Former Vice President Joe Biden joined New Hampshire Democrats Sunday night at the party’s annual 100 Club Dinner in Manchester. The event offered the party a chance to focus its energy in the wake of a bruising political year.
Close to a thousand Democrats gathered at the Manchester Raddison Hotel on Sunday night. The event was a who’s who of prominent figures in the party including former Vice President Joe Biden, the entire New Hampshire congressional delegation, and dozens of state lawmakers.
But there were also people like Kelly and Daniel Seichepine.
“I think after the election we kinda felt like we should do more, considering what happened.”
Sunday was the Seichepine’s first 100 Club Dinner and their first foray into Democratic Party politics. They were excited to become more involved, even if they think the party has some work to do in the wake of elections that left it without the White House or the New Hampshire Statehouse.
“I think it’s still searching for a message. I think the anger is helping in some regard – bringing people out, seeing what new ideas can be generated. But I think the old ideas don’t seem to be working.”
Still, the notion that last year’s election results are now a powerful motivator for Democrats was a theme repeated all night.
A member of the Rockingham County Democrats said attendance at monthly meetings has roughly doubled since the election.
Colin Van Ostern, who ran for governor last year and has been active in Democratic campaigns for years, says things feel different since Donald Trump's election.
Even the day after the inauguration when there were, in my hometown of Concord, 5000 people out on the Statehouse lawn starting to get organized for issues that are important to them in their own communities. I think it’s a level of activism that I have not seen before.”
The challenge for the list of heavyweight speakers then, was to channel that newfound enthusiasm into something the party can use.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen focused on what Democrats have been able to accomplish in the first few months of the Trump administration.
“I know how hard it is to see the progress of the last eight years being rolled back. But never doubt your ability to make a difference. Because of you, we’ve been able to stop Republicans from taking away healthcare from 20 million Americans.”
Senator Maggie Hassan made a similar pitch, appealing to a sentiment that has become symbolic among Democrats since November.
“Making progress for our people will be a marathon, not a sprint. But the resistance must persist, and that starts right here in New Hampshire and right now.”
The night’s headliner, Joe Biden, offered a mix of optimism about America’s standing in the world with a scathing assessment of America’s politics at home.
Biden also addressed the state of the Democratic Party at large, rejecting what he called a false debate about the future of the party.
“Either we have to demonstrate we’re more progressive and forget about those folks out there being left out, particularly those middle class folks. Or we got start talking about working people and forget our progressive values.”
Biden argued the two aren’t mutually exclusive, citing Barack Obama’s electoral victories as evidence.
Democrats eager to put Biden’s ideas, and their own enthusiasm, to the test won’t have to wait long.
Manchester, the host city for Sunday's Dinner, is holding its mayoral election this fall.