By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire
It’s time to put away my Pappas for Congress lawn sign. It’s my only one. Someone contacted me to ask if I wanted it. I said sure. It showed up a few days later. I had it last time too. It goes well with the fallen leaves, another part of autumn in New Hampshire.
Truth be told, I feel a certain friendship for Chris Pappas, a man to whom I have never actually spoken. We used to live in the same neighborhood, and I would see him out for a run now and then. The first few times I saw him, I wondered if he was an attorney that I knew from court, or someone who worked at the local Hannafords. Then I realized why he looked familiar: he was my congressman, for god’s sake.
He always seemed pleasant, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have been happy to talk to me. But I figured I was doing him a favor by leaving him alone. When it reached the point where we clearly recognized each other, and ignoring him would have seemed a little odd, I would simply nod at him, and he would nod back. He probably thinks I’m a Republican.
It’s hard to speak against Karoline Leavitt in any personal sense. Like Pappas himself, she is too young to define with any lasting conviction. She is far from a finished product and speaking poorly of her is difficult because it feels like being mean to a child. But in looking back at the campaign she chose to run, she was glib, she was shallow, and she was brutal in her politics. She would have made for a sad sideshow in Congress just like Madison Cawthorne was and just like Marjorie Taylor Greene remains. The jellyfish in charge down there, that miniature, malleable man, Kevin McCarthy: he deserves a congress of self-seekers like these people, with half a soul for every four of them, and half a heart for every eight – they are just like him, after all. But our country deserves better, and that’s the pity of it.
This last election came close to finally installing the paramount function of politics as entertainment. This started long ago; there have been celebrity candidates for decades now. They crop up like weeds when the grass is weak. Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Up until now, though, these candidates would take pains to put their entertaining aside for the business and even the drudgery of politics. Ronald Reagan himself set the standard for that, and he managed well enough.
Donald Trump has successfully promoted the opposite for the past eight years now. He has put forward the idea that politics is not that serious at all; that it can be treated exactly like a game of sport, with triumphant winners and pathetic losers, with adulation owed to the former and pure contempt to the latter. He has made that the ethos of the Republican Party itself and as a result we are forced to deal with the Kanye Wests, the Lauren Boeberts, and the Herschel Walkers of this land, and in their wake, their Democratic counterparts, the AOC’s and the Fettermans. These people are good at television, they are good at self-promotion. They are good at presenting images, sometimes of fantasy and sometimes of reality. But what they aren’t, is real politicians, capable of doing real political work.
Pappas often seemed a bit tired when I saw him on the street. He looked like a fellow who had a demanding job and who needed a bit of fresh air at the end of a long day. I knew his family was well-off and I figured he wasn’t hurting. Yet there were times when I wanted to take him aside and tell him he was doing okay; that he had friends who supported him; that things would work out. I never did that, though.
So Chris, let me tell you something: I am very glad you won your last race. You are still young, strikingly so. You may still have a long career ahead of you, or you may not (Frank Guinta lived in that same neighborhood, after all, and I would nod hello to him too) (and by the way, Frank, I hope you’re doing well too, and I hope you put your shoulder to the Republican wheel again someday, because your party needs help).
But no matter what, your most recent victory saved New Hampshire from making a fool of itself on the national stage, and for that I am grateful.
You too, Maggie. Take care of yourself.
Davidow is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project, The Book of Order, and The Hunter of Talyashevka . They are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Davidow’s newest book Chanukah Land can be found here.