Opinion: The NH primary is a time-honored tradition worth defending

By RICHARD GULLA

Published: 08-29-2023 6:00 AM

Richard Gulla is president of the State Employees’ Association, SEIU Local 1984.

In the realm of American politics, few events carry the weight and significance of the New Hampshire primary. As the first-in-the-nation primary, this longstanding tradition has served as a beacon of democratic participation, fostering a unique connection between candidates and voters.

No matter your politics, we all know being an engaged citizen is vital for our democracy to function, and no one challenges a candidate like a Granite Stater. Our members, neighbors, and volunteer army of elected officials are uniquely skilled at vetting and engaging candidates for the highest office in the land.

However, recent decisions about altering the primary process have raised concerns about its future. Now, more than ever, we must defend the New Hampshire primary.

For over a century, the New Hampshire primary has played an instrumental role in shaping the nation’s political landscape. It provides a platform for candidates to engage directly with residents, allowing them to understand and address the issues that truly matter to our members and our nation’s citizens. The primary process in New Hampshire has also proven to be a vital testing ground for aspiring leaders, enabling them to fine-tune their messages and strategies before heading into the larger battlegrounds of the national stage.

The New Hampshire primary’s relevance extends far beyond state borders. It offers a crucial opportunity for candidates from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideologies to compete on a level playing field. In a nation as vast and diverse as the United States, it is essential to have such a representative sample of voters participating early in the election process. By preserving the New Hampshire primary, we ensure that the voices of our membership and our citizens, not just those in powerful states, are heard and valued in the selection of presidential candidates.

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Dismantling the New Hampshire primary would undoubtedly lead to an erosion of the unique political culture that has evolved in our state over the years. To put it bluntly, it’s just bad politics. To share some hard truths, this will cause down-ballot candidates to be punished and hurt voter turnout needlessly. It would also be bad for democracy.

The Granite State’s residents take their civic responsibility seriously, studying candidates, attending town hall meetings, and engaging in rigorous debates. This engagement fosters a strong sense of community involvement and instills the belief that every vote counts. By eradicating this tradition, we risk losing an essential part of our nation’s democratic fabric.

Critics of the New Hampshire primary argue that it lacks diversity. While this concern is valid, the answer lies not in removing the primary but in expanding it. Efforts should be made to ensure that other states with diverse demographics also play significant roles in the early stages of the primary process. By diversifying the selection of states, we can strike a balance between preserving tradition and embracing inclusivity.

To be clear, supporting the New Hampshire primary does not mean being resistant to change. Our political system continually evolves to meet the demands of a changing nation.

In the end, the New Hampshire primary is a time-honored tradition that embodies the democratic spirit of America. It symbolizes the power of the people and is a critical opportunity for candidates to prove their worth. By standing up for the New Hampshire primary, we defend the democratic principles that strengthen our state and nation.

Let us celebrate this tradition, learn from its successes, and work together to ensure that it remains a vital part of our political landscape for future generations.

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