Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Retail Politics in New Hampshire

By Shawn Healy
The eight Democratic candidates for President gathered last evening in Goffstown, NH, at St. Anselm College to engage in a spirited two-hour debate. The first half was dedicated to the standard give-and-take between CNN pundit and moderator Wolf Blitzer and the candidates, while the latter half transitioned into a more informal question-and-answer session with the audience. The ten GOP candidates (with Fred Thompson still on the sidelines) will reprise this production at the same venue tomorrow evening.

The debate centered once again on the Iraq War with John Edwards attempting to differentiate himself from the two other front runners, Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, by criticizing the two of them for their failure to speak out during the recent Senate debate over funding for the conflict. Obama snapped back that Edwards should have led four years ago when he voted to authorize the war, and Clinton held her centrist ground, later dismissing Edwards' contention that the war on terrror was little more than a slogan on a bumper sticker.

As for the rest of the pack, Senator Joe Biden and Governor Bill Richardson were sporadically impressive, but the bulk of the debate centered on the Big Three. Senator Chris Dodd suffered through an uneven performance after two stellar opening acts, and former Senator Mike Gravel and Representative Dennis Kucinich continued to serve as sideshows to the main act.

The larger question continues to be whether or not American voters (short of the attendees in NH) are paying attention to this ongoing discourse at such an early juncture. With the prospect of the nominating process being effectively over by February 5th, we cannot afford to tune out until the calendar turns to 2008.

Moreover, the media's early crowning of front runners and dismissal of potential dark horses fails to do justice to what is the first open race for President since 1952 (neither an incumbent President or VP vying for the office). The Fourth Estate's excessive emphasis on polling data that reveals little more than name recognition and fundraising prowess (an indication of Rolodex size) masks the substantive debate that is occurring on a number of levels in both parties.

While the Democrats debate their alternative to the Bush presidency's war on terror and place forward the most electable female, African-American, and Latino candidate to date, the GOP field grapples with the Iraqi quagmire, the prospect of nominating a pro-choice and pro-gay candidate, and the potential of fielding the first Mormon candidate for President. Important issues like health care, global warming, poverty, and immigration are also on the docket.

As the summer wind blows in warm weather, we must keep our collective eye on the ball, demanding more of our media and the candidates. The stakes couldn't be higher as we near a pivotal election. This race to the White House is a marathon and demands endurance by all parties to the contest. An occasional break is acceptable, but we must all meet at the finish line and accept the ultimate outcome.


Post a Comment

<< Home


Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at