Grant Bosse: New Hampshire politics in the age of professional outrage
Much like the amplifiers used by Spinal Tap, political discourse in New Hampshire this year has been turned up to 11. And just as an over-modulated sound system will distort your music, it’s been pretty hard to hear any reasonably discussion of politics over the din of partisans being outraged at each other.
Anger is a useful emotion when appropriate. It’s also far too easy to manipulate by political hacks looking for short-term advantage. Anger makes for great copy, snappy headlines, and effective fund-raising emails. Last week, it seemed like the only tool that either party knew how to use.
Let’s start with the Outrage of the Week that was actually outrageous. Auburn Republican state Rep. Stella Tremblay previously questioned whether the federal government might have been involved in the Boston Marathon bombings. Sadly, such conspiracy theories now inevitably follow any act of violence savage enough to get national attention. Weak-minded fools reinforce each others’ delusions after falling down the online rabbit hole.
Then last week, Tremblay told crackpot radio host Pete Santilli’s that footage of bombing victim Jeff Bauman showed that he wasn’t in pain after losing both his legs, which somehow supported the false flag theory. Blaming the federal government for a terrorist attack is ridiculous. Alleging that a New Hampshire man who not only lost both legs in the bombing but also helped the police identify the suspects is part of the cover-up was too much.
Pretty much everyone has called on Trembley to resign. She won’t, and there’s little that can be done until Auburn voters kick her out next November. House Republicans may expel her from their caucus. I suppose Speaker Terie Norelli could take away her off the House Children and Family Law Committee. But she hasn’t broken any laws and seems immune to common sense. Outrage seems like a sensible reaction.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats tried to stir up some outrage last week by claiming that Senate Republicans refused to stand up to the federal internet sales tax legislation.
Manchester Democrat Donna Soucy wanted to introduce a nonbinding resolution thanking the state’s congressional delegation for opposing the internet sales tax. Not only was Soucy’s resolution past the Senate’s deadlines, but it also violated a recent rule preventing such do-nothing resolutions from being drafted. The Senate voted against suspending its own
rules for Soucy’s vanity project.
Clearly, the new rule hasn’t stopped every piece of time-wasting fluff from making it to the Senate floor. Just last week they voted to name the white potato as New Hampshire’s Official State Vegetable. But it has cut down on the glorified press releases gumming up the works at the State House.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party jumped all over the Senate’s sensible rejection of a meaningless resolution, declaring that the GOP was somehow soft on the internet sales tax. Soucy wasted the Senate’s time so that her party could generate a controversy out of nothing. I’m all for political theater. I once ran for Congress in a nonexistent district. But this bit of feigned outrage was laughably transparent.
GOP is outraged too!
The New Hampshire Republican Party got into the outrage act last week too, accusing Organizing for Action, a group supporting President Obama, of politicizing the marathon bombings because a sign at a recent rally said “More shot in one day, than marathoned.” The party called on Democratic office holders to denounce such offensive tactics. The third-party denunciation is the preferred tactic of the professionally offended when the people you want to attack weren’t the people saying something stupid.
Meanwhile, the main target of the professionally offended left was U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Think Progress, Granite State Progress and the state Democratic Party tried desperately all week to turn a series of Ayotte town hall meetings into a referendum on guns.
A small cadre of out-of-state gun-control advocates joined an even smaller group of New Hampshire liberals to protest Ayotte’s three town halls. These professional protesters are known as Astroturf, as opposed to grassroots political volunteers. I call them Hacktivists. They’re the muckrakers of the YouTube generation.
The hactivists were outnumbered by Granite Staters who gave Ayotte standing ovations at all three events. And that drove the hactivists over the edge. They pretended to be outraged.
Though the town hall format is a way for elected officials to interact with their constituents, the gun-control groups brought up relatives of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Erica Lafferty’s mother died that day in Newtown, Conn. Ayotte took her question in Warren and provided a reasoned, respectful answer on why she opposed the Manchin-Toomey bill and instead supported an alternative that focused on mental health and enforcement of existing gun laws.
Afterward, Lafferty tried to manufacture national outrage, claiming that Ayotte has tried “to justify my mother’s murder and the murder of five other educators and the murders of 6- and 7-year-olds.” Lafferty’s statement is dishonest and manipulative. She is using her grief as a political tool, and it should not go unchallenged for fear of giving offense.
The rest behaved even worse, shouting over other people’s questions, lying about Ayotte’s answers, and falsely claiming to have been assaulted by Senate staff.
The hactivists wanted to get people angry. Their immature behavior and dishonest claims succeeded.
(Grant Bosse is editor of New Hampshire Watchdog, an independent news site dedicated to New Hampshire public policy.)