Saturday, March 23, 2013

Look South, New Hampshire

Mad Dog's brother, the patriarch of the North Carolina branch of the family, emailed Mad Dog after Mark Sanford finished first in the Republican primary for the first South Carolina Congressional district.

"Who knew?"  he said, "House of Cards was a documentary?"
Well, Mad Dog knew.
What brother Dog was referring to was the story line of that wonderful Netflix series in which Francis Underwood, a Congressman from South Carolina goes back to his district to sort out a mess involving the death of a teen age girl who had driven her car off the road while texting about a local water tower, which was meant to be shaped like a peach, a tower beloved by the peach farmers in the district, but to the teenagers of the district it looked remarkably like a scrotum sitting atop a phallus, thus the text and the loss of concentration on the part of the girl. 

Francis Underwood had supported the construction of the tower, a source of some derision, so now he has to take responsibility for the girl's death.

Say what?

Now, a flinty citizen of New Hampshire might ask, how a Congressman could be considered liable for the death of a teen age girl who was dumb enough to drive off a road because she was texting, but the Congressman explains there is no point in blaming the victim. The parents and their friends want somebody to be angry at, and Congressman Underwood has been identified as the best target. There is a local politician who wants Underwood's seat, who is only too happy to stoke the flames.

Underwood goes to the church funeral service, and in one of the most brilliant scenes ever written for TV or film, he delivers a dazzling eulogy, which he begins with the words, "I hate God." The startled faces all around the church look as if they have been slapped.  He goes on to ask, "Haven't we all thought that when God takes from us someone as precious as Mary Elizabeth? We just get so angry and we cannot understand any plan, even if it is God's plan which would do this." Of course, he is talking about the resentment toward not just God, but toward himself. 

Underwood then goes to the parent's home and offers to resign from Congress, if they want him to. He looks to the camera in a sly aside and says,  "There is nothing more powerful down here than humility."

Now consider Mark Sanford, who was ousted from office for having an affair while he was governor, disappearing off to tryst with his Argentine paramour and lying about it, saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Running for office he struck a posture of humility which was taken from the script and he, of course, won over the voters of South Carolina.  He had the stroke of genius to ask his betrayed wife, now former wife, to manage his campaign.  But he asked only after he assured himself she would not run for that open seat--she was considered a contender, but their two sons are still in high school and she did not think leaving them for a Washington job a good idea. Here's how the story ran in New York Magazine:

 Mark went to meet with Jenny at her house this past December to discuss the congressional race. As he later explained it to reporters, he wanted to be magnanimous. “I sat down with her on the porch,” he told one, “and said, ‘If you have any thoughts about running for this, then I’m out, because I can’t think of anything more disastrous than for a husband and wife to run against each other.” He explained that it was only after he’d ascertained that Jenny wasn’t going to run that he decided to proceed with his campaign.

Sound familiar?  My office is yours to deny.
And the voters of South Carolina, voting under their brand new restrictive voting laws, requiring photo ID's, went for it big time.

Now why can't New Hampshire be more like South Carolina?

Here in New Hampshire Jackie Cilley ran in the Democratic primary for governor and refused to sign a pledge saying she would never sign into law any income tax for the state of New Hampshire, if elected governor. Her opponent, Maggie Hassan signed the pledge,  Cilley said if you sign a pledge like that you deny yourself a bargaining chip with the legislature but at every event there was sure to be at least one old gomer who raised a hand after her presentation, no matter how long or short, and he would croak, "So, I hear you're for an income tax."  Cilley lost to Hassan. It wasn't even close.

Representative democracy.  Down South, it's all about humility and Evangelical fervor. Up here, it's taxes.

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