassurance to me that the political process that brings us together will go on and will do so in a civil and respectful manner.
But even the most casual observer of the campaigns currently underway here in New Hampshire would agree that civility and respect are in short supply. That reality is for many justification for withdrawing from the political conversation altogether and for retreating into a “my minds made up” mode, period. Add to that the polarization around such key issues as national security, immigration, race relations, policing, gun rights/gun control, foreign policy, economic/social imbalance, and minority rights- all complex matters that have been reduced to aggressive and strident slogans over the past few months – it’s understandable that one’s patience may be exhausted.
This morning, I had a 20-minute conversation with a young man out knocking on doors in support of a candidate I shall not vote for. Our discussion was civil, factual, respectful. In the end, we agreed to disagree. As he left, he turned and thanked me for taking the time to talk rather than to shut the door in his face as had happened frequently that morning. In turn, I thanked him for spending his time acting on his convictions. But we both acknowledged the democratic process that our conversation itself sustained. Closing the door, I recalled a quote from Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: “America’s founders realized that generation after generation of citizens would need to stay in the action lest the political movement they planted wither and die.” That young man and I are inter-generational trust holders of democracy.