Kathy Sullivan: My advice to the NH GOP still stands: purge the crazy
Following last November's election, I took the liberty of giving some advice to the New Hampshire Republican Party. While the spirit was tongue in cheek, the advice was serious. The formerly Grand Old Party needs to be healthy so that there are two sides engaged in vigorous debate.
The most important advice I gave was "enough with the crazy stuff." Boy, has that not happened. In recent weeks, Republican State Reps. Al Baldasaro and John Hikel thought it appropriate to request the arrest of 189 state legislators for voting to repeal the "stand your ground" law. They have problems with their basic civics. In the unlikely event that the repeal becomes law, their recourse is to bring a court action to have the repeal declared unconstitutional. That is the American way. Trying to throw legislators in jail because you do not like how they vote is the old Soviet Union way. The idea that legislators should be arrested because you do not like their voting records is crazy, dangerous and ignorant.
Then there was Rep. Peter Hansen, who used the word "vaginas" as an alternative term for "women" in an email sent to his legislative colleagues. It took several newspaper stories and criticism from the state Republican Party and his caucus leader before Hansen issued an apology. Even then, he had to take a do over on the apology. The first time it was one of those "it's not me, it's you" apologies, saying he was sorry to anyone who took offense. Representative, who didn't take offense?
Rounding out the festivities was Rep. Stella Tremblay. It would be wrong to say you would have to live in another country not to know about her comments regarding alleged government involvement in the Boston Marathon bombings, as they were reported with favor in Iran. She has not had the grace or good sense to stop using her First Amendment right to enrage those of us living in the real world.
I don't know if Reps. Baldassaro, Hikel, Hansen or Tremblay are ignorant, undereducated, or just so lacking in judgment that they fall for every whackadoodle piece of idiocy that pops up on the Internet. I do know this: Their embarrassing, weird, insulting and sometimes repugnant comments and ideas are not the rare utterings of the occasional eccentric who slips into the 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives. It happens over and over and over again. Until this group collectively crossed lines that even the GOP leadership could not ignore anymore, they have done it with little criticism from anyone with influence in the party.
Where was the leadership when Reps. Baldassaro, Tremblay and another Republican representative, Lars Christiansen, introduced "13ther" legislation? They believe that there was an original 13th Amendment passed back in the 1800s that was hidden away for nefarious reasons. In testimony before the House, Rep. Tremblay claimed this conspiracy had something to do with the American Bar Association, which she called a foreign entity that has infiltrated the courts and the legislatures. What?
Then there are the birthers who just can't get their arms around the fact that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Their ranks include current Reps. Baldassaro, Moe Villeneuve and Larry Rappaport, who each joined the effort to have President Obama removed from the New Hampshire ballot.
And let's not forget the Nullification Caucus, the eight representatives and two senators, led by Rep. Dan Itse, who are sponsoring a resolution claiming that the states have the authority to nullify acts of Congress. When Kelly Ayotte was running for the U.S. Senate, someone asked her position on nullification. Instead of showing some political courage by clearly stating this is a theory that was discredited when Andrew Jackson was President, she said she was a big supporter of state's rights.
I give credit to those commentators and party leaders who have finally come out and said enough is enough. But for far too long there was a Faustian bargain to ignore the not insignificant percentage of Republican legislators who express crazy ideas. For several years now, Republican candidates and party leadership turned a blind eye to the ever-increasing number of state representatives expressing increasingly strange ideas, hoping the rest of us would ignore the crazy aunt and uncle in the attic. Even now there is a tendency to treat Tremblay like an isolated oddity. In this particular instance she may stand alone, but the birther, 13ther, nullification, and other nonsense has been supported by far too many Republican legislators.
Republican leaders and other elected officials need to speak out when representatives like Tremblay say stupid things. Ignoring them makes the Republican Party look foolish.
Kathy Sullivan is a Manchester attorney and member of the Democratic National Committee. She was chairman of the state Democratic Party from 1999-2007.