As the end of October looms and primary and caucus dates are being set across the nation, N.H. voters are growing increasingly impatient as they wait for a set date for the state’s N.H. primary.
According to RSA 653:9, “The presidential primary election shall be held on the second Tuesday in March or on a date selected by the secretary of state which is seven days or more immediately preceding the date on which any other state shall hold a similar election.”
N.H. Secretary of State Bill Gardner has been both hailed and criticized for trying to protect the state’s First In The Nation status as he tries to convince Nevada to reconsider it’s unusually early Jan. 14 caucus.
If Nevada fails to move its primary, Gardner has proposed a Dec. 6 or Dec. 13 primary.
This would cut nearly a month of campaigning and could alter the national effects of the FITN primary, though failure to move the primary forward would violate state law. It’s a catch-22.
But more incredible than the edge-of-your-seat battle over when the primary will be is the social media buzz it caused, especially considering Gardner’s lack of tech-savvy skills.
#BillGardnerFacts became a trending topic last week after local N.H. reporters started tweeting Chuck Norris-esque facts about Gardner, like, “New Hampshire was Old Hampshire. Until Bill Gardner came along and updated it.” And “God wanted to create the world in 11 days. Bill Gardner said 7.”
Sarcastic tweets about Gardner’s supposed superpowers hit the web and demonstrated the disdain of N.H. voters toward Gardner’s rigidity.
Everyone from press to students to state representatives joined in the fun, demonstrating how quickly and valuable the internet can be.
Although Gardner’s lack of technological use and his absence on twitter mean the tweets likely won’t make a difference either way in his decision about when to hold the primary; this exercise of social media for political participation is something that’s been long in the making, and is refreshing to see as a trending topic.
Surely campaigns have been smart enough to start internet revolutions behind their cause, from the Joe Trippi’s of the campaign world who build intricate networks of people to candidates who throw their stances on a Facebook page and call it a day. But this time, the people generated the campaign. N.H. citizens decided what they’re looking for and put it out there, quite successfully to boot.
While we’ve all posted our favorite candidate’s new ad on our wall and tweeted pieces of speeches we find remarkable, this was more interactive, it was more interesting. Twitter users didn’t just look, watch, or like, they joined.
Although poking fun at the N.H. secretary of state seems trivial, in order to participate enough to get #BillGardnerFacts, trending users had to have some level of knowledge about the conflict and the players. They had to Google “Bill Gardner” or open a newspaper or ask someone. This wasn’t a case of passive acceptance of another piece of the vast political puzzle.
This was informed participation (mixed with a bit of sarcasm and fun, of course).
The trending of Gardner’s most extreme life “accomplishments” is a true example of a grassroots movement utilizing technology for all its worth. It’s a firm reminder that government in made for the people, by the people, and we are the people.
It’s an insistence that amid all of the political turmoil that seems so far away from our small community in the valleys of western N.H., we still have a voice and the ability to determine what we want from the government.
The “Bill Gardner effect” is more than another trending topic or political decision out of reach. It’s significant and tangible proof that we still have a voice and we get to decide.
Allie Bedell can be contacted at email@example.com