A friend who works for the State of New Hampshire writes:
“Legendary Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said ‘all politics is local’ by which he meant that politics is about people, about relationships between neighbors and colleagues, discussions at work, in the board room, the bedroom, at coffee shops, and town meetings. Given recent New Hampshire politics, I think Tip was right on.
“Lately, AFSC has been providing detailed updates about the local politics of the NH State House and Senate, which I’ve been reading, as an insider. I am a state employee, painfully aware of the impact of budget cuts on state agencies, the programs they run, and the people they serve. I also am aware, while reading AFSC’s updates, of what can’t easily be communicated. The personalities of the politicians, the relationships between state and federal funding, the ‘Sophie’s choices’ that agency heads have had to make as they are forced to present ever-smaller budgets for legislative review.
“There’s also the posturing, the bullying, the backroom deals, the despair, and the layoffs and early retirements of talented and dedicated colleagues.
“None of these things are immediately obvious from the outside, but what’s happening in Concord adds up to the biggest and most dramatic attack on public services and deterioration in the legislative process since the mid-70s. Really, it’s that bad.
“The impact of these changes will be felt by people and communities around the state. Yes, times are tough and we must make difficult choices, but the legislature is making the wrong ones over and over again. Unless they hear from constituents – that means you, me, the local baker, the woman who cuts your hair, your Facebook friends – Republican legislators will continue to believe that they have a mandate to essentially dismantle the social institutions that rely on public funding.”
At this point I need to interject that there are, in fact, some stalwart Republicans who have been resisting their party’s majority and its leaders. They are putting up a valiant fight for the rights of public sector workers and for the maintenance of a safety net. They used to be called “moderates,” but the center has shifted so far to the right that I’m not sure that term still applies.
My friend continues:
“I’m talking about our public education system – there are literally proposals to eliminate the Department of Education, various social services for children, the handicapped, the elderly, and the mentally ill. They are decimating funding for the enforcement of rules relating to clean water, fisheries, and other environmental resources. Even prisons and police programs are not off limits. While you might think otherwise, the Republican leaders are actually very open about their intentions, which are aimed at shrinking the role of state government to a size that has not been seen in well over a century.
“And frankly, they’re not meeting enough resistance from the electorate to slow them down much.
“Politics is local because it’s at the local level that impact is ultimately felt, and where people get motivated to get speak up. You don’t have to be an expert in state politics to call your legislator and tell them that you support state programs, state employees, and a robust and effective state government that’s there for its residents, its businesses, and the communities they call home. Many Republicans are cowed by their leadership, and are falling in line because they don’t have much of a choice. An influx of calls from constituents respectfully expressing their opinion can actually give them the cover to vote a different way, but the calls they are getting are from tea party activists, by and large. They need to hear from the rest of us, and often. If you haven’t yet expressed your opinion to your legislator, now’s the time. Don’t wait for the next election, too much is at stake right now.”