Tuesday, September 24, 2019

How farmers feel about Trump's trade wars

I've seen two pieces on this topic recently, one today from Bloomberg news by Mario Parker and Mike Dorning, and the other a few weeks ago by Jennifer Rubin, columnist for the Washington Post.  The pros and cons of Trump's trade wars are a complicated story, and I'm only going to focus on one issue:  evidence that farmers--a constituency associated with support for Tump in 2016--may be shifting that support (or, more precisely, presumed support) away from him.  The two headlines speak volumes.  For Parker and Dorning writing for Bloomberg, it's "Farmers Say Trump's $28 billion bailout isn't a solution."  Rubin's headline is "Trump has angered the wrong people:  farmers." 

Here's a salient excerpt from the Bloomberg story:
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was fielding questions at a farm show in Decatur, Ill., in late August when his boss rang his cellphone. Perdue put the call on speaker and placed it next to the microphone so the crowd could hear Donald Trump speak. During the almost seven-minute call the president defended his handling of the trade conflict with China, which has cut off American farmers from one of their most important export markets. Yet he was quick to remind them that he’s tried to salve their pain. “I sometimes see where these horrible dishonest reporters will say that ‘oh jeez, the farmers are upset.’ Well, they can’t be too upset, because I gave them $12 billion and I gave them $16 billion this year,” said Trump, who then added, “I hope you like me even better than you did in ’16.”
A couple of years ago, a pep talk from Trump might have drawn raucous applause from one of the president’s key constituencies. This time the crowd was subdued. “The aid package that has come in is a relief, and it softens the landing, but it’s not a solution, it’s a Band-Aid,” says Stan Born, a farmer who attended the event. When asked if the payments make him whole, Born, who grows 500 acres of soybeans near Decatur, responds, “Of course not.” He’d rather have free trade, he says.
That's broadly consistent with what Rubin wrote in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, which included this excerpt suggesting--like today's Bloomberg story--that farmers are fed up with Trump's trade policies:
We have gotten so used to the formulaic story — interview member of President Trump’s base, find he still loves Trump, conclude Trump is invincible — that we wind up surprised when the logical and predictable laws of political gravity hit. This is certainly true of farmers. 
You know the setup — a sturdy farmer suffering from Trump-imposed tariffs grits his teeth and says he’s hurting but, by josh, he’s not parting with Trump whom he trusts to do the right thing. We are to conclude that Trump possesses magical political power, that farmers are too dumb to know what’s good for them or both. 
Well, it turns out Trump has no magic, and farmers know exactly what the president is doing to them. MSNBC on Monday interviewed Bob Kuylen, vice president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, who explained that his wheat farm, which depends on overseas markets, has lost $400,000 because of the administration’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and subsequent trade wars. During another interview, Christopher Gibbs, a soybean and corn farmer in Ohio, ridiculed Trump’s farm bailouts — which he called “hush money” intended to “sedate" farmers — and made clear that taxpayers are paying for this, not China. He, too, is losing money.
I admit to hoping that Rubin, along with Parker and Dorning, are spot on in their speculation that farmers who previously supported Trump are abandoning him.  But I want to highlight one other issue:  what happened when I Tweeted an msnbc story with a message similar to Rubin's a few weeks ago--that message being that farmers were hurting and some saw Trump's "bailout"--now valued at $28 million--as hush money.  Indeed, it is a story Rubin had referred to in her column.  The only responses I got to the Tweet boiled down to this:  It's farmers' own damn fault because they voted for Trump.

I'm pasting in two screen shots: 

Twitter Screenshots taken September 8, 2019 in response to
@lisareneepruitt's Tweet of Jennifer Rubin story 
My point:  how can Twitter responses like these possibly be helpful?  And, how is the left going to respond to people like farmers once Trump is defeated (IF he is defeated)?  Will the left be less inclined to help farmers--and other groups presumed to have monolithically supported Trump?  Sadly, that's what my Twitter feed often makes me expect.

Monday, September 23, 2019

On suicide in the Sierra foothills of California

Sammy Caiola reported on Capitol Public Radio's Insight program today, with a follow up on a story she did last year out of Amador County, population 38,091, just southeast of Sacramento County.  You can listen to the segment here, but I want to highlight just a few things Caiola pointed out about Amador County that make its residents vulnerable to suicide.  First is a lack of mental health services, meaning folks must often travel to Sacramento or another major city in the region for care, sometimes due to a shortage of providers at the county's sole hospital, in Jackson.  Aggravating this problem is dearth of public transportation.  Second and related to the lack of transportation infrastructure is the physical geography and built environment--lots of small-ish towns/cities, with people spread across the countryside amongst those small population clusters.  And third, Caiola suggests that a greater stigma attaches to mental health treatment in rural places than in urban ones.  These are all issues I have discussed in my scholarship, theorizing the legal relevance of aspects of rurality, e.g., lack of anonymity, material spatiality. 

The segment is well worth a listen in its entirety, as is Caiola's earlier reporting on what is happening health-wise in Amador County. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Lone Pine Policy III: Controversy creates opportunity (1974)

It is often said that campaigning is easier than governing. After all, campaign season is a time when promises are made without having to meet the scrutiny of reality. Meldrim Thomson was learning this lesson very well in his first term. The perpetual anti-tax campaigner now had to govern the state that he spent years barnstorming and was having trouble gaining traction with the voters and even elected officials in his own party. During his first legislative session as governor and with his own party in control of the legislature, Thomson used the veto power an unprecedented 27 times. By the winter of 1974, it looked increasingly likely that the Granite State voters would send Thomson packing. In a February 1974 Boston Globe poll, 41% felt that Thomson was either a very poor or below average governor with only 36% thinking that he was outstanding or above average. Owing to his many years campaigning around the state, only 5% had no opinion of him. In a hypothetical general election match up, Thomson was even down 8 points to Manchester mayor Sylvio DuPris. Thomson's first term was a very eventful, almost never ending, series of political controversies that almost certainly contributed to his polarized perception around the state.

Perhaps the most prolific controversy came in late November 1973 when Thomson announced that he would support Aristotle Onassis's effort to build an oil refinery in Durham. The town's residents  signaled their disapproval of the project by voting 1254-144 against the project at their annual town meeting. Thomson was not deterred by this setback and attempted to bypass the local residents by working with his allies in the legislature to introduce a bill that would allow the state to authorize its construction without the approval of the town's planning board. The bill, which was considered in a March special session, was also defeated. This struggle was profiled on New Hampshire Public Radio's The Exchange last year and can be heard here. It was also profiled in the book, "Small Town, Big Oil," which focuses on the role of local activists in the proposal's ultimate defeat. 

Thomson also spent his first term embroiled in other battles against what could be described as liberal causes. In 1973, Thomson vetoed the acceptance of federal funds for legal aid for indigent clients, only to be overruled by the federal government and the funds distributed anyway. He was not deterred by this snub and decided to attempt to exercise a little known provision in the federal VISTA program to weaken New Hampshire Legal Assistance, the state's legal aid program, by stripping them of their VISTA workers. He couched his opposition largely in the fact that NHLA would file lawsuits against state agencies on behalf of indigent clients and his belief that this was an inappropriate use of tax dollars, a position that was in lockstep with what Governor Ronald Reagan was doing in California at the time (and I profiled here). NHLA's director George Bruno warned the loss of the VISTA workers forced NHLA to close their Lebanon, Portsmouth, and Belknap County offices. In Belknap County and Lebanon, this meant that the indigent poor in those rural pockets of New Hampshire would now be without a place to seek legal help.

Thomson's position was criticized by members of his own party, including New Hampshire State Senate President David Nixon who told the Boston Globe, "[t]he governor has an obvious distrust or distaste for effective representation of the have-nots of this state ... it's a damn shame." Within a couple of weeks announcing that he was stripping the workers from NHLA, Thomson reversed course. Bruno speculated to the Globe that the federal government had once again overruled Thomson and he decided to save face by making it look like this reversal was his own doing. 

He also chose fights that could be best described as bizarre. He also entered 1974 in a battle with the Gay Students Organization at the University of New Hampshire. Thomson had tried to ban the group's existence on campus by threatening to withhold state funding if the university recognized them. The federal courts however would rule that the group could not be blocked and that LGBT students had the same rights to assemble and organize as other students on campus. In 1970s politics, this was a minor political loss for Thomson but it was symbolic of his tendency to insert himself into controversies.

Given his polarizing numbers and tendency of finding controversy, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Thomson would find himself in a tough re-election fight. On May 1, the aforementioned David Nixon announced that he was entering into a primary fight against the incumbent governor. He was immediately welcomed into the race by Republican voters and it looked possible that he would be able to defeat the sitting governor in the November primary. A June New Hampshire Public Television poll found that Nixon was leading Thomson, 49-38. However, a poll done by the pro-Thomson Union Leader found that Thomson was leading. Nixon accepted his role as an underdog and set out on a tour of the state to introduce himself to voters.

As the summer wore on, the two frequently found themselves on opposite sides of different political controversies. When the Concord Monitor called out irregularities in Thomson's 1972 campaign filings, Nixon called for the governor to provide clarification and accused him of using his campaign to establish a slush fund. When Thomson released his tax returns, Nixon refused to do so. When teachers in the Timberlane School District in Plaistow went on strike, voters were reminded of the fact that Nixon had supported a 1973 collective bargaining bill for public employees, which the governor had vetoed. Nixon even attempted to set himself apart from Thomson on the question of supporting President Richard Nixon, who resigned in August and was deeply unpopular with New Hampshire voters. Thomson had been a long time supporter for President Nixon, a position not shared by David Nixon. Nixon also had the support of former Governor Walter Peterson, though he avoided casting himself as a liberal Republican, preferring to instead position himself as a moderate with conservative leanings. He hoped to not only win Peterson voters but also conservatives who might have been disenchanted with Thomson's governing style. 

In contrast with previous elections, the tax issue was rarely actually raised on the campaign trail in the Republican primary. This is perhaps no surprise, given the low numbers for any kind of broad based taxes. In a March 1974 Boston Globe poll, only 26% of Granite Staters supported any kind of broad based taxation. William Loeb did attempt to use the tax issue as a point of distinction in his Union Leader by noting that Nixon had voted for an income tax as a freshman legislator in 1969. 

In the Republican primary, Thomson won a narrow victory over Nixon, whose political map largely resembled Peterson's four years prior. Thomson won with 54.7% of the vote, hardly commanding and indicative of his still polarizing status within the party. 

On the Democratic side, Richard Leonard, a former state senator from Nashua, Hugh Gallen, a state representative from Littleton, and Harry Spanos, the State Senate Vice President from Newport, faced off for their party's nomination. DuPris ultimately decided to not enter the race. Leonard ran as a fiscal conservative, pledging to fight against new taxes and promising to veto an income and sales tax. Gallen and Spanos positioned themselves as liberals, a move that threatened to split the liberal vote in the primary and benefit Leonard. Spanos was also a target of the Union Leader, who bestowed the nickname "Midnight Harry" upon him. Spanos and his supporters attempted to dull the effect of this nickname by embracing it in their own campaign literature. Gallen supporters noted that the Union Leader's attacks on Spanos may even boost his campaign among liberals, who might be persuaded to vote for him as a knee-jerk reaction to the newspaper. In the primary, Leonard won a narrow victory over his two rivals, garnering only 36.6% of the vote compared to 31.2% for Spanos and 28.9% for Gallen. While the liberal wing of the party had won the majority support in the primary, the standard bearer for the Democratic Party would once again come from its conservative wing.

As New Hampshire voters prepared for the general election, they found themselves in a similar predicament as 1972. The nominees from both major parties represented the conservative wings of their parties. However, Thomson proved to be enough of a boogeyman that no third party candidates emerged. Leonard attempted to create unity in his own party by appointing his primary opponents as co-chairs of his campaign. They unified around a central message, that Thomson was abusing his executive power and had to be defeated. To illustrate this point, Leonard used the Onassis oil refinery and Gay Student Organization battles. At a candidate forum in October in Claremont, Leonard painted this picture by stating, "the biggest difference between myself and Mel Thomson is I like to listen to people. I do not believe in one-man rule." However, early indications were that Leonard was having a hard time garnering traction with the electorate. An October Boston Globe poll gave Thomson a 52%-32% lead over Leonard, with 43% respondents indicating that they knew very little about or had never even heard of him. New Hampshire Democrats disputed the results of the poll and said that it overestimated Republican strength. To counter the Boston Globe poll, the Democrats released their own poll, which found Thomson leading 49%-41%. Even by the Democratic Party's own measure, Leonard was still an underdog.

Election Day 1974 was, by any measure, an interesting day in New Hampshire. In the governor's race, Thomson won a narrower than expected win over Leonard. The final margin was approximately 4,000 votes, which gave us a 51-49 race. Contemporary media accounts attributed Leonard's better than expected performance to fall out from the Watergate controversy that had hurt Republicans across the country. Perhaps the biggest contributor to Thomson's win was the fact that he carried Manchester, a Democratic stronghold that had only once before voted for a Republican. As you will see in future pieces, Manchester's shift to the Republican Party was not a one time occurrence.

The shift in Manchester's politics could at least partially be attributed to William Loeb's vigorous support for Thomson in the Manchester Union Leader. Loeb and Thomson enjoyed a close relationship, dating to his Loeb's early support for Thomson in 1968. After all, Thomson had built his anti-tax conservative brand through the Union Leader and after his election, the newspaper continued in its role of enhancing Thomson's brand. According to a October 1974 report, Thomson and Loeb spoke on the phone at least 256 times during the preceding 18 months, often before big decisions were made by the governor. The governor dismissed claims that Loeb was influencing his decisions by saying that he often phoned Loeb to inform him of how to report a story and to tell him which portions of a decision to emphasize. For the governor to be able to influence his own coverage in the state's largest newspaper means that he can also shape the perception of voters, contributing to his own popularity. It also means that he can control the media spin on his own decisions, an important attribute when your decisions tend to create controversy. During Thomson's time as governor, the Union Leader essentially functioned as his PR arm, allowing him a public venue to spin his decisions and minimize public fallout. Regardless of whether or not Loeb was influencing the governor's decisions, he was certainly influencing the perception of those decisions.

Despite the controversies of his first term and the anti-Republican wave on the national level, Thomson narrowly won re-election. This was a major win for Thomson and his political allies since it cemented their hold on state politics and served as a mandate for their vision of the state's future. How would this play out in Thomson's 2nd term and could they hold the state in 1976? Join me in two weeks as I explore this question. Due to a pre-existing engagement, there will be no Lone Pine Policy next week.

(If anyone is curious about the Senate race in 1974, I wrote about that here. In that race, the Democrat John Durkin virtually tied Republican Louis Wyman, forcing a revote the next fall.)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Rural news out of Australia

I've been collecting these stories and am just going to roll them into a single post, with "Australia" as the common theme:

First, from the Washington Post, is this story about a rural community of Biloela (population 5,758) in Central Queensland (Banana Shire, no less!) which has rallied around a Sri Lankan immigrant family, trying to spare them deportation.   Rebecca Tan writes under the headline, "How a conservative town in Australia set aside politics to rally for a family facing deportation."  The headline implies that rural folks are conservative and, perhaps, also anti-immigrant-- except when it came to this family.  Tan writes: 
Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingham and her husband, Nadesalingam Murugappan, who go by Priya and Nades, fled Sri Lanka amid a civil war and settled in Biloela five years ago. After failed attempts at securing the appropriate visas, the couple, along with their two Australian-born daughters, Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, were seized by immigration authorities from their home last year and placed in a detention facility under deportation proceedings.
* * * 
[In Biloela] friends, neighbors and strangers have worked for a year to get the family home, forming an online movement under the banner “#HomeToBilo."
* * * 
“The emotional swing that has occurred in this community has been extraordinary,” Angela Fredericks, a Biloela resident and friend of the family, told the Guardian on Saturday. “I’ve never seen a rage like that in Biloela. We’re a polite town.”
As for how the family endeared themselves to the community, Tan writes:
In the four years they spent in Biloela, the Tamil family had become a core part of the community, advocates say. Nades worked at the local abattoir and volunteered at a welfare services society, St. Vincent de Paul. Priya, the Guardian reported, often cooked for staff at the hospital.
One community member commented for the Washington Post
It’s a very politically conservative town; that’s not debatable. Growing up, I had never ever been to a protest or to a vigil about anything political.

Even now, I think people are not thinking about it as global issues or politics. It’s a story about a family and a town that wants them back.
I can't help wonder how the Biloela resident quoted here would define "conservative."

The other stories from down under came to my attention via the Australia Broadcasting Corporation's Twitter feed.  One is out of South Australia, a town called Lucindale (population 301), and it's about how this community lobbied to host a major national concert as a way to help raise money to replace their dilapidated pool. 
Almost 15,000 festival goers donated more than $22,000 — half of which is to go towards the pool, the other to youth leadership scholarships — as they entered the gates to the free event. 
It means children from the small farming community, almost 350 kilometres south-east of Adelaide, will not have to travel to other towns for their half-hour swimming lessons.
Love this quote from a "Year 12" student about his town:
It sums up the way Lucindale lives and operates as a community. We set out a goal to do something and we get it done.
The third story is about coal mining in New South Wales in an area called Bylong Valley.  Here's the gist of the story, with no significant explanation for the decision to stop the mine:
There has been immediate and sometimes angry reaction to the Independent Planning Commission's decision to halt the proposed multi-million-dollar Bylong Valley coal mine in the Upper Hunter. 
The mine was expected start operations this year and provide 650 jobs during construction and 450 once developed in the Bylong Valley. 
The decision by the IPC to reject the proposal comes following significant community opposition.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

LA Times on rural-urban hostility, on occasion of Trump's California visit

Janet Hook writes in today's Los Angeles Times, on the occasion of Trump's visit to California, under the headline, "Trump, no fan of big cities and their Democratic leaders, unleashes his derision on L.A."
Anti-urban hostility may help mobilize the rural voters who were the backbone of his 2016 presidential election and whom his campaign needs to turn out at high levels if he is to secure his reelection. 
* * *  
The urban-rural split will be a particularly important fault line in 2020 in three of the states that are crucial to Trump’s political prospects: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — swing states where surging turnout in rural areas helped him overcome big losses in Democratic-dominated cities in 2016. 
One risk of Trump’s city-bashing could be to alienate voters in suburban counties, which are shaping up to be a key battleground for the 2020 election. 
“The population that is a hazard for him in this area are people who are highly educated and conservative leaning, who think of themselves as Republican but are not so enamored of his leadership style,” said Katherine Cramer, author of a book about Wisconsin’s former GOP governor, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.” 
“Their livelihood depends on urban economies.” 
For Trump, attacks on big cities are also a way of going after their Democratic leadership. 
* * *  
Nationally, a July 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that 55% of rural residents approved of Trump’s job performance — far more than the 23% of city dwellers who approved, but down from the 61% of rural voters who voted for him in 2016, according to exit polls.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

An extremely rosy view of rural America and a so-called "brain gain"

Sarah Smarsh, author of Heartland and host of the podcast "Homecomers," writes in today's New York Times under the headline, "Something Special is Happening in Rural America."  Here's an excerpt:
The nation’s most populous cities, the bicoastal pillars of aspiration — New York City and Los Angeles — are experiencing population declines, most likely driven by unaffordability. Other metros are experiencing growth, to be sure, especially in the South and West. But there is an exodus afoot that suggests a national homecoming, across generations, to less bustling spaces. Last year, Gallup found that while roughly 80 percent of us live in urban areas, rural life was the most wished for
Read for the full piece for more details on various surveys about rural life, including some surveys I've written about on this blog. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Lone Pine Policy II: Income tax boogalo (1972)

As New Hampshire entered 1972, the tax question loomed large over state politics. As the only state with neither an income or sales tax and a growing population to support, the state faced very real questions on how they planned to raise the revenue that they sorely needed. The question also weighed on the mind of Governor Walter Peterson who had changed his position on the taxation question, believing that an income tax was necessary to support the influx of new residents coming into the state. He also felt that an income tax would improve education in the state, since it would decrease the reliance on property taxes. He would convene a special session of the legislature in February to address the problem. There were two plans on the table. The governor's plan was relatively simple, it called for a 50/50 split between the state and its cities and towns. The other plan, devised by Dartmouth economic professor John Menge and Yankee Magazine publisher Rob Trowbridge, was slightly more complex. Their plan would give all income tax revenue to education and it would be spent on a per capita basis, equalizing its impact throughout the state. The legislature would consider both plans and adjoin without passing either one.

In 1970, Governor Peterson had directly challenged William Loeb and the anti-tax stance of his publication. In announcing his 1970 campaign, he had stated, "we must have the courage to withstand the destructive powers of the Loeb press and tell the public what it does not seem to understand - that our tax structure is, and has always been, a reflection of the wishes of the well to-do." The dynamic of the 1970 primary was again present in 1972 as Thomson, backed by Loeb and touting his anti-tax message, would once again take on Peterson. However, there was a slight difference. After his re-election in 1970, Peterson had directly tried to institute a new income tax, which may have served as a motivating factor for anti-tax forces to come out and vote.

The tax question would also loom large in the Democratic primary where Roger Crowley was trying again to be the nominee and was again running on an anti-tax platform. He was opposed by House Minority Leader Robert Raiche, who ran on an audaciously pro-tax platform. In his campaign announcement, Raiche even went as far to say that New Hampshire voters were tired of the "simplistic answer" of a pledge to veto all income and sales tax.

In his campaign, Raiche was the underdog. Crowley had the money, resources, and name recognition. He also had the endorsement of William Loeb and his Union Leader. However, Raiche attempted to use his underdog status as an asset. He regularly attacked Crowley as an agent of the rich, drawing on his own working class background to draw a distinction in the race. He frequently mentioned how he worked his way through school in the Manchester's mills and pledged to be a candidate for the people that he worked with in his youth. In a profile in the September 3, 1972 edition of The Boston Globe, he said "it's about goddamn time that poor people, the people I worked in the mills with, had somebody in the State House that they could talk to."

In the primary, the anti-tax message would prevail on both sides. Thomson would defeat the incumbent governor by almost 2,500 votes, his victory was buoyed by his support in New Hampshire's predominantly rural North Country and supplemented by his almost 3,000 vote victory in Manchester, the home of the Union Leader. Peterson's strongest showing came from towns and cities in the Upper Valley, the Concord area, and in the state's Seacoast region while Thomson did exceptionally well in the Lakes Region, North Country and in Manchester (and its suburbs). Thomson's strength came from the parts of the state that might be considered more rural (with Manchester as an obvious outlier).

On the Democratic side, Crowley would easily defeat Raiche, whose strengths came in the traditionally liberal strongholds of the state. He easily won the college towns of Hanover and Durham with 90% and 91.5% of the vote respectively. However, Raiche's strength in the state's liberal corners would only net him 33.8% of the vote.

The aftermath of the primary left New Hampshire liberals in an unenviable position. The conservative anti-tax message had won the day and liberals did not have a candidate to support in the general election. After all, there was little daylight between Crowley and Thomson on policy. In fact, William Loeb and the Union Leader were initially neutral, declining to endorse either candidate in the general election. Liberals pressed Peterson to leave the Republican Party and offer a third party alternative, an invite that he would ultimately decline.

However, it would not take long for a third party alternative to emerge. Within a week and a half of the primary, Concord mayor Malcolm McLane would throw his hat into the ring as the independent candidate for governor. In entering the race, McLane initially declined to take a firm position on the tax question, pledging only that he would not propose an income or sales tax in his first year in office. He stated that he entered the race so voters would have a choice and was careful to note that both Crowley and Thomson were conservative "Loeb-backed" candidates. In an interview with The Boston Globe in the October 2nd edition of the paper, McLane stated, "I'm sure they disagree with me ... but they probably don't disagree with each other and that's what this race is all about."

McLane entered the race with multiple disadvantages however. First of all, New Hampshire's relatively late primary, September, gave McLane just under two months to build name recognition and support among the general electorate. He figured however that he could win the election with just 35% of the vote. By late October however, that ambition had yet to materialize. A Dartmouth College poll had him at just 9% support with a mere two weeks until election day. Crowley had a slight lead over Thomson, 36-34 with 21% of the electorate still undecided. That same poll also found that McLane was pulling votes away from Crowley and boosting Thomson's campaign.

In the waning days of the campaign, Loeb would break his neutrality and ultimately endorse Thomson's campaign. That may have been enough to put him over the top. Thomson would ultimately win the election by just 7,595 votes or about 2 percentage points with 41% of the vote. While Crowley was able to carry the largest cities in the state (including beating Thomson by nearly 30 points in Manchester), Thomson was carried by his strength in the state's most rural communities. Thomson's strength in the Lakes Region and North Country would help him overcome whatever advantage Crowley had in the cities.

McLane finished a distant third with just 19.5% of the vote. His best performances came in the liberal strongholds in the state. He performed well in the Seacoast, Monadnock, and Upper Valley regions. He also did well in Concord and its surrounding towns. McLane's state political career was not over and he will factor into this story later on.

The 1972 election was a pivotal election for New Hampshire. It was an election where both parties, when faced with the question of whether or not to support a pro-income tax candidate opted not to do so. It was also the election that helped to solidify the influence of William Loeb and his Union Leader  newspaper. Both of Loeb's candidates won their respective party's nomination and the candidate that he ultimately endorsed won the election. The income tax question appeared to have been answered by the voters.

William Loeb had his man in Concord and the tax question appeared to have been put to bed. What would happen in the next 2 years? Next week, we will look at Thomson's first stand for re-election, 1974.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

California Lawyer Association publicizes rural lawyer shortage

This month's California Lawyer Association newsletter includes a story about the state's rural lawyer shortage, with a focus on nonmetropolitan Lake County, population 64,665.  Here's an excerpt from the story, which focuses to a great extent on two middle-aged women lawyers, one the long-time president of the county bar association: 
Judy Conard walks to her law office. From there, she can walk to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the courthouse, and any number of other places. She’s still enjoying her family law practice so much that even the prospect of turning 70 soon doesn’t make her want to retire. 
Her secret? She practices in rural Lake County, north of Napa Valley wine country, where the pace is slower and the air cleaner. Beyond the small downtown area of Lakeport, she is surrounded by an abundance of natural resources. 
“It really comes down to the quality of your life and what you consider to be quality,” Conard said. “If shopping is part of your quality of life than you probably won’t be happy in a rural community. But if you care more about less traffic and less stress and being able to form long-term relationships with community members, you’ll be happy.” 
Conard moved to Lake County in 1993 from San Diego, where she was in private practice as a criminal defense attorney. When she first moved to the small community, she took a contract as an appointed public defender. She later branched out into family law, which now makes up the bulk of her busy practice, along with some appointed work in juvenile delinquency cases.

Conard shares office space with Mary Heare Amodio, a probate lawyer who started her law practice 13 years ago. ...

Heare Amodio is a few years younger than Conard and also intends to keep practicing past retirement age. But both are concerned that when they do finally retire no one will be there to replace them.
The story acknowledges both the California Commission on Access to Justice's recent policy brief on the rural lawyer shortage, as well as my recent, co-authored law review article on rural access to justice challenges.
According to the Official Poverty Measure, Lake County's poverty rate is 20.2%; according to the California Poverty Measure, the rate is 19.3%.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

On the special election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional district--and increased rural-urban polarization

Five Thirty Eight reports today on the Republican win, including this paragraph about the rural-urban (or, more precisely, suburban) split in the vote.  Nathaniel Rakich writes: 
The results also represent a continuation of the mini-realignment we’ve seen in the Trump era of suburbs getting bluer and rural areas moving even more toward the GOP. For instance, McCready lost the district even as he won suburban Mecklenburg County by 13 percentage points, an improvement on the 2018 results, when he won Mecklenburg by 10 points. (The portion of Mecklenburg that falls in the 9th District consists of affluent white areas of metro Charlotte.) But as noted by Ryan Matsumoto, an analyst at Inside Elections, McCready did worse than his 2018 performance in every other county, most of which are sparsely populated.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Lone Pine Policy I: New Hampshire enters the 1970s

New Hampshire entered the 1970s at a crossroads, it was a rapidly growing state that saw its existing infrastructure increasingly strained. As the only state without a broad based tax of any kind, whether it be a sales or income tax, New Hampshire faced questions of whether or not this would be sustainable going forward. Could a growing state support its population on just a property tax? It was a worthy question to ask. After all, New Hampshire had just emerged from an era where it was one of the slowest growing states in the country. Buoyed by a renewed interest in rural living, New Hampshire added 200,000 people between 1950 and 1970. To put that growth into perspective, the state added almost as many people between 1870 and 1950 as it did between 1950 and 1970. The 21.5% growth between 1960 and 1970 was the first time that New Hampshire had posted growth of over 20% since the 1810 Census.

People were coming to New Hampshire for a whole host of reasons. Some were hippies, who saw the forest and mountains of the Granite State as a place where they could leave freely and outside of the societal mainstream. Their lasting legacy on the state was founding of Franconia College in the North Country in the early 1960s. Others were retirees who saw New Hampshire as a low tax alternative to their home states, these people were largely from Massachusetts. During the 1960s, New Hampshire was inundated with people moving into the state. As reported in The Boston Globe, at one political gathering in rural New Hampshire, a retiree from Massachusetts noted that it was "like Florida," no one that she knew was actually from New Hampshire. The state was booming and everyone was asking the question, how do we pay for it?

Enter Meldrim Thomson, perhaps the most influential force in 1970s New Hampshire politics. Thomson was a Southern raised and educated man who had relocated to New Hampshire in the 1950s. He was a lawyer by trade, though he didn't practice. He was a law book publisher who had relocated his business and family to the North Country. It didn't take long for him to become active in local politics, serving on the Orford school board where he earned a reputation as a fiscal hawk, reluctant to spend money or even, in some cases, accept money for fear of losing local control. In the mid-1960s, Thomson fought the acceptance of federal dollars, even when his school district was facing financial peril, because he felt that it would lead to federal control in the classroom. Thomson would ultimately be voted off of the school board in 1968 after threatening to withhold the diplomas of local high school students after a dispute with students over a commencement speaker. Two months later, Thomson entered the Republican primary for governor.

The issue of broad based taxation was a recurring issue in 1960s New Hampshire politics and the 1968 election was no different. Thomson ran on the platform of "Axe the Tax" and unequivocally said that he would veto any taxation bill. His stance earned him the endorsement of the right-leaning New Hampshire Union Leader and its influential publisher William Loeb. Boosted by this support, he would unexpectedly finish a close 3rd in the primary behind former Governor Wesley Powell and the nominee House Speaker Walter Peterson, a substantial boost to his political fortunes.

As the nominee, Peterson was neutral on the topic, pledging to never propose an income or sales tax but also never saying whether or not he would veto one. Democratic nominee Hillsborough County attorney Emile Bussiere was more direct in his opposition to any broad based taxation, even rebuking the official platform of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which called for "new taxation" (though what this would be was never specified). Bussiere was attempting to run on the economic legacy of outgoing Democratic governor John King, who had also profusely opposed broad based taxation. In the end, Peterson was able to win the election. In their coverage of the election, The Boston Globe noted that Peterson proved that you could win a statewide election without taking a hardline stance against broad based taxation. As any observer of New Hampshire politics knows, this paradigm would change significantly over the coming decade.

Despite his loss, Thomson was not done running for governor. He kept campaigning, holding grassroots events throughout 1969 and 70, pledging to fight against the specter of high taxation. He began writing columns in the Union Leader in order to build his brand around the state and put himself in a position to challenge Peterson in a rematch in 1970. The Union Leader boosted Thomson by criticizing the governor and using their influence to increase his vulnerability. His rallies included scare tactics meant to arouse fear of high taxation. At one event, he mentioned the negotiation of a union contract in Maryland that raised teacher salaries to $9,000 and warned that that (and the associated high taxes) could come to New Hampshire. His message resonated well with those who wanted to maintain New Hampshire's status as a low-tax state and didn't care that it had the lowest per capita spending on education at the time. Despite his efforts, he would once again come up short in 1970, losing by just over 2,000 votes (or approximately 1%) to Peterson. In response, Thomson would leave the Republican Party and mount a third party run in the general election. However, he would lose again to Peterson, winning just over 10% of the vote.

The election however did expose a vulnerability for Peterson, who managed to only get 46% of the vote. The Democratic nominee Roger Crowley was a conservative who, like Thomson, was staunchly anti-taxation. Crowley was also boosted by an endorsement of the Union Leader who encouraged Thomson to drop out and its readers to vote for Crowley. While Crowley and Thomson both failed to unseat the governor, their voters did combine for a majority of the electorate. What did this mean for 1972?

In 1972, Crowley again declared for the Democratic nomination and Thomson sought a third rematch against Peterson for the Republican nomination. Would 1972 be different?

Join us next week as we explore the 1972 gubernatorial election.

My Rural Travelogue (Part XXVI): A drive through the Basque country

During my recent visit to the Iberian peninsula Europe, I spent a few nights in Bilbao and, on the day between, drove into the countryside, initial destination Guernica, the spiritual home of the Basque people and the target of Franco's 1937 bombing of the civilian population.  (Needless to say, the two are related).  That crime against humanity inspired Picasso's well-known painting, Guernica.  

Like so much of Basque country, I found Guernica tidy and attractive.  I also found a very helpful woman in the tourist information office who suggested I visit the Urdaibai Bird Center about 10 kilometers away in Gautegiz Arteaga.  (Urdaibai is apparently the name of this subregion).  That was a great tip, as the interpretive materials about bird migration and the importance of this region to that phenomenon were fabulous.  While there, I had the chance to poke around and see some neighboring residents' garden plots, like the one below.  I then continued on north through Ibarranguelua to Elantxobe, right on the Cantabrian Sea.  
 Barn, above housing development, in Gautegiz Arteaga
 in the province of Bizkaia/Biscay
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019 
Along the way, I saw a few cows and one barn set up above some relatively new housing units.  So, the area is agricultural, yes, but that aspect of the economy does not loom particularly large to the casual observer (like me). 

On my way back to Bilbao, I stopped for gasoline and saw bags of oranges for sale at the gas station.  I also saw a truck loaded with freshly cut logs, apparently coming in from this heavily forested, mountain region. 
Grocery story sign, apparently advertising that the tomatoes are locally grown,
including by this farmer.  Interestingly the store's name is "BM Urban" (c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019
View of farm from Urdaibai Bird Center,
near Gautegiz Arteaga, Bizkaia
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt

Bus schedule, Ibarranguelua, Bizkaia/Biscay
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

Oranges for sale at a gas station in exurban Bilbao
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

Truck loaded with harvested timber, exurban Bilbao
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

Saturday, September 7, 2019

My Rural Travelogue (Part XXV): Is "rural" the word for "rural" across Europe?

I am wrapping up a few weeks in Europe, where I have visited France, Spain (including Catalan, Basque and Galician regions), and Portugal, and I have noticed the word "rural" being used in each of these places just as it is in the United States.  I believe the Latin for rural is "ruralis," so to the extent all of these languages are Latin-based, it makes sense that they all use the word "rural."  Also, I noted that signs about rural accommodation, like the one at bottom, often also mentioned agri-tourism, perhaps as a synonym. 

Near Beaune, France.  As far as I can tell, the sign marks some rural accommodation at a vineyard.
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019
Arga de Baixo, Portugal (near Ponte de Lima).  Sign translates to "Rural Center of Reconco."
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019

Rural Kutxa means Rural Bank, photo taken in Bilbao, Spain
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019
Sign for "Casa Rural," approaching Elantxobe, Bizkaia (Basque Country). 
Yes, that is the Atlantic Ocean in the distance,
visible between wall on left and building on the right.
(c) Lisa R. Pruitt 2019 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bullock releases "Plan for Rural America"

Here's the overview from his website:
You shouldn’t have to leave your home, community, or church just to get by in America. And at a time when President Trump has sought to create divisions in our country, including sowing discord between urban and rural Americans, Steve knows the value of coming together and working towards shared prosperity.
Ensuring everyone has a fair shot is too important to just throw out lofty plans that can’t be implemented. So we will show exactly how Steve plans to get it done, whether it requires legislation or executive action. 
His first priority will be to establish an Office of Rural Affairs to coordinate these initiatives within the White House, reporting directly to the President, to provide leadership and coordinate the development of policies for rural America across executive departments and agencies.
Other candidates may also have rural plans, but I have not seen them promoted in the way Bullock's  is being promoted on his Twitter feed the last day or so, which is what took me over to his webpage.  Among the other images I saw on his Twitter feed, these words superimposed on a short clip depicting an agricultural scape along a river:  "This Is More than Flyover County.  It's Time DC Started Acting Like It." 

 I know Pete Buttigieg has been talking this week about making cows carbon neutral, which is pretty, um, interesting and cool.  See the Tweet here:

Here's a story from Vox on Buttigieg's plan to make the U.S. carbon neutral by the time he's 68 years old.  The subhead for that story is "The South Bend mayor’s new climate change plan sets ambitious targets and includes small towns and rural areas."  So, whereas Bullock is centering "rural"--making it the headline--Buttigieg is doing a good job of talking about rural angles on other issues, e.g., climate change.  

Recall that Hillary Clinton had an extensive rural plan during her 2016 candidacy, but it was little acknowledged in the media and drew little attention, seemingly just sitting there on her web page.  That doesn't give me much hope that Bullock's plan will draw attention, especially since he's hardly a contender for the presidency.