In Busy Weekend of Campaigning, N.H. Democrats Weigh Ideology Against Pragmatism

Sep 9, 2019

New Hampshire Democrats — and 19 candidates seeking their party’s nomination for president — were in Manchester this weekend for the state Democratic Party convention. For attendees it was a chance to express their commitment to unseating President Trump. But it was also a chance for activists to consider — and reconsider — which sort of candidate might be most up to that task.

Democratic opposition to President Trump was on full display Saturday, but so was the more immediate question facing Democrats. It was a question Sen. Kamala Harris posed from the stage:

“This is a moment in time that is requiring us each, as individuals and collectively, to look in the mirror and ask a question: Who are we?”

Outside the hall, Christa Conn of Rumney, who runs a livestock rescue program, was quick to downplay the gravity of that question – at least as far as a party nominee goes.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party's state convention heard from most of the 2020 presidential candidates.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

“I don’t care who it is really, as long as it’s got a D in front of their name," Conn said.

But as Conn, who said her dream ticket would be Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, continued to talk, it became clear that having a nominee from the party’s left, was a priority.

“We’ve been getting crumbs for 20 years now, and I just say we snatch the whole loaf of bread," she said. "We want it all, and we want it now.”

For others, like Ruth and Matt Davis of Durham, the whole loaf approach is something to fear. The couple supports Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ... to varying degrees

“Being here today has opened up a lot of thoughts," Ruth Davis said. "I was originally a Warren supporter. My husband is an Amy supporter but was concerned about.”

“I was concerned about the Democrat-socialist platform of free college and of heath care for all," Matt Davis said. "And I think the far left is dangerous, and I think it puts Democrats in a tough position.”

N.H. Democrats cheered for their preferred presidential hopefuls at the state convention.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Other Democrats, like Jon Bressler of Bow, said for him, the tough position Democrats are already in dictates a pragmatism unbound by ideology — or by the courtship rituals traditional for many New Hampshire Democrats.

“For me personally, I am still waiting for a breakout candidate to show they can beat Trump," said Bresler. "To me that’s more important than their policies. So instead of playing the game of who’s team am I on, who knows how I like my steak, or who calls me on my birthday, I just want to stand back and say, 'who can rid me of this priest?' ’’

That may take time to answer. But one thing this convention proved for the many candidates hoping to fit that bill, is that activists here are ready to consider the question.