When you think of a New England tradition like Old Home Day, you think of food on the grill, kids’ games, free entertainment, marching bands and plenty of red, white and blue. And you’re likely as well to think of politicians wandering the crowd, extending a handshake, sporting big smiles and maybe even kissing babies.
Campaigning is as much a part of town get-togethers as grilled food. And we don’t see anything wrong with politicians showing up at town celebrations, marching in parades or stopping by a group of residents to say hello, particularly in a state known for its first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Scheduling campaign speeches for the event is a different story, and one we think has no place in the festivities. But politicians have as much right to visit and chat up people as anyone else – again, especially in New Hampshire, where politics is nothing if not personal.
Town festivals are no place for promoting one political party. They’re events for the whole town, and that crosses party lines.
But that’s what appears to have happened in Londonderry last week, where a Republican presidential candidate was told he would be welcome to campaign at Kidz Night, and Democrats failed to receive invitations to march in the Old Home Day Parade – breaking a long-time tradition of having the Governor lead the parade.
Ben Carson was given the go-ahead by town officials to visit Kidz Night, only to find that it was not an appropriate venue for politicking. We could chalk that up to poor communication between over-zealous handlers and eager-to-please town officials.
But the absence of elected Democratic officials in Saturday’s parade, when Republican officials were very much in evidence? That’s hard to swallow. The Governor’s Office said the invitation to Maggie Hassan was sent to the wrong address, and by the week before the parade, when her absence on the parade roster was noticed by Londonderry Democrats, she had committed to another Old Home Day.
What of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen? What of Executive Councilor Chris Pappas? Were they invited in a timely manner?
In the world of “he said, she said,” we’ll never know what really happened. But we do know that the Old Home Day parade is for everyone in Londonderry, regardless of political party affiliation. That’s a tradition we need to cherish. And we need to show a little respect, not expecting the Governor, for example, to ask to march.
Whatever your political party, having a community celebration appear to be a partisan activity is not appropriate. And even if it wasn’t deliberate, just careless, appearances count.