Can there be too many candidates?

I was hoping to avoid the 2016 Presidential race for a while longer, but it is becoming too much fun.

Quick.  Can you name all the Republicans?  J. Bush, Rubio, Jindal, Cruz, R. Paul, Christie, Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee.  That’s as far as I got without looking them up.  The rest are: Santorum, Graham, Pataki, Trump (How could I have forgotten him?!), and Perry.  Walker and Kasich will be joining them soon.

Naming the Democrats is pretty easy:  H. Clinton, Sanders, O’Malley, Chafee, and Webb.  That’s two biggies, one in the middle and two also rans – in that order.  In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Sanders supporter and I’m sure I will be writing about that and him as the race proceeds.  I can’t wait for the debates to begin.  I know Bernie wanted them to start earlier, but he seems to be gaining some momentum without them.

The Republicans have to figure out either how to get everyone on stage at once, how to limit the debate field, or bag debates altogether.  The Fox method of the top 10% in the polls will, unfortunately, probably mean no Christie/Trump match-up.  That would be worthy of pay-for-view.  And I’m unclear on how they will handle the Iowa caucuses.  Are there places in the precincts with enough places for each candidate to have a place to stand and caucus?  But then there will be New Hampshire.

The Sunday New York Times had an interesting story about New Hampshire today.

The likely field of 16 Republican candidates is stirring frustration, particularly among voters who say they feel more overwhelmed, even ambivalent, than ever before about their long-cherished responsibilities in holding the nation’s first primary. Some voters said they were already dreading the weeks of political fliers stuffed in their mailboxes, of campaign volunteers at their doors during the day and of television ads and automated phone calls all through the night. Others said they already had candidate fatigue.

For decades, New Hampshire has fought to keep its place at the front of the presidential nominating contests, and party leaders talk with almost religious fervor about the state’s duty to “screen” and “weed out” second-tier wannabes to save most other Americans the trouble. The state’s news outlets, political consultants, and hotel and hospitality industries also make tens of millions of dollars from the campaign operations. Politics is pastime here, but the 2016 race creates a challenge that is the opposite of a leisure pursuit: Is there such a thing for New Hampshire voters as too many presidential candidates?

“I can’t keep track of all of them. It’s ridiculous,” Laura Major, an independent voter from Milford, said as she collected candidate stickers and free candy from volunteers for Mr. Bush and other campaigns along the parade route here.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at an Independence Day parade in Amherst, N.H., on Saturday. He was among the nine presidential candidates campaigning in the state over the holiday weekend. Credit

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida at an Independence Day parade in Amherst, N.H., on Saturday. He was among the nine presidential candidates campaigning in the state over the holiday weekend.

Still another reason to be happy to be away from Boston where the local TV stations will be saturated with advertising since they also broadcast into southern NH.  Not having been through a Presidential election season in Vermont, I’m not sure what happens here, but I don’t think we will get a lot of advertising.  We will have to see.

State Senator Jeb Bradley, the Republican majority leader, said the complications of 2016 went beyond the sheer number of candidates: Voters are also struggling because there is no clear front-runner, as there was in 2012 (Mitt Romney), 2008 (John McCain), 2004 (George W. Bush) and 2000 (Mr. McCain).

“This is the first time since 1996 when we have a wide-open contest, and there are now twice as many major candidates compared to back then,” Mr. Bradley said. As for his own preferences, they are increasing — Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mr. Christie, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Carly Fiorina, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — rather than shrinking.

“But look, by the time our primary rolls around in February, I just can’t imagine there will be 16 people on the Republican ballot,” Mr. Bradley said.

Others are not so sure. The emergence of “super PACs” could allow just a few wealthy supporters to finance advertising and other activities for their preferred candidates, giving many of the 2016 contenders the resources to survive poor showings in the first few nominating contests.

I love this quote.

“Every day there are two more Republicans jumping into the race, but hopefully the debates will help us sort all of this out,” said Okie Howe, a 98-year-old Democrat and Army veteran living at the Tilton retirement home. She said she wanted to find a Republican to support because she was “sick of Hillary Clinton,” but thought she would probably vote for Mrs. Clinton in the end because the Republican field “was too big to make sense out of.” (As for the 73-year-old Mr. Sanders, Ms. Howe said, “He’s a bit too old, isn’t he?” She then chided herself for “being the pot calling the kettle black.”)

Vote for Bernie, Ms. Howe.

Photograph:  Sean Proctor for The New York Times

Spring in Vermont

I’ve been gardening like crazy.  My husband and I have taken out 90% of what the previous owners had planted including the trees and have replaced them with lilacs, blueberry bushes, forsythia, and a serviceberry bush.  We also replaced two maples with a stewartia tree. (I put in a link because you probably never heard of one before. We hadn’t.)  Plus annuals and lots of perennials.  I figure that you can always take stuff out next year that doesn’t work.  All of this has helped take my mind off the mostly bad news that seems to keep coming.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Our young Stewartia tree with flowers.

Last week we caught a little break.  The Supreme Court made two decisions that, contrary to the dissenters, I think will be positive in the long run.  The first upheld the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act; the second, legalized marriage for everyone in all states.

Marriage equality began here in New England as all the local media have proudly told us.  Vermont legalized civil unions and Massachusetts was the first to sanction marriage.  As one news reader noted, “Today’s decision doesn’t really effect New England as same-sex marriage in already legal in all six states.”  That is a paraphrase, but a fact of which most New Englanders are very proud and contrasts to the defiant words from some of the Republican Presidential candidates.  Reminds me of the governors who wanted to stand in front of the school house door to prevent school integration.  Conservatives are always arguing that marriage leads to more stability so I can’t really understand why they aren’t pleased that more people will be getting married.

On the ACA, I wonder if some of the New England states like Vermont that are struggling with the necessary automation and connections to the federal exchange will just move to the federal exchange all together.  And I also wonder if states that never expanded Medicare will do so now.  But with Congressional leaders and most of the Republican Presidential candidates still hoping to repeal “Obamacare”, that is probably not likely.  In the meanwhile, more people are getting insurance and as they begin to get preventative care, costs should continue to drop.  Insurance companies, like most of us, like stability something the pro-repeal Republican should remember.

As spring slowly turns to summer here in Vermont, I’ve been thinking a lot about race.  As with many things we seem to be taking one step forward and two back.  Who would have predicted in 1964 that in 2015 we would need a new voting rights act?    Or that the unspoken racism of one of the major political parties would lead to a mass shooting in a black church?  Yes, I mean the Republican party with opposition to everything proposed by President Obama.  You can’t convince me that if the current Democratic president were someone like Jerry Brown or Tim Kaine opposition would be as virulent.  Race is at the core.  All those Senate Republicans who want to be president could prove me wrong by supporting the new voting rights legislation.  As the Washington Post pointed out, they once did so.

The Sunday after Charleston my husband and I drove down to Boston to attend church.  We wanted to attend his home church, an historically black church of which he became the first white member over twenty years ago.  The service is still traditionally African-American, but the worshippers are black, white, and Asian.  It was comforting to sit with people I have known for so many years as well as with the newcomers.  The young pastor spoke first about being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and went on to talk about faith.  We were all given little packets of mustard seed by the children to remind us to keep the faith.  I’m finding that gardening is another way to find a measure of peace and faith that things change.  In the garden one can see the entire cycle:  planting, growth, blooms, death.  And then it begins again next spring.  We just need to keep the faith.

Photograph:  Bob Wyckoff