By Steve Reno, Leadership NH's Executive Director
While physical Charley Horses are infrequent and unexpected, there is a political Charley Horse that can be predicted with certainty. It occurs whenever a gubernatorial campaign begins in New Hampshire. Regardless of the political party of the candidate, there is a rush to ask “The Question,” namely, “Are you taking The Pledge?”
We all respect the many enviable and increasingly rare and distinctive features of political campaigning in New Hampshire. Indeed, when traveling to other states, I am often regarded as something of a unique specimen of a very special state and its traditions, and quizzed accordingly. Yet the question of The Pledge puzzles my hosts.
"How can you possibly open a conversation about the long-term needs of your state, given its relatively slender revenue base, if you don’t at least agree from the outset that all options are on the table?” Or so they ask. And, of course, the stock response is “But if the option of a broad-based tax is allowed, even in conversation, it will come about almost certainly.” Or, “Well, the voters of New Hampshire have made it clear, they are opposed to any such possibility, so we’ll not even talk about it.”
One wonders, in all of this, whether our state isn’t up to the challenge of a more reasoned conversation. Let me be clear, I am not advocating a revenue option. But I am asking why it is that an electorate that so prides itself as “the second question state,” in other words where a voter can truly probe the vision and program of a candidate, cannot do so with respect to all options, instead having one whole segment of a conversation closed off from the beginning.
As with physical Charley Horses, perhaps there is with this political one a deficiency of some critical mineral: maybe courage, maybe civility, maybe trust in the intelligence and shared civic commitment of our neighbor.
The health of any organism is free flow and freedom from inflammation. Perhaps the same preventative medicine should be applied to our body politic.