Benson allies gain ground but lose Benson
NOTE: The opinions and commentary expressed in this essay are those of the author and are an exercise of free speech. They do not necessarily represent the views of Free State Project Inc., its Directors, its Officers, or its Participants.
Benson allies gain ground but lose Benson
How should Free Staters react?
by Dada Orwell
Tuesday's gubernatorial election brings a new governor to New Hampshire, John Lynch. Lynch came to power promising an end to our statewide property tax and pledging to veto any sales or income tax. In any other state this would be considered some sort of anarchist coup. But here liberty lovers see it as setback for freedom because his opponent, Craig Benson was far more anti-tax than that. Most observers, including me, expected the incumbent Benson to win. In the event, his allies in the legislature did well...but Benson didn't. Stung by a series of scandals and various other problems I will recount, Benson failed to win re-election, by a margin of 2%. The news is not all bad, not by a long shot. I'll go into detail on that later. But this piece of news is bad enough to cancel out quite a bit of good. Benson is an unrivaled champion of liberty in New Hampshire; when compared to him even Lynch is not.
First, let's look at why Benson lost, or at least my take on it. I'll concentrate only on the factors that were under his control or ours, and as you will see...if any one of these problems had been dealt with, Benson probably would have won.
Winston Churchill once said you shouldn't criticize others for something they did in the past unless you can prove that you sounded the alarm bell at the time. So I'm attaching links to our discussion of these problems in the months preceding the election. Now...the problems:
Benson didn't start fighting soon enough. See this thread (in the Participants-only forum).
We didn't start fighting for him soon enough, although Kate Rick did sound the alarm starting in August. Thread (Participants-only forum).
Benson's campaign did not adequately mobilize the volunteers who signed up as such on his their website, or at least when they did it was too late. Forum thread.
His administration had too many perceived ethical breaches. Forum thread.
Finally, at this early stage, there simply are not yet enough Free Staters in-state to have a major impact. Sixty of us have officially moved since state selection a year ago, with perhaps another sixty movers not yet counted. One hundred and twenty green, early-arriving activists constituted a helpful force, but not a major one. And only a fraction of us were concentrating on the Benson-Lynch race. As best I can tell, recently moved Free Staters made up somewhere between 3 and 7 percent of Benson's active volunteer base. I'm basing this educated guess on the number of recently relocated Free Staters that showed up at the last two debate rallies. Others, of course, contributed in different ways or helped a different liberty cause.
Perhaps we recent movers were able to gain Benson an extra percentage point. If things had been just slightly different our efforts would have pushed him over the top and changed the course of New Hampshire history, perhaps American history. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but this won't be our last chance.
Significantly, there is one thing that did not contribute to his loss, as best I can tell, and in this we should take heart. His association with the Free State Project does not seem to have hurt him; in fact it appears not to have been an issue in the race. If Lynch ever attacked him for supporting us, it wasn't reported in the press. As best I can tell, the last media-reported attack on Benson for associating with us was back in June. Since then we have apparently not been a point of contention, just a happy bunch of freedom lovers coming into the state at the rate of about two a week. If we were too small to affect the balance positively, we were too accepted to affect it negatively. This is great news considering the extent to which we had expected to be resented at this early stage.
Speaking of good news, here is the rest of it, at least the parts I know as of now.
The "liberty-hawks" in the NH House did significantly better than the ultra-authoritarians. Forum thread.
There were some positive results in the Senate. Two key Benson opponents (moderate Republicans) lost their Senate seats to conservative or liberty oriented candidates during the September primary. Both of the upstart conservative Republicans won again Tuesday against Democrats. However the Republican majority in the Senate has dwindled slightly. I haven't yet run the "liberty numbers" to see how libertarians and authoritarians did in the Senate, but these new Senators make up 8% of the Senate and should be better champions of freedom than their RINO predecessors. We're still crunching the numbers over at this forum thread.
Having a Democratic governor and a Republican house should, in theory at least, tend to bring about a bit of gridlock...that's usually good for keeping government growth in check. In any case, Lynch had to repudiate most of the things that are associated with Democrats...otherwise he would have lost.
New Hampshire Republicans won all four of the national races they were in. Each of the four have decent or bearable rankings from the Republican Liberty Caucus. The Caucus rates Bradley as a conservative, Sununu as a libertarian, Gregg and Bass as enterprisers (which means they are libertarian-leaning by Congressional standards). Though none of them are pure libertarians, each is more liberty-oriented than their Democrat counterparts. New Hampshire voted for Kerry by a hair...I'm not sure why but if they had gotten their way we would probably have seen Federal government growth slow to crawl. Divided government usually does.
With regard to the effect on us Free Staters, many of us have gained experience and knowledge as political volunteers. This we will pass on to the hundreds of new liberty immigrants expected over the coming year. I know I've learned a thousand things I can't wait to share!
Many of us have made new contacts and friends with whom we worked on these campaigns, many of them already in state government. Some of these bonds will carry on deep into the coming century. Speaking for myself I got to meet five state reps and will be staying in touch with three or four of them, not to mention the dozens of candidates and staffers who have worked to make us freer.
Ultimately, it's all a matter of how we respond to the week's events. We now realize that our untested, unprepared troops probably came within an ace of turning the governor's contest, in favor of liberty. If we had been a bit more active, more skilled or more numerous, Benson probably would have won, and we could have rightly claimed to be the decisive factor. This should inspire us all to action of some kind, regardless of where or who we are. The most "happening" list of things you can do this month seems to be Kate Rick's thread.
Whatever constructive thing you do I don't care...the point is, just go out, do it and tell us about it!
If the result of this defeat is more activity and closer bonds with our newly acquainted brothers & sisters in liberty, it will not have been a defeat at all.