Verbum Ultimum: Make it Count

The NH primary is one month away — let's embrace the moment.

by THE DARTMOUTH EDITORIAL BOARD | 1/10/20 2:00am

The New Hampshire primary is just a month away. And with 14 Democrats and three Republicans each vying for their party’s nomination, this is a competitive and complex race if there ever was one.

As it stands, the race for the Democratic nomination is in a dead heat in this state: A recent Monmouth University poll shows the four leading Democratic contenders — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — all polling within a handful of points of each other. Add to those four a wide range of other promising candidates polling in the single digits, and the race is very much still up for grabs. 

The New Hampshire presidential primary is one of the most important political events in the United States — and Dartmouth students have a unique opportunity to contribute to it. 

Given its position early in election years, the New Hampshire primary has consistently played a significant role in the nominating process for the major political parties. A candidate’s performance in New Hampshire is often viewed as a proxy for how they will fare in the rest of the primaries, and candidates face extraordinary amounts of media scrutiny. Whether you like it or not that such a small state plays such an outsized role in American politics, the reality is that the New Hampshire primary is a key test for any presidential hopeful.

That was certainly true the last time around. In the 2016 election, New Hampshire’s primary directly affected the presidential nomination race for both parties. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders won the state by a significant margin over Hillary Clinton, demonstrating that his appeal to Democratic voters was wider than many had thought and foreshadowing the close race he would maintain with Clinton during the rest of the primaries. And after losing the Iowa caucuses to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump managed to win New Hampshire, proving his viability as a presidential candidate to many who had previously been skeptical of his campaign. 

According to a poll conducted by The Dartmouth this past fall, 51 percent of Dartmouth students indicated that they plan to vote in this year’s New Hampshire primary. That means that, by rough calculation, as many as 2,000 undergraduates will be casting their ballots in the Granite State. With polls showing a close contest in the Democratic primary, it may just be that the votes of Dartmouth students will shape the ultimate outcome of this election.

As primary election day approaches, we should embrace the opportunity that this election gives us. Many Dartmouth students only spend four years living in this state, and the upcoming election will be their only chance to have an impact on such a significant political event. That students have such a large role to play in the future of our nation’s country is not something to be taken for granted; indeed, New Hampshire is at the center of consequential debates on voting rights. It’s no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world will be trained on our state come Election Day — so with one month to go, let’s make sure we make the most of it.

These past few weeks have underscored the stakes of the election. Last week, President Trump ordered the assassination of Iran’s second-in-command, General Qasem Soleimani, prompting the Iranians to launch retaliatory strikes on American military bases. While Trump seems to have turned away from further escalation, the situation should remind us of just how much power a president holds. 

Look to controversies over health care, the immigration debate, environmental issues, trade disagreements or the rapidly changing landscape of international politics. This is a contentious time, and the tensions that defined 2019 and continue into 2020 won’t go away by themselves. We’ll need a leader with the integrity, the courage and the skill to maneuver our country in the right direction.

We aren’t here to tell you how to vote. As the race currently stands, members of this Editorial Board disagree on who the best nominee would be. What we are here to encourage is taking advantage of the opportunity we all have in Hanover. Most of the major candidates have already come to visit Dartmouth, and undoubtedly, those visits will continue in the coming month. And that’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to make our concerns heard and our ideas elevated. It’s an opportunity to make a mark on the national stage.

So in the coming weeks, engage with the election. The next month will offer us the opportunity to be active participants in a political event of major significance. Let’s embrace the moment.

The editorial board consists of the opinion editors, the executive editor and the editor-in-chief.