Over Easy: Who wants my primary vote?

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 2/7/2020 5:27:41 PM
Modified: 2/7/2020 5:27:29 PM

The New Hampshire presidential primary is just around the corner and so are the campaign volunteers who’ve been knocking on my door in West Lebanon. There is something inspiring about young people out to change the world, even if it surely has disappointments in store for them.

Let’s just keep that among ourselves and hope for the best.

Friends and family who live in less fortunate states wonder what it is like to have an outsized role in choosing our next president. I tell them the candidates are accessible and willing to earn your vote, so I take full advantage.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton shoveled my driveway twice during the primary campaign. She’s stronger than she looks. Since Elizabeth Warren has a plan for everything, I had her draw up plans recently for a new deck for us. Her estimate was $20.5 trillion, but I told her to eliminate the Medicare for All and the price tag dropped to under a grand. Much better.

Andrew Yang offered to explain artificial intelligence, but I put him to work cleaning my basement. I asked Bernie Sanders to do an imitation of Larry David, who imitates Bernie on Saturday Night Live. It was pretty good, but Larry David does a better Bernie than Bernie.

But mostly we see the canvassers, and I guess we should be happy for the company. It’s been a while since anyone selling things went door to door. The young volunteers are walking in the footsteps of the Fuller Brush reps, magazine hawkers and encyclopedia peddlers of yore. We still get religious zealots once or twice a year, but they lose faith and give up quickly on me. I must look like a hard sell.

New Hampshire’s running of the presidents started in 1952, and so did I. I looked up the results of the first first-in-the-nation primary and was struck by how much times — and names — have changed. Among the Democratic contenders that year were Estes, Adlai and Averill. As in Kefauver, Stevenson and Harriman. Now it’s Amy, Bernie and Tom. Make of that what you will.

Believe it or not, I was not deeply involved in primary coverage in my extended tenure at the Valley News. I was a local news editor specializing in culverts and graders, then served as the world/nation editor, which was a big beat. I also labored in the features department, so I was close to the political action but not too close.

One of my favorite newsroom memories is of Al Haig, former chief of staff for two presidents, sitting next to the corner desk of sports editor Don Mahler, an unreformed hippie from the ’60s. Long-haired and dressed in his standard uniform of jeans and T-shirt, Mahler was the office prankster. Haig, a former general who declared “I’m in control here’’ in the hours after Ronald Reagan was shot, was getting nowhere in his primary bid. He agreed to pick football teams for Mahler’s weekly column. Only in America.

I didn’t join the editorial board until my last three years at the paper. By that time, Republicans had pretty much written off Hanover-Lebanon, so few came in for edit board interviews. One who did, John Kasich, of Ohio, was disarmingly friendly. The sessions usually ended with awkwardness and feigned friendliness. But when that one was over he asked, “Hey, you wanna see my campaign bus?” You might not have wanted Kasich for president, but he’d make a great next-door neighbor.

I’m retired from the staff now, so I don’t have to keep my political leanings to myself. I’m a Hubert Humphrey Democrat who opposes tariffs on black coffee but favors punitive levies on lattes and other elitist drinks that annoy me. I would nationalize the Internet and cable TV and charge just 25 bucks a month. I support increasing Social Security payments by $500 a month for everyone 67 and up, which just happens to be my age. I would make seasonal tire changes fully tax deductible. Who’s with me?

But as for the actual candidates, I still don’t know whether to pick a progressive next week to send a message or a moderate who might have a better chance to win the general election. I, the Great Equivocator, will likely make up my mind on Tuesday.

This has not been a happy campaign season for me. Having so many Democrats in the running makes each seem rather small, while the incumbent looms so large. In dark moments I feel that the political parties are shot, and wealth and celebrity now carry the day. Donald Trump was a reality TV star, after all.

In the wake of the Super Bowl halftime show, I wonder if Democrats missed the boat on J.Lo. She would shake things up, and how.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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