Editorial: Lawmakers behaving badly

  • Rep. Robert Fisher testifies during his hearing on May 9. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Friday, May 19, 2017

The good news is that Robert Fisher has resigned from the House of Representatives, even after a legislative committee recommended no disciplinary action be taken against him. As the founder of misogynistic “Red Pill” online forum, Fisher is an embarrassment to the body in which he served, the Republican Party of which he was a member, his constituents in Belmont and Laconia, and the state as a whole. There is no defense for the comments he has made about women, young girls and rape, and we sincerely hope that his brief notoriety does not allow him a platform on which to further spread his repulsive views.

The bad news is that the Republican members of the Legislative Administration Committee have further embarrassed the state by refusing to make a distinction between Fisher’s behavior and that of Democratic Rep. Sherry Frost. To equate Fisher’s positions on rape and women’s intelligence with Frost’s language on Twitter requires a high level of self-deception. Even Rep. Dick Hinch, the Republican chairman of the Legislative Administration Committee, said, “There’s no question in my mind that the comments made in the past by Rep. Fisher rise to a much higher level than the comments that happened during this time period for Rep. Frost.”

Regardless of what authority the committee believed it had or didn’t have to discipline Fisher or Frost, the cases never should have been lumped together. It just doesn’t make any sense, nor did the decision to break with legislative tradition by denying the Democrats an opportunity to file a minority report to the full House. 

We recognize the partisan nature of all of this. Most Republicans probably find Fisher’s comments about women to be abhorrent, but at the same time they don’t want Democrats to use the situation to score political points. And we imagine that plenty of Democrats probably wish Frost would choose her words more carefully, but they also want to make sure that Republicans don’t use her tweets as political cover.

Like many people in New Hampshire, we have met enough state representatives and senators of both parties to know that most seem to be good people who serve because they care about the state they call home. Anyone who runs and is elected to the state Legislature in good faith deserves thanks for their willingness to donate their time, energy and intellect to improving the daily lives of their constituents. But once they are elected, they must in turn respect the seat in which voters have placed them. That means acting as if the men, women and children of their district are watching – because they are.

The people of New Hampshire, regardless of their political stripes, don’t have a lot to be proud of lately when it comes to the behavior of their elected officials. Some of that is the fault of voters for failing to do their homework, but most of the blame falls on party leaders who too often choose expediency over integrity.

If the members of the New Hampshire Legislature truly considered themselves representatives of all of their constituents – and not just the ones who voted for them – they would behave in a way that expresses their decency and humility rather than their hatred of ideological opponents.