New Hampshire does not need a major sports team because we have the First in the Nation Primary (FITN). No major league sports franchise could ever compete with the “blood sport” that we Granite Staters fully embrace with a secret glee, yet express false ridicule and disdain for when we are in public. It’s OK to admit that we love the attention and relish the opportunity to play such an important role in selecting the next President of the United States. The NH FITN Primary is the living embodiment of an event that more closely resembles a perverse version of the Hunger Games than the solemn duty of picking the next Commander-in-Chief. However, survival of the fittest does not only pertain to the candidates, but is extended to us mere mortals as well.
I have participated in nine presidential primaries as an active voter and campaign staffer, and a couple more as a student volunteer. I have cast my presidential ballots for Democrats, Republicans, and Independent candidates, and through it all I have learned a thing or two. The most important thing I have learned is that even the best of friends can become the worst of enemies. So I have created the following few rules that I try to adhere to throughout the election season:
1. Do not say anything you will regret. Passions can get the best of us, and all too often we say things we regret later. Many people are so convinced of their support for a candidate that other people must be suffering from some sort of mental illness if they disagree. The surest way to be removed from a friend’s Christmas card list or from mom’s will is to call into question a person’s intellect or integrity for a supporting a different candidate. You might as well call their baby ugly, and it would have the same effect.
2. Do not be so loyal to your candidate that you cannot see his/her weaknesses. Shocking as this may sound, no candidate is perfect. To believe in a false perfection often makes you overly sensitive to ridicule and too defensive. The truth is the only candidate you agree with 100 percent of the time is the person you see in the mirror every morning. However, if you determine that you cannot reconcile the differences you have with a candidate, then maybe you haven’t selected the right candidate after all.
3. Nobody likes a sycophant, including you. There is nothing worse than a person so enamored with a candidate that the connection becomes obsessive. The back of our car becomes a billboard, polluted with countless bumper stickers. Our wardrobe becomes a continuous stream ‘Fill-in-the-Blank in 2016’ t-shirts. Yet we deride others for doing the exact same thing, only in support of someone else. For all the criticism levied against supporters of a candidate like Donald Trump, we have seen it before. Trump supporters are only mirroring Obama supporters of 2008.
4. If I’m wrong, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re right. History may determine if either of our choices was right or wrong. With upwards of 20 known candidates in this year’s race, and hundreds of lesser known candidates, there is a good chance we may both be wrong.
5. Party affiliation is a matter of one’s point of view. For some, the primary is the path of least resistance based on that candidate’s need. More importantly if a candidate chooses to run as an Independent, for the most part they are never heard from again. They do not appear on a primary ballot and they are not invited to the party sanctioned debates. The media will afford them little time, if any time at all. The candidate runs a greater risk of being ignored as an independent than getting lost in a sea of other candidates.
Besides, things aren’t always as they seem. Donald Trump has just as much right to call himself a Republican as Lyndon LaRouche has the right to call himself a Democrat. However, it does not make either belief true. Now, before Trump supporters break out into a chorus of indignation, a simple look at Trump’s past statements and some of his policy beliefs do not make him a natural fit within the GOP. There have been questions as to whether Donald Trump is a Republican, let alone a conservative. However, he currently represents those who feel disenfranchised from not only the GOP, but the entire political process. With that in mind, don’t hold a person responsible for the actions and statements of a candidate running within the primary process, especially if that person does not support the candidate. Anyone can join either major political party with very little resistance, and there is not much either party can do to stop it.
6. In the end, most people don’t really care what you think if it runs counter to their beliefs. This is true for everyone who has decided on a candidate. So, don’t take a person’s support for another candidate personally. It’s just politics.
For those of you new to this strange world we call the First in the Nation Primary, welcome to the show. For those of you who have been through this before, try not to lose any more of your friends or family.