Episode 2, January 8, 2012

Today is January 8, 2012, and this is Radio Free New England with Chris Marot.

In news this week, Iowa Republicans choose Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as their top two picks for the November elections, shaping the GOP’s first primary in New Hampshire this week.. Romney, a so-called Massachusetts moderate, and Santorum, the conservative former senator from Pennsylvania, have spent this weekend in the Granite State, ahead of Tuesday’s primary. We’ll have more on the primary in this week’s commentary coming up.

The Boston Globe will inherit much responsibility for publishing the Boston Herald this month. The Herald is reducing costs by printing with the Globe. This is the latest casualty to the newspaper industry and the first major shake-up of a newspaper in New England. The Globe will also pick up delivery for the Herald, resulting in close to fifty job cuts.

Employers added 200,000 jobs in December, lowering the unemployment rate to a little over eight percent.

Finally, later on this week, Radio Free New England presents its first New England news story, an interview with the farmers of the Farmer’s Cow co-op in Eastern Connecticut.

Top Reads

In our busy lives, we don’t have time to read every article or column that’s fit to print. So, Radio Free New England presents this week’s Top Reads – if you only have time for three stories from last week, these are some of the best:

On Tuesday, the New York Times’ David Brooks discussed a problem that’s been with America since Bobby Kennedy’s assassination: where does the loyalty of working class voters lie? He argues that Rick Santorum’s blend of opposition to abortion and gay marriage along with economic relief for the middle and working classes might woo blue-collar voters this year.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s EJ Dionne wasted no time asking what the future of the Republican party would be like following the Iowa caucuses. He breaks down the three strains of GOP voters in Iowa, Romney regulars, Santorum conservatives and Ron Paul’s young libertarian crowd.

Finally, this week, Nicholas Kristof reports on unhealthy environments for children. He writes in today’s New York Times that the same stress-induced ailments that affect adults have an enormous effect on infants. The results may even shape a baby’s health into adulthood.

You can find links to this week’s top reads at radiofreenewengland.wordpress.com.

 

Commentary

In New Hampshire, presidential candidates act like city council candidates. They knock on doors, visit coffee shops, meet with voters individually. They also have eager college students passing through every town as well. In 2004, I volunteered by going door-to-door for one of the contenders and I was shocked by how many of the people I met had already spoken to at least one candidate. The pace must have been exhausting – discussing issue after issue, raising question after question. I don’t know how those voters handled all those candidates and then us college volunteers, to boot.

New Hampshire voters are taking time this week to review what they’ve learned from the extreme attention lavished on them by the Republican contenders for president. On Tuesday, they’ll express what they’ve learned in the primary ballot box.

In recent years, the Democratic party has uneasily debated the privileged place of the New Hampshire primary. Some believe a national primary day would be fairer towards other states and minority groups who generally live elsewhere. Maybe it is just that political fever is in the air this week, but I believe all the time, attention and money that is poured into New Hampshire actually does the country some good. Instead of seeing the early primaries as an unfair advantage for a couple small-states, view the results of that primary as another recommendation from a well-placed friend: a friend who has the time and connections to ask the candidates about the specifics. New Hampshire can serve as a proxy for meeting with the candidates ourselves, something many voters wish they could do.

Opt for the national primary, and that advantage goes away. Unless you live in a large, strategically-located population center, you’ll continue to be left out of the process but without the benefit of your old friends Iowa and New Hampshire to help you figure out who the serious candidates are.

In fact, with Twitter and other social media, a political junkie in New Hampshire could set up a civic-minded blog that documents the entire New Hampshire experience for the rest of the country. We could vicariously receive the mailers, see the candidates, and hear the exchanges with voters. Then, we’d be the lucky ones. We would have the luxury of tuning in while someone else gets the mailings, the phone calls, the people at the door, the crowds in front of the grocery store. Our breakfast at our favorite coffee shop wouldn’t be interrupted by a candidate waltzing in with TV cameras, shaking hands so furiously no one believes he came in to get another cup of joe.

So, as the results come pouring in this week, while the pundits make meaning about who should have spent more time in New Hampshire, who’ll drop out, what it means for the race as a whole, let those voices fade into the background. Take a look at the actual vote totals. Those numbers represent the faith of people who have been prepping for this vote for over a year – voters who have seen the candidates up close. The recommendations those voters make to us as we enter our primary season are more valuable than all the ads and robo-calls that will soon be heading our way. And if you’re listening from New Hampshire, please set up that blog and tell us what you were thinking.

Thank you for listening, and don’t forget, coming up later this week, an interview with the Farmer’s Cow on local food, co-ops and small scale farms. This has been Radio Free New England with Chris Marot.

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