Manchester had a carnival atmosphere last night but in a good way. The entire spectrum of political America was in town. From our sitting President at SNHU Arena to Tulsi Gabbard at the Rex Theatre, you could weave your way along all of Elm Street and find the city full of life. The streets were well-lit, densely populated and the restaurants all looked busy.
The Bookery, home to #MHTFITN trivia quizzes and trolley tours, was hosting Deval Patrick just beyond the display of books authored by a slew of active candidates. Manchester native Jeremy Hitchcock, a co-founder of DYN, was quietly enjoying the ambiance with one of his kids while spouse Elizabeth welcomed the candidate’s arrival. This was an intimate conversation in a standing room only crowd with serious questions and candid answers about healthcare and community service.
Dawn Lavallee came down from Henniker to hear the candidate but the conversation took a whole different turn when she mentioned her participation in Project 351. Patrick’s “proudest ten year association” led to an engaged discussion of how to bring Americans back together. A year of service was presented as a way to pierce through the oversimplified view so many have of each other in our best face forward digital age. Patrick’s theme was one of engagement and involvement, not just about selecting a president or candidate, because “the election alone won’t solve our issues.” It’s a throwback to the days when as a kid, if you messed up, you answered to the neighbor who saw what you did who then called your mom. It was a double jeopardy that kept many wayward youngsters on the right track.
Pete Barwell from Connecticut has traveled the country and worked carnivals since he was 13. He was one of many vendors I met on the way to the arena where President Trump was scheduled to speak. He clearly had snagged a good corner as business was brisk and the atmosphere festive. Have you noticed the number of pop-up tents, tables and street vendors? The ones I met are independent of the President’s re-election campaign. How do they feel about the President? He’s good for their business and that’s what mattered most to them.
Representative Tulsi Gabbard’s Manchester Town Hall Meeting took place at the Rex Theatre where it was very obvious that those assembled were as bothered as the candidate was at her exclusion from CNN’s debates. No reason or response was ever given to the campaign despite repeated requests. Certainly not the New Hampshire way, but what grace CNN lacked, the locals made up for.
As a female combat veteran Tulsi has real-world experience with all the ramifications of war. She demonstrated firm but respectful dialogue, putting service above self as she looks to cultivate a culture of collaboration and reconciliation.
Not surprisingly, when concerned citizen Tim Estiloz stood up to condemn what he called “CNN’s journalistic malpractice,” he invoked childhood memories of Walter Cronkite who “spoke directly to us with just the facts.”
And in the end, isn’t that what we really want to get back to? As citizens, to be treated with respect, to be given the facts so we can make up our own minds. New Hampshire’s First in the Nation Primary is the place where retail politics takes center stage. Residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to get up close and personal and ask the tough questions and be able to decide for ourselves whether every sentence is a sound bite or a real one to one human answer. Choose wisely Manchester and vote.