The New Hampshire primary brought fewer than 50 percent of voters to the polls. The candidates are "addressing issues that aren’t really connecting with a whole bunch of Americans, especially blue-collar Americans," says Dale Kuehne, a New Hampshire political science professor. "I don’t know that they see a whole lot of reason to go out and vote for either Obama or out to vote for Romney or some of the others." Many undeclared New Hampshire voters lent their support to the libertarian-leaning Republican candidate, Ron Paul, who veers from the mainstream GOP platform by calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and has spoken out against the military-industrial complex. Meanwhile, Paul’s fellow challengers have attacked Romney for the jobs lost while he was head of the venture capitalist firm Bain Capital. "Occupy Wall Street has to understand, not only have they changed the conversation in the country, but now that conversation is going to be reinforced in South Carolina by two people that you would think would be the least likely: Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich," says Arnie Arnesen, longtime New Hampshire radio and TV host. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in New Hampshire by Arnie Arnesen. She’s a longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire, Democratic nominee for governor in 1992. With her, Arnie Alpert. He has been the New Hampshire program coordinator for American Friends Service Committee since 1981, has been participating in Occupy New Hampshire.
Arnie Arnesen, talk about Ron Paul. I mean, I think it’s significant that more than—less than half the people who could have turned out to vote actually turned out. And we’re talking about, aren’t we, something like tens of thousands of people fewer than actually voted in 2008?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, I think the Ron Paul story is a story that also applies to what happened in Iowa. And that is, is that he has a real cachet with young people and young students. And what you found out in Iowa and what you really see in New Hampshire is, the students haven’t come back yet. How convenient for the other Republicans, because if you had seen a strong student involvement in Iowa and a strong student involvement in New Hampshire because they were actually on campus, you might have seen even higher numbers for Ron Paul. I think that’s important.
But the wonderful story about Ron Paul was his statement last night in winning. You did not include that clip. What you need to know is that the very conservative paper called The Union Leader made a decision in late November, early December, to endorse Newt Gingrich. And all of us kind of checked our pulse and said, "What the H are they doing?" And last night Ron Paul said, "And I want to thank The Union Leader for not endorsing me." And Arnie Alpert was just saying, "What a wonderful kiss on the cheek for The Union Leader."
ARNIE ALPERT: Yeah, yeah.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Because it once again shows that this very powerful conservative tool is not effective in driving anyone to vote for their candidate of choice. So, we were very, very pleased with Ron Paul’s comment and also the clear success strategy of showing that The Union Leader editorial page has no meaning, even in a Republican primary.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Arnie Arnesen, could you also talk a little bit about the role of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party? I mean, youth were significant, as you’ve said. But what about that wing of the party and having Ron Paul place second?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, let’s remind everyone about the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire. I do Iowa Public Radio. I’ve done a lot of work in New Hampshire, as well. In Iowa, 60 percent of the voters really describe themselves as evangelicals, and that’s the Republican camp. In New Hampshire, that’s probably closer to 20 percent, and maybe even less. New Hampshire is a state that doesn’t trust big government or big church. It is very libertarian. The Free State Project chose New Hampshire as a place to create their base of operations, if they’re going to change the world as they see it. So there is a strong libertarian streak. Ron Paul obviously has great cachet and appeal for that. And it really sort of parallels the New Hampshire landscape. I mean, New Hampshire is the state that ranks second in church attendance in the United States.
ARNIE ALPERT: Second from the bottom.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Second from the bottom, yeah. Second from the bottom in church attendance. Vermont happens to be, you know, number 50. We’re number 49. So, as a result, what you find is, is that with that libertarian appeal, and Ron Paul really rarely talking about, you know, the God issue, he really can sort of generate a rapport with the undeclared voter, which represents about 40 percent of the voters in New Hampshire, and then what’s left of libertarians in the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to Congressman Ron Paul last night in his victory address—OK, he came in second, but it was like one—talking about it being time to bring the troops home. This is the clip.
REP. RON PAUL: We’ve had enough of sending our kids and our money around the world to be the policemen of the world. It’s the time to bring them home.
CROWD: Bring them home! Bring them home! Bring them home! Bring them home!
REP. RON PAUL: Bring them home.
CROWD: Bring them home! Bring them home!
REP. RON PAUL: The one thing is, is we do know they will come home. My goal and our goal has always been to bring them home in a deliberate fashion to avoid a major economic crisis by destroying our economy by spending so much overseas. In the last 10 years, the wars that have gone on added $4 trillion of debt. And I don’t think we have been one bit safer for it. I think we have been less safe because of all the money that we have spent overseas. So, this is the issue now. It is—it is an issue that I think is crucial.
Jim mentioned in the introduction that, you know, so often they say that if we tell people that we think we should spend less in the military, they say, "Oh, that means you want to cut defense." No, if you cut the military-industrial complex, you cut war profiteering, but you don’t take one penny out of national defense.
And besides—besides, we’re flat-out broke. Fortunately, we did not have to fight the Soviets. The Soviets brought themselves down for economic reason. Do you know that they were so foolish and thought themselves so bold that they could pursue their world empire that they invaded Afghanistan?
AMY GOODMAN: And that was Ron Paul. In South Carolina, some experts predict Paul’s foreign policy views, antiwar positions, could hurt him, given the state’s large military institutions and heavy weapons industry. But Ron Paul says he receives more money from members of the military than all the other candidates combined.
ARNIE ARNESEN: It’s true. Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Alpert, talk about this antiwar stance and the significance of it—you are active in Occupy New Hampshire—for garnering support, or not, in New Hampshire.
ARNIE ALPERT: I think within the Occupy movement, there’s a great diversity of views. But one of the places where people agree is about bringing the troops home and ending this, you know, excessive military spending and the sort of an imperialist infrastructure for the United States military. I think that’s a—that’s a very popular move within the—within the Occupy movement, which did include Ron Paul supporters, libertarians and Free Staters, as well as people really pretty much across the political spectrum.
AMY GOODMAN: And the actions of Occupy New Hampshire through this primary, what you all did, and do you feel that you were successful?
ARNIE ALPERT: Well, really, the Occupy movement didn’t get active in the primary until very much at the end. There was a decision made, I think in December, to create the Occupy the New Hampshire Primary project and invite people from other states to come here. And it was really just set up for a five-day period with an encampment, or a daytime encampment, at Veteran’s Park right in downtown Manchester, in an extremely visible place, which just happens to be across the street from the Radisson Hotel where just about all the major media was set up. And there were tents and banners, and that gave it a great deal of visibility.
So, during that five-day period, you had a lot of activities going on in the park, but then you also had Occupy activists spreading out to candidate events that were going on in Amherst and Milford and Nashua and Hudson and Manchester and Exeter, and really kind of getting in the face of the candidates with specific messages about money in politics, about the 99 percent versus the 1 percent. And I think that that movement really did have an impact on the candidates and on the political discussion that’s been going on in the state, especially in the last five days.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I’d also like to bring in Dale Kuehne. He’s a professor of politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, which is where our guests in New Hampshire are joining us from. Dale Kuehne, can you talk about some of the demands of the Occupy—of the Occupy protesters and the Tea Party, and how the different Republican candidates have or have not responded to the demands, and how Obama has responded to the demands?
DALE KUEHNE: Well, my sense is, is that the Occupy movement is asking us to think first about Main Street as opposed to Wall Street. I think that the Tea Party is asking us to think about how it is that we’re spending our money. And my sense is, is that neither Obama nor any of the major Republican candidates are addressing those issues. In particular, I think Ron Paul is probably the only one that’s addressing those issues in any way, shape or form.
AMY GOODMAN: And for—
DALE KUEHNE: I think a good example of that—
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
DALE KUEHNE: No, I think a good—a good example of that would be the fact that we’ve had one million foreclosures a year for the last four years. And if Bill Clinton was president, my sense is, is that he would be with those people every single day. It would be on the headlines that we would be developing public policy to deal with it. And as it stands now, if you were just listen to Obama or Romney or the other major candidates, you wouldn’t get a sense that that kind of pain existed at all. And I think that’s why Ron Paul’s turnout, that’s why his numbers are so significant, because he’s attracting people who are feeling disenfranchised, and he’s attracting people from both the right and the left.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: How much do you think his antiwar stance, Ron Paul’s, played into the votes that he got?
DALE KUEHNE: I think it—I think it matters a lot. He is the only authentic antiwar candidate from either party. And so, for those that were disappointed with Obama on the antiwar issue, there’s Paul. And for those on the Republican Party that recognize that we just have to change the way we’re spending money and the military is one of the ways, there’s Paul. Quite frankly, he’s about the only person on either side that’s thinking in a big picture about how we’re going to deal with foreign policy in the new world and how we’re going to deal with money in a new world, when there just isn’t that much money.
AMY GOODMAN: And the way the candidates, Dale Kuehne, as a professor of politics at St. Anselm College—the way the candidates geared their message in New Hampshire, how is it different from the way they are appealing in other states? Was it?
DALE KUEHNE: I don’t know that it was a lot different. I mean, I got the impression on the Republican side that each—outside of Paul, that they were all, in their own way, trying to be Ronald Reagan. I think Mitt Romney is just trying to talk about hope and the future. It sounds like it’s "It’s morning in America" from Reagan’s old commercials. I think Huntsman and others are talking in a kind of a broad way about hope, about the future, about the fact that we can bring America, quote, "back to its greatness." But in terms of specifics for how we’re going to deal with the budgetary issues we face, how we’re going to deal with our military issues, there’s been very little substance on those things.
AMY GOODMAN: I also thought it was just very interesting how few people come out to vote. I mean, when you’re talking about—what is it? ABC News estimates the turnout in the New Hampshire Republican primary around, what was it? A quarter of people?
DALE KUEHNE: Yep.
AMY GOODMAN: It is so low in New Hampshire, I mean, in this country, compared to other countries. How do you explain this, Dale Kuehne?
DALE KUEHNE: Well, the first thing is, is that New Hampshire, last time around, was the highest of all the states in the country. If that happens again, that’s something we need to think about nationwide, not just merely New Hampshire. Secondly, I think it’s because, I think, right now you have a bunch of millionaires running for public office. I think you have governments that are addressing issues that aren’t really connecting with a whole bunch of Americans, especially blue-collar Americans. And I don’t know that they see a whole lot of reason to go out and vote for either Obama or out to vote for Romney or some of the others. I think there’s a real disconnect between our government and a whole number of our citizens.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion. Dale Kuehne with us, professor at St. Anselm College, where our guests are in New Hampshire right now. Arnie Alpert of Occupy New Hampshire and the American Friends Service Committee, and Arnie Arnesen, longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire, former Democratic nominee for governor. This is Democracy Now! in this aftermath, the morning after the New Hampshire primary. Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests in New Hampshire are Dale Kuehne, professor at St. Anselm College; Arnie Alpert of Occupy New Hampshire and American Friends Service Committee; and Arnie Arnesen, longtime radio and TV host in New Hampshire. She was Democratic nominee for governor in 1992.
Arnie Arnesen, let’s talk about what happened on the Democratic side. I want to turn to Joe Biden, the Vice President, who actually gave a video address last night. Can you talk about—what was Obama’s role in the New Hampshire primary, since he’s uncontested?
ARNIE ARNESEN: Well, obviously he wants to continue to massage his base. But I’ve been asked what I thought of Barack Obama’s last couple of years, and I’ve used two words, Amy. And the two words are "majestic disappointment." And I think, while he obviously wanted people to show up, they wanted to get organized, because they have to look to November, I think what’s really important, if you look at the lack of enthusiasm on the Republican side, the somewhat lack of enthusiasm on the Democratic side—I was telling a reporter the other day that you need to know that Barack Obama’s favorite color is taupe. And if you look at Mitt Romney and you want to describe him, what color comes to mind? Taupe. So I think part of the problem is, is that we were looking for hope and change. We were looking for someone that was willing to take the fight to the mat. And I think even Democrats who were so excited in New Hampshire—yes, they voted for Hillary Clinton; no, they didn’t give it to Barack Obama—but there was such passion for change. And I think people are just sitting back and watching. And it’s not about that there’s an impediment to voting. The question is, what are you voting for?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to Newt Gingrich, who finished far from the top three in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, but he promised to continue fighting. Here’s part of the speech that he gave last night.
NEWT GINGRICH: This campaign is going to go on to South Carolina. And we’re going to offer the American people something very different. We’re going to offer them an opportunity to participate in very dramatic, very fundamental change in Washington, D.C. And we’re going to prove that I both understand the principles and I understand the practice. I learned a lot of those principles from Ronald Reagan and from Margaret Thatcher. I got to practice them as a junior congressman, working with President Reagan. I got to practice them as speaker, working with Bill Clinton. And I want to suggest to you, when Ronald Reagan was president, we had to find a way to get votes through the House despite the fact that Tip O’Neill was speaker. When I was speaker, we had to find a way to get bills signed despite the fact that Bill Clinton was president. I believe if we had a Republican House, a Republican Senate, and a Gingrich presidency, it would be amazing how much we could get done and how rapidly we would have done it.
So, we’re going to take to South Carolina tonight and kick off tomorrow morning a campaign for jobs and economic growth; a campaign for a balanced budget; a campaign for returning power to the states through the 10th Amendment; a campaign for a strong national security; a campaign for a stable, solid Social Security program both for people now on it and for the young people who are here who deserve a chance in their lifetime to have an even better program with an even greater return, because if we are smart, we can do better things for people.
The Washington alternatives—how do we raise taxes and cut spending in a way that causes you pain on the spending side and causes you pain on the tax side—is exactly backwards. I was really struck—this is part of learning—when we had a debate the other day and we were asked a question about LIHEAP, or the heating assistance program, and it was phrased in a perfectly Washington way: Are you going to run a bigger deficit so you can help more people, or are you going to cut people off and hurt them so you can shrink the deficit? Nobody on the panel asking the question seemed to consider an alternative. What if we simply went out and developed American oil and gas, brought down the cost of heating oil, and didn’t need to help people, because the price came down?
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve been listening to Newt Gingrich, who did not make it into the top three in New Hampshire, though is pouring millions into campaign ads against Mitt Romney in South Carolina, and Romney is reciprocating with millions in campaign ads against Gingrich in South Carolina. Now, in the last days, Romney’s surrogate, John Sununu, has said that Newt Gingrich sounds like a socialist in attacking Romney around Bain, the private equity firm that he headed. And you also had this quite interesting conversation between Sean Hannity and Rick Perry, the Texas governor, because Rick Perry called Romney a vulture capitalist and attacked him for the jobs that were lost when Bain takes over a company. I was wondering if Arnie Arnesen and Arnie Alpert could weigh in here. It’s interesting changing of the dialogue.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Oh, I’m dying, Amy. I mean, you have to be so happy, Arnie, because of Occupy Wall Street. But you didn’t realize this, Amy, but Occupy Wall Street now has a new spokesperson. It’s called Newt Gingrich. I mean, and it doesn’t cost you $30,000 a month. I mean, what a deal! Think of poor Freddie Mac, how much they had to spend. It is absolutely unbelievable. And I don’t know if you saw it, but Rush Limbaugh just made a comment the other day and wanted to issue a fatwa against Newt Gingrich. That is his words, not mine. And he’s actually saying that Newt Gingrich thinks he’s turning into Elizabeth Warren. Do you love it? I mean, you can’t even ask for something better. So, Occupy Wall Street has to understand, not only have they changed the conversation in the country, but now that conversation is going to be reinforced in South Carolina by two people that you would think would be the least likely: Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. I’m going to love South Carolina. I’m going to love it.
AMY GOODMAN: Arnie Alpert?
ARNIE ALPERT: You have to look at the fact that just a couple days before Newt and Perry started piling on to Romney, you had members of the United Auto Workers going to Romney events and challenging Romney about how many houses he has and, you know, chanting, "Mitt kills jobs." And I think that was what kind of softened him up, in a sense, that then created this opening. You know, tied in with the Wall Street, the Occupy movement and their pressure, that created this opportunity for Newt and the others to go after Mitt Romney. And then you have Romney referring to this as "the bitter politics of envy."
ARNIE ARNESEN: Yes.
ARNIE ALPERT: So, I mean, I think that if that continues to be the approach that Mitt Romney takes, he clearly is going to be portraying himself as the candidate of the 1 percent. And that will—that will echo down through the rest of the campaign—
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this is very interesting.
ARNIE ALPERT: —talking about resentment of success.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Oh, this is incredible, Amy. This—
AMY GOODMAN: This is also very interesting because you have Huntsman and you have Paul saying get out of Afghanistan.
ARNIE ARNESEN: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: You used to have Romney saying that, but he has changed his tune there.
ARNIE ARNESEN: No, exactly, exactly.
ARNIE ALPERT: Romney wants to escalate U.S. military spending and increase, you know, our superiority ratio, you could call it.
ARNIE ARNESEN: And let’s remember that it’s really important, Amy to understand that no one has put a finger on Mitt Romney until this weekend. He had a walk in the park in Iowa. They didn’t bring up Bain. No one brought up Bain in the New Hampshire primary until just at the very, very end. So everything changes in South Carolina. Everything changes. And that’s going to be a real problem for Mitt, because he’s never had to deflect his problem. And his problem is personified by Bain. And to have Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry carry the message is going to be so confusing, but more important, they resonate in South Carolina, and they actually do mirror a lot of the messages that have been coming out for months now from Occupy Wall Street. It isn’t about class welfare. It is about the growing inequity between the rich and the poor. And to have Newt Gingrich be the one to say it? Oh, my god, what perfect timing.