Truth Has Become the Victim of Political Campaigns

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Garry Rayno is's State House Bureau Chief. He is pictured in the press room at the State House in Concord.


“Summertime and the livin’ is easy/

Fish are jumping and the cotton is high,” a near perfect description of the heart of summer.

The words are the opening lines of the famous song from the opera “Porgy and Bess” written by George Gershwin nearly a century ago.

And in the Granite State, the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” — as Nat King Cole sang — are coming to an end as students return to school and vacations become a memory.

With August half over, people begin to pay attention to the candidates running around the state — most trying to introduce themselves to voters — with the state primary a month away.

New Hampshire still values retail politics, but outside influences are playing a greater and greater role in part due to the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of outside money into the state.

All that money has not been a good influence on the political playing field here or nationally and has helped fuel the partisan divide haunting the state and the country.

Much of the outside money is used to reinforce the adage “if you tell a lie enough, people will believe it is true.”

Political spin has been around forever, but there used to be a little bit of truth in the spin, but today truth is no longer a prerequisite for million-dollar ad campaigns.

And it is not just the ad campaign, the “talking points” are amplified over social media and in a short time the lie is fact.

The “Inflation Reduction Act 2022” passed the Senate and the House, but President Joe Biden has yet to sign it into law.

Before the ink hits the paper millions of people believe armed Internal Revenue Service agents will be appearing at the homes of middle class Americans to collect taxes on the lemonade stand you had as a child.

The extreme is Alex Jones and his Infowars website claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre taking the lives of 20 students and six adults never happened but was staged.

Last week a Texas jury awarded three parents of children killed in the shooting nearly$50 million in a court case in which Jones was convicted of defamation.

Whether that slows down the conspiracy theories will be known in the coming months, but you shouldn’t be optimistic.

What will not slow down at all is the political warfare heading into the 2024 midterm elections.

Politics has always been a blood sport. In the 1960s President Johnson ran “The Daisy” television ad showing a young girl stopping to pick a daisy and counting the petals while an ominous male voice starts counting down from 10.

When the countdown ends, there is a nuclear explosion with Johnson saying these are the stakes.

His opponent in the 1964 presidential election was US Sen. Barry Goldwater who had urged making it easy for the military to use nuclear weapons.

Former President George H.W. Bush’s campaign ran the Willie Horton ad about a black man serving a life sentence for murder, but given a weekend furlough under Massachusetts law.

While out on furlough, he committed assault, armed robbery and rape in another state.

Bush’s opponent in the 1988 presidential race was Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.

Those were television ads that significantly impacted the races aimed at opponents.

Former President George W. Bush had the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC during his first year in office.

The country and most of the world was united against the terrorists, but the Republican strategy for the 2002 and 2004 was to portray Democrats as soft on terrorism and somehow less patriotic than Republicans after the attacks.

One of the chief spokesmen for that approach ironically was Dick Cheney, whose daughter, Liz, now stands to lose her GOP primary due to her integrity and courage to oppose the actions of former President Donald Trump.

During the same time period, Republicans also ran a television ad showing Georgia Democratic US Sen. Max Cleland with pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein although he was a triple amputee from fighting in Vietnam.

With the turn of the century, the overall strategy was to portray Democrats as less patriotic than Republicans.

Instead of going after particular candidates, it was now political parties in the crosshairs.

And gradually instead of discussing and debating policies in an open battle for public support, it became a race to demonize the other side and characterize them as the enemy, not as fellow Americans. The desire was not to work to find common ground or at least some kind of middle ground.

Today each side tries to define the other side before they can define themselves.

The Democrats are socialists who want to destroy the country, and Republicans are authoritarians who want to dismantle democracy.

Some of the Republicans responsible for the party warfare — like Stewart Stevens  — are honest enough to admit their parts in what has become a disaster of Washington gridlock and partisan entrenchment.

The state level may not be quite as toxic, but it is becoming more and more like the national political scene driven by the mega money of super PACs and party funds that all come with strings.

Two years ago, Democrats controlled the State House with the exception of the governor’s office.

After the 2020 election, Republicans controlled the State House flipping the Executive Council, Senate and House with the help of a couple millions dollars of outside money and fewer than 5,000 votes.

The “new money” flowing into New Hampshire is to drive an experiment aimed at ending government as we know it.

What is lost with all that money, is honest discussions about the issues facing the state and the country.

What to do about public education funding, an extremely fragile healthcare system that leaves many far from emergency services and hinders access for some, soaring fuel prices, home prices pushing all but the wealthy into a lifetime of rentals even if you can find a place to live which is difficult, growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor to name a few problems.

Many of the issues have become partisan campaign points driven by social media and more mailers than you need to start the wood stove this coming winter.

With partisan issues, the two sides no longer can agree on the facts and without that, there is no place to begin the discussion. Instead, you have just two people screaming at each other.

Not that long ago, there was a very different environment in Concord. It was not always pleasant or agreeable, but it wasn’t constantly attacking and aggression and just plain bullying and lying.

Politics has always been a dirty business at times, but now it is filthy most of the time.

And the victim is not only the citizens, it is also the truth.

People need to remember what is carved in stone on the outside of the original Central Intelligence Agency building in Washington D.C. “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

Today most people cannot agree what is the truth much less how it can set you free.

Enjoy the last days of summer.

Garry Rayno may be reached at

Distant Dome by veteran journalist Garry Rayno explores a broader perspective on the State House and state happenings for Over his three-decade career, Rayno covered the NH State House for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Foster’s Daily Democrat. During his career, his coverage spanned the news spectrum, from local planning, school and select boards, to national issues such as electric industry deregulation and Presidential primaries. Rayno lives with his wife Carolyn in New London.

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