“Who is a freestater?” – Guest Article by NH Rep. Seth Cohn
Filed under: Democrats, Essay, Free State Project, New Hampshire, Politics, Porcfest, Republicans, Response
[Thanks to Ian for reposting this, and the offer to blog here at FreeKeene. I'll post here occasionally, with insights I've gained over the years, or perhaps counterpoints. I've evolved in my view on the Keene methods of activism. And perhaps that'll be my next post here... -- Seth]
Found a post over at BlueHampshire, and my reply is below (I copied the rest for context)
There is no right to know
by: Marjorie Porter
Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 20:02:05 PM EDT
Over the last several days, I have been trying, via Twitter, to get @FreeStateNH to tell me which candidates running for the NH House are members of the Free State Project. They have boasted there are 14 FSP members currently serving in the NH House. But they keep telling me FSP is not political. I keep asking how I will know if a candidate is FSP. I have asked and asked. I have said voters have the right to know. Tonight they told me there is no right to know.
[A few comments were posted when I found the above, I include them for context]
TimothyHorrigan @ Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 17:26:52 PM EDT
My guess is:
Laurie Pettengill (R-Caroll #1)
Calvin Pratt (R-Hillsboro #7)
Mark Warden (R-Hillsboro #7)
Tammy Simmons (R-Hillsboro #17)
Kathy Lauer-Rago (R-Merrimack #2)
Jennifer Coffey (R-Merrimack #6)
Seth Cohn (R-Merrimack #6)
Carol McGuire (R-Merrimack #8)
Dan McGuire (R-Merrimack #8)
JR Hoell (R-Merrimack #13)
Andrew Manuse (R-Rockingham #5)
Susan DeLemus (R-Strafford #1)
Kyle Jones (R-Strafford #1)
Laura Jones (R-Strafford #1)
I could be wrong. Some of them did not come from far away: Manuse came here from Boston & DeLemus is a native of Vermont.
PeadarS @ Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 17:58:34 PM EDT
Simmons isn’t technically, a Free Stater
While Tammy Simmons votes the libertarian line, she moved to New Hampshire long before the Free State Project appeared on the scene.
Manuse is definitely a Free Stater. Heck, he was involved with them even while working as a political reporter for the Metrowest Daily News and the Hippo Press.
Cam DeJong of Manchester and Keith Murphy of Bedford are involved as well.
susanthe [aka Susan Bruce, renowned freestater hater] @ Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 20:07:40 PM EDT
Pettengill isn’t a Free Stater. She’s also been gerrymandered out of a district, thank Chandler.
And then I wrote my reply:
Marjorie, why didn’t you try asking me?
FreeStateNH, or whomever is behind the twitter account (a mix of volunteers), isn’t going to answer you, because like all organizations, it is not going to disclose private information.
You haven’t asked me. And you know me, and have my contact info handy. I answer my email and my phone, and even my twitter account.
The right to know law, as you should know, is about government meetings. Not about private individuals. I don’t have the ‘right’ to inquire about your personal finances, where you go on vacation, who your friends are, what books you read, or your favorite food. Why should you (or anyone else) have the ‘right’ to know about someone’s association (a protected constitutional right, you’d agree), if they don’t want to disclose it themselves?
“Are you now or have you ever been a freestater?” You really want to begin a new McCarthyism? Bad enough that the NH chapter of the American Federation of Teachers put “Do you support the Free State Project?” as a question on their survey this year. Out of 25 questions, THIS was more important than questions about children and learning?
You want to know who is a freestater? Well, here’s my answer: We all are. We’re all freestaters now. I have met native NH folks you can’t tell apart from folks who moved for freedom. I have met folks who moved 20 years ago who are as passionate as the people who moved 3 years ago. (I’ve lived in NH for almost 8 years now, myself) I’ve met folks whom you would call ‘liberal’ who are freestaters, and folks who are strongly conservative who are freestaters, and folks who are neither. I’ve met Christians, Jews, Atheists and Flying Spaghetti Monster acolytes, all of whom are FSPers. Yes, the number of folks in the NH House this year was AT LEAST a dozen… but you’ll be hard pressed to figure out WHO from just our our voting records, our floor fights, etc.
Let’s take two examples:
Jenn Coffey, who wrote an autobiography http://www.amazon.com/Knives-Lipstick-Liberty-Womans-Journey/dp/1435764242 )
so she’s outed herself quite publicly, and ‘blames’ me (among others) for nudging her into politics,
And then how about myself as the Concord Monitor first reported on me being a freestater WAY back in 2005, including an editorial by Mike Pride? http://www.conmon.com/MT/archives/2005/11/not_ready_for_p.html
Jenn and I, during the course of a single year, fought fiercely on the floor on very opposite sides of some bills, and together on some others. Who was the ‘freestater’ there? Which side was the “Freestaters are always wrong” side?
Andrew Manuse and I fought against CACR12 openly and publicly, and counted on the entire Democratic Caucus to hold firm WITH us, despite that we were saying that that amendment would give Democrats much of what they want in education. Politics makes strange bedfellows, as WMUR discovered when they then interviewed Rep. David Hess who called me and others “anarchists” in an unholy alliance with the Democrats. So were the House Democrats wrong? Or did you all become honorary freestaters that day, even if you disagreed with our arguments, and voted for your own reasons? Hard to say.
Those who voted to end Sobriety Checkpoints, or raise the Speed limit, or so many other bills where it wasn’t about Republicans versus Democrats, but freedom versus control, when Democrats “voted with the Freestaters”, at what point do they qualify as ‘freestaters’?
You can’t pick us out from the New Hampshire Liberty Ratings, nor from the House Republican Alliance rating, or the Americans for Prosperity ratings (so much for Koch Bros being behind us), nor even from the BIA or other report cards. Even the most liberal ratings don’t lump us together. There is no monolithic ‘freestater’ viewpoint. Freedom. We don’t all agree on what that means, but we all move in that direction.
I love the list of names above. Some of the folks on that list are going to LAUGH so hard that you think they are freestaters. Same when O’Brien is called one. He’s not… except he is now too. We’re all freestaters now.
The Occupiers recently had a kerfuffle over ‘Freestaters’ and self-defensive gun carrying. Non-freestaters who believed in their 2nd amendment rights were told they were ‘freestaters’, and Ann Marie Timmins (unable to get into O’Brien’s office, so she had some time to do the research) wrote multiple stories about the friction
The coverage she wrote tries to be balanced, and includes how even some liberal folks who dared to wish to be inclusive were being labeled as ‘freestaters’, in fact, anyone the other side wished to attack was now a ‘freestater’, regardless of being born here or not. In the words of one woman I now consider a friend despite the things we still strongly disagree on,
“Quite frankly… I am ashamed that ‘my’ liberals are so exposing that they have such an ugly underbelly… I used to be naive and think we were ‘the good guys’ who took the high road… thanks for the reality check”
Is she now a freestater? (I like to think so… She and I agree on many things.)
How about this video from Iraq War Veteran for Peace, Will Hopkins? Arnie Arnesen [well known and vocal liberal] played this on her radio show (starts 13 minutes in), she felt so strongly [positive] about his statement:
Is Will now a freestater? He’s willing to work with “us”… I’m glad to (in his words), “take up a blade” alongside him.
So you want to know who the Freestaters are? They are on both sides, there are Freestater Democrats (like Joel Winters, 2 term House Rep), and Freestater Republicans (like Andrew Manuse), and those who stand with feet placed widely all over the map like me… publicly a teapartier, an occupier, a freestater, Libertarian, Republican, even a registered Democrat at times in my life. One member of House Democratic leadership told me that he expects me to run again in the future as a Democrat. I laughed, but who knows? Steve Vaillancourt did it, and won as R, as D, and even as L. He’s the only one in the country to do so.
I’m more likely to work towards the new populism I see as critical to change, bringing Occupiers and Tea Partiers together. And don’t be surprised if we’ll all be freestaters, because we’re all freestaters now.
by: SethCohn @ Sun Aug 05, 2012 at 02:09:59 AM EDT
Rep. Marjorie Porter replies:
Seth, You have to admit some of the more “out there” bills, the ones that my constituents have been most shocked and disturbed by, came from reps who have been identified eventually as members of the project.
I was not asking who in the current house are FSP. I was asking how voters are to know if a candidate running now is a member of the FSP. I maintain voters have the right to know this. The response I got from FreeStateNH was “There is no right to know.”
I understand there are at least two new house candidates running as Dems who are members of the project, although they have not identified themselves as such. I do not understand how they can do that if they’ve read the state Democratic Party platform. I do not understand how they can be members of the project, and hold the project philosophy, and yet agree to the platform, which is often diametrically opposed. I think they are being deceitful.
Why do members of the project feel they have to disguise themselves as Republican or Democrat? Aren’t they proud of their beliefs? Why not run as third party candidates and be honest about where they stand on issues like public education, taxes, and regulations? Why not come out in the open?
I DO think voters have the right to know whether the candidates they are voting for are Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Free State, Whig, No Nothing…whatever. As a voter, I would be pretty angry if I voted for a Democrat and later found out he/she was a really a Republican in hiding. I would feel snookered.
The prose is lovely–we are all free staters now. But many of the people I talk to–and not just liberal Democrats, but moderate Republicans too–are frightened by the Free State Project, especially if they have read the famous Sorens quote, the one about taking over state and local government, eliminating taxes, and threatening secession. It feels like anarchy to them, and they are afraid. They do not want a bunch of out-of-staters coming here and taking over the state, and forcing a philosophy down their throats.
Most people I talk to want their roads maintained, their homes protected in case of fire, their lives and possessions protected by the police, their kids taught in public schools, and safety net services provided in case they may some day need them through no fault of their own. They want the elderly, the disabled, and the mentally ill cared for in a humane way. They want to know the water they drink and the food they eat are safe. They want common-sense regulations on guns, and they want to know their massage therapist is not a shyster. They understand that these are services their government provides, and their taxes pay for. They don’t want some self-proclaimed saviors coming in and telling them they should want otherwise, and forcing their will upon them. Especially when those saviors will not identify themselves openly as members of the group. (Remember The Manchurian Candidate?)
And that is how it feels, to those of us who are not free staters.
You talk about ‘out there bills’…We’ve discussed some of these here already, such as this thread: http://www.bluehampshire.com/diary/14010/randomly-bad
and way back in late Jan, I sent a long reply to an email sent to the “All Representatives” list, which I’ll include below. I got very positive feedback from Democratic Reps on that letter, perhaps you’ll recall it.
You want to know if a candidate likes the ideas of liberty? Ask the candidate maybe? Every candidate I know is honest about their viewpoints on the issues. In fact, I’ve talked a number of potential candidates and the FIRST thing I always say is to be honest, and upfront. Never lie, your honor is all you have. You might lose a vote, but at least the people know what they are getting. I pride myself on the number of people on both sides who told me they’d miss me in the House, despite our disagreements, because I was direct and honest and willing to discuss and have a conversation about the issues.
You wonder how candidates run for office, under a party platform, and yet hold views that are the opposite?
“As a voter, I would be pretty angry if I voted for a Democrat and later found out he/she was a really a Republican in hiding. I would feel snookered”
So I assume you’ll be publicly condemning Carolyn Gargasz, Julie Brown, David Kidder, Alida Milham, and my colleague in Canterbury, Priscilla Lockwood? They all score under 50% according to the HRA, meaning they voted less than half the time with the Platform… See http://nhhra.org/Scorecards/Scorecard11-12score.pdf
I scored an 84%, the same score as Pam Tucker, Deputy Speaker, and former Majority Leader DJ Bettencourt (despite not voting the same way in many cases), and certainly right in the upper middle of the pack of Republicans for conforming to the party platform. I’ve always said I was an 80%er when it came to the GOP platform… the voters got what I promised them.
Why not run as 3rd parties? Because the nature of our ‘first past the post’ voting system causes 3rd parties to be pointless endeavors 99% of the time. Vote to reform our ballot access, and voting system, making it fairer and more representative, and you’ll see Greens, Progressives, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Occupiers, Socialists, and more on the ballot again, and elected.
As for “right to know”, on twitter, you were asked about http://naacpvalabamaat50.org
Are you disagreeing with the right to private association which was affirmed by that case?
There is NO ‘free state party’, I hope you understand that. You continue to act as if there is. Free Stater is a state of mind (Freedom!), not a platform. The ‘statement of intent’ is not a pledge on issues, merely on principle.
If people are ‘frightened’ by the FSP, who only learn about the FSP from the Democratic talking points, or the one 10 year old quote of Jason Sorens some of you love to continue to repeat adnausem, no wonder they are scared.
I’ll quote from someone else, who says it far better than I can (since they have a fresh perspective, while I’ve been here for 8 years now in the trenches), and this woman didn’t move here because of the FSP, she came to NH completely for her own reasons with her family, and isn’t a rightwinger by any means:
I had not heard of the FSP until I moved here. When I did hear of it, it was usually prefaced with “those crazy Free Staters” Since then, I have met several new friends who are part of the FSP. I have read about it and learned that what is crazy is that no one understands why the FSP is the most rational approach to the problems we face. However, truth be told, I wanted to see for myself what I thought, and Porcfest allowed me to do that.
Porcfest is where I spent my vacation with my family. I was like a kid in a candy store. So much brain candy in the form of conversation and idea exchange. I learned more about mutual aid, living as a community and healing what is broken, than anything else. I got my questions answered and I am now part of the Free State Project. I am so glad that I live in New Hampshire with such well rounded and intelligent people who understand where real power lies.
I moved to New Hampshire already intent on growing my own food, starting my own business or working for someone I respect, yet just learning how civil disobedience is an effective weapon. I have already determined that I do not consent to this current criminal entity called our government and am actively opting out. I already worked out what I needed to do. I moved here for many of the same reasons the FSP exists, and spend most of my time addressing this stuff in my day to day life.
And that is how it feels, to those of us who are free staters, which is more and more of us. I’ve learned that most people have false impressions of what a FreeStater is. I’ve devoted myself to correcting that. That’s why I write the stuff I write, give the talks/speeches I give, fight the fights I fight…
When the opposition writes items like this: (Shawn Girard on why he believes that Occupy must reject Freestaters):
The “gun issue”, as it has become known is but a convenient porthole which we can use to inspect and criticize the greater movement. The fundamental insistence on the primacy of individual sovereignty will forever cause the group to reject making their individual wishes secondary to the community. It is because of this fundamental tenet that the FSP can never stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.
There are no solutions to the problems of the world we live in today which do not involve the combined work and sacrifice of all people toward the progress of humankind. The degree of that sacrifice must be democratically determined by all people (and by people alone) and cannot be voluntary or subject to the trump of any individual.
Reading that, I have to admit I’m not only sure I’m on the right side in opposition to his views [I don't think Occupy stands for what he does, to be clear. Another essay to write some day - Seth], but more and more, I find that people are agreeing with me and not him. We’re all freestaters now, when the opposition tells us that if you disagree with their involuntary solutions, you are a freestater in thought if not in deed. Ok, guilty as charged.
The letter mentioned above written in late Jan 2012:
From: average citizen Sent: January 31, 2012 3:43 PM
To: ~All Representatives
I am writing to ask that my [town] representatives AND their peers take back the House from the crazies. Everyday there is new nonsense floated from the far right….the Free Staters seem to be passing out the Kool-Aid.
Magna Carta citations? Guns w/o registration? Guns on campuses? Return the drop-out age at our high schools to 16 ?!! Let parents design custom curricula for their children?!
It’s sickening. Restore common sense to the chamber.
signed, [name removed for privacy]
From: Cohn, Seth
Sent: January 31, 2012 10:42 PM
To: citizen and ~All Representatives
Subject: RE: HELP!
On behalf of the Free Staters in the house (all dozen or so of us, and I don’t think any of us possess Svengali-like powers to entrance a majority of the other ~388 members of the House), I must clarify some things…
1) I don’t consider myself ‘far-right’, being in favor of same-sex marriage, drug legalization, strong civil liberties stances, and other issues not commonly considered ‘right’ at all. And while frequently smiling and a bit rotund, I promise never to break through walls to serve up Koolaid of any flavor. Neither Blue nor Red. Free Staters don’t even always agree with each other.
2) The Magna Carta bill had no “Free Stater” sponsors. In fact, I privately said to one of the sponsors last week, “You realize, they’ll call you a Free Stater now…” in jest, and viola.(And I voted to recommend to kill this bill, as well in committee, just to be clear.)
3) NH does not have ‘gun registration’, at all. We allow nearly anyone, even mere minutes in the State, to be handed a gun by anyone, and to wear it proudly and visibly. No permit, no license, no training. That is current law.
If you are referring to what is called by some “Constitutional Carry” (no permit needed to carry concealed), have you ever been to Vermont? Vermont allows this right now and has for years. I don’t read any tales about the vast crime waves or blood in the streets of Vermont, do you?
BTW, No Free Stater sponsors on this bill either.
4) As for ‘guns on Campuses‘, it was the intent of the sponsors to clarify what is, again, already existing law, that like towns and cities now, campuses and other ‘public venues’ do not have the authority to control firearms without the direct legislative authority to do so.But either way, AGAIN, No Free Stater sponsors on this bill.
5) I believe you are referring to last years HB429, permitting a child 16 years of age or older to withdraw from school with parental permission, which was killed in the Senate.And once again, No Free Staters were sponsors on the bill.
6) And finally, HB542, a bill which, despite having a single sponsor (you guessed it: not a Free Stater), saw multiple revisions of its’ text, all seeking to restore parental rights guaranteed by multiple Supreme Court decisions going back to 1929, amended and worked on repeatedly both in the Senate and the House (by the combined efforts of many diverse individuals, including myself early in the House activity), and finally, having been vetoed by the governor, requiring a super-majority to override and pass into law.
Your description of the bill is incorrect: It allows, based on parental objection, for a parent to work with a school district, and find a mutually agreeable replacement, for which the parent will pay 100% of the costs. What exactly do you object to there, if the parent is taking the time, energy, and full cost to be involved in their child’s education, and the school district has not only continued input but can object to any proposed alternatives as well?
Governor Lynch spoke today in his State of the State address:
Finally, I’d like to talk about how we deal with each other, and the people we serve.
There’s a harshness in the air, in the tone and nature of our communication, and particularly within this building, that’s not healthy for our people or our democracy. We can disagree, without demonizing one another.
Vigorous debate is important, but our citizens expect us to behave with dignity and respect. They expect us to look for common ground and common purpose. We can find inspiration and models to follow in our people, who show us every day how to come together.
I agree with him, and this response to you (and to my colleagues), is in that vein. There is a tendency to demonize ‘Free Staters’ and blame them for whatever bills are proposed, or passed that are disliked, and as I show above, that’s an unfair categorization. As someone who has actively participated in both Tea Party events and Occupy NH events, because I believe both sides have valid concerns and issues, I believe that finding common ground is critical, and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, as well as our more politically active constituents, will agree with Governor Lynch, and cease the polarizing attacks toward those they disagree so strongly with on any given issue.
It’s quite understandable that you might have been lead to honestly believe that Free Staters were behind all of these bills you mention. The major media sources (WMUR, and most of the major papers including the Union Leader) repeat these sorts of inaccuracies over and over. Claiming that all of the ‘anti-labor’ bills heard days before were ‘Free Stater’ bills, Diane Lacey of the SEIU on WMUR’s Sunday morning show CloseUP (Jan 22nd), yet not one prime sponsor of those bills is a Free Stater, but it certainly made for good television, even if it was poor political fact-checking.
Repeating that “Speaker O’Brien is a Free Stater” might make for a good soundbite, but when Senator Shaheen’s recent inaccurate comments about his birthplace sparked curiosity as to where the various members of our House were all from, it turns out that nearly 300 out of 400 were born in a state other than New Hampshire, and in fact, 57% of all NH residents were born someplace else. Source: http://concordfactcheck.com/fact-check-sen-shaheens-comments-on-speaker-obrien-incorrect-hypocritical
So if you know someone who moved to New Hampshire, because of how wonderful the state is – being #1 in many many ways, how we have much lower taxes, how we have lower unemployment, how we have more transparency and greater accessibility in our politics (local, state, and presidential), they might just be a Free Stater. Or not. Does it matter? I don’t think so. Just today, the Free State Project’s website noted that exactly 1000 people have now moved to New Hampshire over the last 7+ years for all of the above reasons, into the freest state in the Nation, hoping to make it even free-er if possible. A laudable goal, perhaps inspiring of much debate what that would look like and mean, and I hope we all continue to find common ground and common purpose in the years ahead.
Rep. Seth Cohn