New Hampshire Sure Acts Like a Southern Red State for a Supposed Purple Swing State

This state is only purple if you are colorblind.

New Hampshire is a beautiful state, often cited as a vacation state along with its neighbors, Maine and Vermont. There are hiking trails galore, mountains for skiing, and something shared with only five other states — no sales tax. The area is steeped in history, from its pre-colonization roots to its importance during the countries fight for independence. New Hampshire is best remembered now though, for its significance as a “swing state,” also known as a “battleground state”. Assuming you don’t know what that is, here is the Merriam-Webster definition;

“Swing state (noun): a U.S. state in which Republican and Democratic candidates have similar levels of support and which is considered to play a key role in the outcome of presidential elections”

Despite only providing four electoral votes, New Hampshire has always been a “battleground state” because of its “purple” nature. In this case, Purple is an even split between Republicans (red) and Democrats (blue). This means nearly every presidential candidate makes it a point to campaign aggressively in this State, often making multiple visits on the campaign trail. You can find evidence of this in many of the State’s restaurants and bars, each plastering photo ops from various senators and presidential candidates over the years.

Yet despite all of this, the State is consistently regarded as a split-vote state. Often claiming that it’s considered among the other Liberal states like Massachusettes and Vermont. I’m here to tell you it’s really not. In fact, it’s beginning to look a lot like the South never lost the civil war and even took on parts of the North in certain rural areas of the State, purely by the number of Confederate flags being flown so casually.

New Hampshire Won’t Even Legalize Weed

Despite the neighbors in all directions having some form of legal recreational Weed, New Hampshire has been steadfast in its refusal outside of medical exceptions.

This has been upheld by not just Republican Governors like the problematic Chris Sununu, who we will get to later, trust me. But even former Democrat Governors like Maggie Hassan, now state senator, who, during her 2014 “State of the State address,” said;

Legalizing marijuana won't help us address our substance use challenge. Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Our state already has one of the highest rates of marijuana use by young people in the country, and marijuana has real, negative health effects, especially on adolescents.

The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health.

This is such a bonkers assertion, and honestly extremely disingenuous, so I think the best way to tackle this is to put each claim on its own;

“Legalizing marijuana won't help us address our substance use challenge. Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite.”

Multiple studies have shown that, at best, states with legal marijuana have either remained neutral with no growing aptitude for opioid or other substance abuse behaviors or reduced and not increased with any significant margin.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Our state already has one of the highest rates of marijuana use by young people in the country, and marijuana has real, negative health effects, especially on adolescents.

This one really kills me because it implicitly leaves out the direct comparison, which is the current and existing legalization of alcohol. State-sponsored, in fact. Excessive alcohol use kills, on average, 341 people in NH per year, whereas excessive marijuana use has killed a whopping 0 people a year nationally. That’s not even including driving under the influence, which, admittedly, Weed takes more of a fatal stage on that front while still leagues behind alcohol, with alcohol taking a lethal 17.8 times more likely to experience a fatal car crash and Weed taking a slightly less lethal 1.83 times. I will concede that marijuana use is dangerous in adolescents - but no one is advocating for adolescent access to marijuana. I am not sure what point she is trying to make there.

The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health.

For minors, it’s a bit more complex. To be honest, I’ll call this one moot because it seems this is an area that still needs a lot more testing to truly have an understanding. There was a study in 2020 that indicated that rates of adolescent marijuana use were decreasing in legal states. Then there was another study published in 2022 in the publication Addiction that indicated the opposite. Both used similar methodologies, and both used sizable sample groups. It seems the answer is inconclusive, but that doesn’t stop folks like Maggie from spouting it like it’s a proven fact. As for making the workforce less productive, I am not even sure what she means by that. It’s not even a measurable statistic in any meaningful context; I believe she is just operating off of preconceived notions that “stoners are lazy.” Which to that I say, grow up.

For road safety and public health, I already addressed it with the section before this one, but just to be sure, it’s significantly less dangerous than drunks on the road. And if that was the genuine concern, maybe NH shouldn’t put a big double Liquor outpost (remember, state-run too) on both sides of a major highway, Live Free or Die indeed.

Oops All Republicans

Despite Democrat state representatives, the House, Senate, and Governorship are made up of a majority of Republicans. This has resulted in the last two years, the NH state legislature pushing through similar culture war bills and policies that we are seeing move through majority Republican states of the South and Midwest. The only reason you haven’t seen many of those proposals pass has been the much smaller margin the Republican State House holds in the lower court.

This year they proposed a Trans Gender bill that would have made it mandatory for schools to alert parents when a child is identifying as something other than their assigned gender. This bill ultimately failed because they could not pass the lower house, but the upper court of the State Senate had voted overwhelmingly in favor.

Another aspect of the Conservative agenda has been abortion bans; ever since the overturning of Roe V. Wade by the supreme court, states across the nation either already had laws in place or quickly enacted abortion restriction laws. NH was one of those states. In New Hampshire, abortions are restricted over 24 weeks “with exceptions for fatal fetal diagnoses and the life of the pregnant person.” If you are under 18, the ban also requires that a parent be told of the decision 48 hours before an abortion procedure can be performed. A judge can excuse you from this requirement; however, that requires you to be in a position to acquire an audience with a judge without your parent’s knowledge.

While current Governor Chris Sununu plays himself as a moderate Republican and has lately become something of an example of a Republican Trump critic, let’s not let him off that easy. As for most of Trump’s presidency and campaign, he was a staunch supporter of many of his most controversial policies and actions.

During Trump’s campaign scandal with the Access Hollywood tapes, Chris Sununu seemed unbothered by Trump’s claims, choosing instead to maintain his support. His rebukes of Trump as of late seem almost entirely in an effort to remain in office.

In line with the Republican trend of Voter Suppression, in 2017, he also signed into law another voter suppression bill disguised as an attempt to “ensure the integrity of the voting process.” These laws are always about proving where you live. Perpetuating this false insinuation that people are migrating across state lines to vote in droves. He later walked this back as attention mounted on him from various critics, including the, at the time, Secretary of State Bill Gardner.

Despite the neighboring states of New Hampshire increasing the minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25, Mr. Sununu has maintained his stance that raising the State minimum wage would be “disastrous” and “dumb.”

He has repeatedly vetoed bills brought to him to raise the State’s minimum wage. Often citing the harm it will do to small businesses while completely disregarding the fact that all neighboring states have revised their minimum wage and maintained healthy businesses.

Sununu also made himself something of a poster boy for the NRA after he signed permitless concealed carry into law.

There are Confederate Flags F*cking Everywhere

As if in some mass hysteria, this states more rural citizens have an incredible infatuation with the Confederate flag. It would be hard to convey without driving you through some of the towns, but let me share a few images from various publications taken from local towns.

And these are just from captured news stories; there are countless examples just causally about towns, even in some major city hubs like Manchester or Concord. It’s indicative of a more significant issue outside of just misplaced heritage claims from misguided bigots. Many of these folks do, in fact, hold some of the principles behind the “war of northern aggression” true. If you are unfamiliar with the phrasing, the “war of northern aggression” is a purposeful reframing of the civil war taught in a majority of Southern schools. The assertion is that the North provoked the Civil War by encroaching on State’s rights. States’ rights to what? This is an excellent question to ask in this case because it was a state’s right to enslave people. But that part is often left out of the narrative.

NH is a majority-white state, and this leads to an unfortunately skewed racist mindset amongst the population. While none of this is even remotely unique to the State, it’s notable because the State is so often lumped in with “progressive” northeastern states. When, more often than not, the State would rather crawl back through time (and geography).

Further solidifying this trend of racism in NH is the incarceration rate. Despite only making up 1% of the total population of the State, Black people are three times more likely to be incarcerated than white people. They are contributing to 8% of the total jail population. Similar story for Prisons, with a startling 5% of the prison population despite that same 1% of the State being black. Those metrics seem incredibly telling when you consider how disproportionate the rate of enforcement is for Black vs. White crimes. However, we are in bad company with our neighboring states, with Vermont and Maine reporting similar incarceration rates, with Vermont taking the cake at a staggering 10% of the incarcerated individuals reporting black yet only making up less than 1% of the total state population.

NH Has Had a Long History With Child Brides

Until recently, NH has been quite the stickler about moving the minimum legal age for marriage up to even 16 to align with even the conservative states within the US. Prior to a law passed in 2018, children as young as 13 were permitted to be married off by their parents. That law was authored partly by now NH State House Rep Cassie Levesque. The original proposal was to raise the marriage age from 13 (for girls) and 14 (for boys) to 18. However, that initial bill failed. With one representative claiming, “This has been the policy in our state. It has been working,” said Rep. David Bates, a Republican who voted against the bill to raise the minimum age to 18. “If we pass this, we will be ensuring forever that every child born to a minor is born out of wedlock.”

I really mean it when I say we need to get this antiquated view of marriage away from society. Based on the national statistics around children born to unwed parents, 40% of births within the US are from unwed mothers. Within NH alone, it’s 31%. So this idea that it holds any weight in society anymore is entirely unfounded. As someone who personally was born out of wedlock I would like to think my parents being married had no bearing on me. We are beyond it, and it’s a weak defense in modern society to allow minors to marry. They can’t drink or smoke, they can’t vote, they can’t get a mortgage or a vehicle loan, and yet we treat them like adults when it comes to marriage? Clearly, we don’t think of anyone under 18 as adults, so we need to adjust the laws to protect our vulnerable youth from predatory and exploitative practices like this one.

Rep Levesque, and Legislative partner Jackie Cilley revised the bill to a minimum of 16 and 17 with a special provision: “A marriage license would be granted only if a judge determines there is “clear and convincing evidence” the marriage is in the minor’s best interest.” So while it may be less likely that any child under 18 will be married, it still is not in line with our neighbors, Massachusetts and Vermont, who recently increased the minimum age to 18.

This is like the topic I recently covered on “Protecting the Children,” where conservatives say one thing and do the opposite. I would love to see us fully commit to child safety and remain consistent with our “protecting the children” morals.

In closing, I think this is not an isolated instance; with a nationwide reported rising right-wing sentiment, we are likely seeing similar stories to this one in many states. Highlighting these occurrences and becoming more vocally opposed to regressive policies, becoming more locally aware, and involved. This is how we hold back these backward policies and ideals. We can only protect a community by being one. If you are in NH consider following 603 Forward they are a non-profit dedicated to keeping NH residents informed on pressing issues and engaging in grassroots campaigns to motivate potential voters.

Thank you for reading Socratically Self Critical. This post is public so feel free to share it.

Join the conversation

or to participate.