On a recent Saturday in August 2021, I read a social media post from my colleague Rep. Sue Mullen of Bedford. Sue was out doing visibility for an upcoming special election for exactly the kind of candidate any town would be proud to have for their State Representative. Catherine Rombeau. (As I post this, I just got word that Representative Rombeau won!)
Catherine, an attorney and long standing community volunteer, most recently on Town Council and Energy Commission, was greeting townspeople while ‘stumping at the dump’, a time honored tradition. Catherine (center in red/black shirt) was there with friends and family, doing democracy. Her family included her husband and their two young daughters, 8 and 10.
The story recounted in the post was one that warns of a growing schism in our country, being perpetuated through party politics, that anyone who runs as a democratic candidate should be viewed as a socialist threat. As the family waved and smiled at townspeople passing by in cars, one man rolled down his window, flipped the bird, and yelled out you (expletive) socialist, communist. The group watched as this angry man drove out and then back into the dump, just to vent more rage. All the sign holders were stunned. The kids were mortified. But we adults are allowing this behavior to become the norm. People all over the country, are being radicalized against their fellow-citizens; we have the nurturing of bold-faced lies to thank for the growing chasm of delusion being suffered by close to a third of the population.
There is no threat of socialism except for the one that comes from the peddling of ‘isms’ to make people fear/hate their neighbors. The citizens who want to fix real problems are the people this movement is focused against. The people who get that income inequality destabilizes countries and that talking about it doesn’t make you a socialist, are being silenced. That silence goes against the US Constitutions’ first amendment and is not consistent with freedom or democracy. It also discourages the people who have the talent to get the things done. These tactics leave us with a pool of representatives in name only, who lack the skills to get the job done.
But, the most frustrating thing is that we’re not supposed to call out behavior that promotes hate. We’re supposed to keep working hard and contributing to our communities, while we watch attacks grow against people who are guilty of no sin except that they are not easily led. Why is NH welcoming free state-anarchists into our government as though that’s just business as usual? Where does embracing the bullies and radicals lead? Why are we standing by while long-term, quality community volunteers are challenged by rabble-rousers, bent on minority rule. Can we no longer tell the difference of intent?
So here we are. Changing the meaning of words to serve our world view and discounting reality in the process. Case in point for anyone who hasn’t see it in a while…. Here is the Oxford Dictionary definition of the word liberal:
- willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas.
- relating to or denoting a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.
- a supporter of policies that are socially progressive and promote social welfare.
- a supporter of a political and social philosophy that promotes individual rights, civil liberties, democracy, and free enterprise.
Those who are liberal are not the threat to the American way of life. We are the keepers of the American legacy of tolerance, liberty, free enterprise and progress. The people who are purposefully dividing this nation are the ones taking us in a dangerous, authoritarian direction.
People who are fed rage daily seem to believe their ire should be taken out on the people who want to fix the problems. Isn’t that funny? How do you think the rage machine decided to make the ‘people who want to fix what’s wrong with the system,’ the enemy? What Evil Geniuses decided to keep profits coming, by simply encouraging the half of Americans they can manipulate to attack the half they cannot influence? When did we lose sight of the fact that those who bring chaos are the enemies of liberty.
I want to see America continue to function as a democracy. I have no interest in socialism, marxism or communism. These are failed forms of government. All forms of government can fall prey to failure without the foresight and discipline to adhere to founding principles. Without comity, reason, debate of issues and the Rule of Law – we would not have prospered. We know that democracy, American-based western democracy, works if we remain faithful to the meaning of those Jeffersonian and Madisonian words. But in recent history, we have done everything possible to move away from the very qualities that make us exceptional.
I have spoken with Republicans in Hollis who have been convinced to fight mandatory masks in schools, as though those who fear a morphing, global pandemic or want to follow medical guidance to keep their children safe from harm, have no right to do so. The arguments are twisted logic – from which we are suffering an epidemic as well. It is not an infringement on your freedom for my child to be protected from health risks in her school community. In fact, the NH Constitution spells out that all men give up some liberty to be part of civil society. That’s kinda key here! We cannot only adhere to the parts of our Constitution that suit us. The idea that rights are not unlimited and come with responsibilities is a central tenant of citizenry.
If people want good government, they’re going to have to get smarter about who they believe and what they believe in. I believe in the promise of democracy. I believe in science and critical thinking (because they are proven). I believe in the wisdom of crowds, but only when those crowds are not being herded towards their worst instincts to keep us from working together (or even from listening to each other). If you look at newly-elected Catherine Rombeau, or at me, and see a threat, then your thinking has been corrupted. We are stepping up to do the work of making the world a cleaner and safer place for our kids.
The threat of socialism was manufactured to generate the needed outrage that turns voters into donors. And the sad thing is, these shameless tactics work for both parties, because all Americans, care about their country. What I see is that one party is still interested in governing for the times in which we live (think climate change, social justice, and women’s rights), and one is embracing a spin-only, culture-war agenda, as a way of keeping power in the hands of a radical few.
This is exactly what Franklin Delano Roosevelt meant when he said: We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.
The Catherine Rombeau’s of our communities are what make our state and our country great. I don’t know her personally, but I thought her story was timely. Intimidating good people so that your team wins is a third-world move. We have got to be better than the politics that are being thrust upon us in this tumultuous time. We have got to judge people on their merits, not slander them with labels that do not apply, because our team tells us that’s how to stay in power. It looks like Bedford figured it out!
I’m sure when my Republican colleagues meet, they talk with surety that they are fighting a socialist threat. It’s their latest outrage and they always have an organizing concept. They are happy to convince themselves, on scant evidence, that there is no value to working across the aisle. I see this play out in the House, where a moderate GOP physician was removed from his Vice Chairmanship because he testified against an extreme anti-vax bill that wasn’t good policy. He added to his committee and he was ousted for thinking for himself. That is how democracy dies.
Collaboration and compromise are the essence of our democracy, not a weakness. The Democrats I know truly want to keep the promise of America alive. But, Q-Lies have been allowed to foster a kind of go-to insanity that feeds the most heinous rumors of how Democrats are radical and dangerous. Hateful propaganda like this hasn’t wreaked havoc on a western democracy since the 1930s. The telling piece for me is that the GOP do not refute these bold-faced lies – they allow them to fester on the off chance it will work to their benefit to have people loathing each other – over politics.
I believe Republicans have lost their way by being willing to go to any length, including inciting violence, to stoke division, halt debate, and rig the system to gain power over the majority. But our democracy is rooted in majority rule. Their tactics may feel good in the short term, but where do they leave our state or our country in the long term? If the recent special-election of Rep. Rombeau is any indication of the mood in NH, I’m not alone.
Which approach to democracy is the real threat?