My Turn: New Hampshire voters do care about the nuclear arms race

For the Monitor
Published: 4/15/2019 12:10:15 AM

According to most reports from the news media, health care looks like the foremost issue on people’s minds as the 2020 election approaches.

There’s good reason for concern, particularly when the nation’s health insurance is in doubt. Average life expectancy in our country has been dropping over the past several years, a sad record for any nation that claims to be advanced.

Along with that, there are still millions of Americans who lack health insurance, and especially for them, fear of medical bills is an ongoing, immediate worry.

By contrast, there’s only rarely word about the current state of the nuclear arms race, so one might easily conclude that only a few odd peace movement activists are thinking about it. That isn’t necessarily so.

Of the five presidential candidates this writer has seen or interviewed so far – Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, John Delaney, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard – all have responded to questions about the nuclear arms race and have been critical of our present nuclear arms policies, though only one, Gabbard, has addressed the issue in her standard campaign speech.

In fact, Gabbard, a military veteran with combat experience in Iraq, has devoted more of her campaign speech to this issue than to any other she has discussed. That said, Gillibrand, with her 10 years’ experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also well placed to address military-diplomatic questions.

Speaking of facts, the Winter 2019 Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center investigated New Hampshire residents’ views about the arms race. What follows are responses to the survey’s three major questions:

First: “How important is it to you that candidates in the upcoming 2020 presidential election lay out their views regarding nuclear weapons?”

Of those asked, 84 percent replied that it was either very or somewhat important, with 54 percent saying it was very important.

Second: “Currently, the president can order the use of nuclear weapons on his or her own and the decision cannot be overruled. Are you comfortable with this policy or would you prefer that one or two other senior government officials be required to approve the use of nuclear weapons?”

Of those asked, 70 percent replied that other government officials’ approval should be required, and another 9 percent rejected any use of nuclear weapons.

Third: “In your opinion, are there any acceptable circumstances for the United States to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict or should the United States only use them after a nuclear attack on the United States or one of our allies?”

Of those asked, 55 percent said only after a nuclear attack by another country and another 18 percent said never.

These are New Hampshire people talking in the nation’s first presidential primary state. It looks like they have the arms race on their minds after all.

(John Raby lives in New London.)

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