Hark! It’s the start of primary season and New Hampshire has fulfilled Iowa’s failed attempt at vetting, only slightly shuffling off some three minor candidates to leave us with a Big Five. I made the trip up to New Hampshire to observe these fine political acts up close. As I watched each candidate declaim and conjure with their own distinctive style and substance, I was reminded of this soliloquy from As You Like It:
All the field’s a stage,
And all the septuagenarians merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one (wo)man in her/his time plays many parts,
Their acts being seven ages.
What parts do they—along with a millennial!—play? What dreams did I witness? And where did I sleep?
8:00am: I wake up to slender snowflakes covering my body. I yawn, stretch, and scratch, lug myself out of bed, and roll up my frozen sleeping bag. I replace my thermal underwear, don a new sweatshirt, shove my head into a SC beanie, grab my SC notebook and SC pens (representation!) and stumble out of my sleeping spot near the Concord Railroad Station. Hell, yeah.
12:30pm, THE SCHOOL-BOY: At Rundlett Middle School, three Congresswomen from the 2018 wave, Deb Haaland (first Native woman, Laguna Puebla), Katie Porter (first single mother with children), and Ayanna Pressley (you know her!) open to a fairly diverse crowd of young folk and families. After their introductions, Warren enters to exuberant whoops. She bounds on stage like an eager gazelle, part pep-professor, part introspective policy whiz, part teamsters bulldog. Like her white-color populism, her hand gestures are a bit more intentional, and she rotates between exclamatory fist pumps and loose wrist flicks. She has that shining morning face which must creep (un)willingly to take account of the excesses of capitalism: “All right, let me just give you a little taste of what’s in this, just a quick taste, cause it’s got a lot of pieces to it. But part one: end lobbying as we know it… Here’s one you may have never thought about, but it’s important: make the United States Supreme Court follow basic rules of ethics. Okay, I could do these all day, let me do just one more, just one more. You really want to hose out some corruption in Washington: make every single person who runs for federal office put their tax returns online.” For Warren’s paradigm, capitalism is a broken Humpty Dumpty who’s fallen from a wall someone built too high. But can he be put back together again?
3:30pm, THE JUSTICE: Inside the gymnasium at Alvirne High School in Hudson, an expectant crowd, mostly white, mostly older, forms a circle around a podium. After the pledge of allegiance to a sizable flag festooned on a wall, Joe Biden enters the round. The atmosphere, as someone noted, is sepulcher. Biden perambulates the ring like an aged Aristotle, an elder statesman who is reflecting on this new turbid landscape and hoping inquiry will stimulate us to our senses. At times, he also plays the irate father whose anger at the economy bleeds into some terse words with his children. Whose side are we on? Why don’t we realize how important your campaign is? If you’re not angry, he seems to imply, why aren’t you paying attention to me? His speech was punctuated by wise saws and modern instances: “Biden is an honorable man;” “America’s character is on the ballot;” “Like many of you, I’ve lost a lot in my lifetime…but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand by and lose my country!” While Biden may have eyes severe, his fair round underbelly may be soporific.
6:30pm, THE LOVER: Annie Kuster, the stout chalky raise-the-roof New Hampshire representative, opened for Pete Buttigieg at Londonderry Middle School. After her logistics, Buttigieg strides on stage, a bit shy at receiving applause and with a splitting smile. He has a type of inviting idealism and captivating charm which has culled comparisons to JFK. He deftly sketches a seductive “ballad” for the voters’ “eyebrow:” a yearning for that “sunrise” after Trump is deposed. His politics is based on commingling: “the idea that you either got to be for a revolution or you got to be for the status quo, leaves most of us out: we need a politics that brings all of us in, because all of us need a new and better president…I am seeing Democrats standing together, I’m seeing Independents refusing to sit on the sidelines, I’m even running into an awful lot of what I like to call future former Republicans.” Still, where’s the LGBTQ community in those constituents? It is possible that his rural and religious affectations, his moderate leanings, as well as his demure approach to his sexuality have not generated a concomittant enthusiasm in the wider LGBTQ community. But that sure as hell didn’t mean I wasn’t enamored by our first openly gay major presidential candidate.
8:00pm-8:00am: Drink! Grill! Flock! Don’t ask me where I slept.
10:30am, THE PANTALOON: I was on the lookout for the tell-tale BernieBros, but as it was IRL, I instead spotted a cordial array of a fairly diverse crowd at the Ultimate Sports Academy in Manchester. An insistent Native female campaign worker, a gleeful Ben and Jerry, and a stern union labor organizer set the stage for Sanders. With the hunched shoulders of Elizabeth, and the staccato gestures of Trump, he brings an ideologue to his populism. His visage and voice are blustery, and his index finger impertinent and scolding, as if he is the ghost from Christmas past to remind you of the smirch beneath your lapels. If Warren deals in policies, Sanders deals in prophecy. His speech was peppered with his proclamations on the American panorama. His final note ended with his theories on human nature: “I happen to believe that the function of human life is not what Trump thinks it is…that you are a success because you step on other people, and you lie and you cheat…We think differently, we think that we are successful when we reach out to human beings, when my family helps your family, and your family helps my family, because we all got a lot of problems.” Will his most ardent adherents head this back-scratching call? Democrats, however, should be less worried about a potential loss of Sanders voters, and more a potential loss of Sanders campaigners.
12:30pm: I buy a MAGA hat.
7:00pm, THE SOLDIER: President Donald Trump strides on stage at the Southern New Hampshire arena. He has just been proceeded by Kimberly Guilfoyle, the National Finance Chair for the Trump Victory Committee (which was part of the staggering single day haul of $25 million); Donald Trump, Jr., who has taken on more and more of his father’s gestures and rhythms; and Vice President Mike Pence, still as stern and squinty as ever. His audience is 11,000+ strong at full capacity and just as white as Pete Buttigieg’s (though more rollicking). He starts to regale the audience with superlatives surrounding his bubble reputation, cheery accolades that are in stark contrast to the catastrophic foreboding of the Democrats. Trump’s nasal, sniffly Queens accent, reminiscent of a used-car salesman, is paired with a leaning posture as he grasps his rostrum, and short, truncated gestures. Always jealous in honor, he lists the dozen Republican officials in attendance who had helped in his acquittal proceedings. His strange oaths and sudden, quick quarrels yield numerous enthusiastic chants from “Lock Her Up!” (Pelosi) to “Lock Him Up! (Schiff) to the standard “Fake News!” (mainstream media). The highest sonic shrill ricocheting around the auditorium, however, comes on the tail of Trump’s promise to always defend our 2nd Amendment rights. His speech is a mix of his post-acquittal recollection and State of the Union address; like the former, it aspires towards inclusivity: “we’re all together, we’re building the world’s most prosperous economy and the most inclusive society anywhere in the world, it’s a great thing, it’s a great thing…We’re delivering for African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans like nobody has ever done, we are fighting for great jobs, great schools, and a truly great future for our country.” While Trump is maligned for his measurements and his mission, he has a movement.
Takeaways: So, this is the dysfunctional modern family of politics. Barring a Unity Slate, it will mutate as all families tend to do: the gay son will go into exile, the women will drown, the father murdered, and the prodigal son will return home to face off with the tempestuous uncle. Who will inherit the family jewels? Is this second childness or mere oblivion?
Photo Courtesy of Illinois Public Media