Commentary

Why Bernie Sanders Won New Hampshire

Erin Kim/The Phillipian

Last week, Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders secured a stunning victory in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. He was able to obtain 28 percent of the vote, making him triumphant over the second-place candidate, Pete Buttigieg, who walked away with only 22 percent of the vote. New Hampshire has long been a very important state in primary elections, and this year’s results were devastating for some candidates, especially Andrew Yang, who decided to suspend his candidacy following the outcome, and Joe Biden, who realized his defeat and left the state early to pursue voters in South Carolina. I have lived in southern New Hampshire for most of my life, and a few weeks before the primary, I went home for the long weekend. In the span of three days, we had four campaign representatives canvassing for three separate campaigns, and I was astounded by the vast amount of signage, flyers, and other paraphernalia that overwhelmed my stay. It was clear that candidates were being relentless in their attempts to achieve an early victory. Immediately following Sanders’s victory I found that many of my friends, both at Andover and back in New Hampshire, were shocked by his success and the lack thereof from other candidates. While New Hampshire results can always seem surprising since it is one of the first two primaries, I can’t say this year’s outcome was entirely bizarre.

Bernie, in his policies and ideology, appears as the ideal prospect for New Hampshire voters. First off, Bernie has been a major advocate for the environment throughout his run for president. Referring to climate changes as the “number one threat facing our planet,” Sanders has announced an ambitious plan to shift the country to renewable energy and expand the job market while doing so. New Hampshire has been fighting the deterioration of its natural resources and projects such as the Northern Pass (a project to build a network of power lines that will harm the white mountains). It must also be noted that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Hampshire has the sixth highest unemployment rate in the country. Bernie’s “decade of the Green New Deal,” his elaborate strategy to alter America’s energy supply, can appeal to a vast amount of people living near the White Mountain region or those who make a living through tourism of the area.

This is not to say that other Democratic candidates have not addressed the climate issue, as competitors such as Tom Steyer, who actually spent the most money on advertising during the New Hampshire race, have been making claims to institute major measures to combat climate change once in office. However, Steyer suffered a devastating defeat as he only received a meager three percent of the vote. This is because Sanders is able to bring more to the table for New Hampshire residents. Bernie’s socialist policies are a substantial amount of his campaign, and they seem to have rallied many voters in less affluent towns. The Washington Post displayed the vote by township, and it revealed a common trend and the correlation between class and candidate. Towns such as Durham, with a 17 percent poverty rate and 17,000 residents, and Plymouth, with a 13 percent poverty rate and 9,000 residents, handed Bernie the majority vote. Other towns like Newport, Franklin, Berlin, Littleton, Farminton, Claremont, and Somersworth, which also have high poverty rates, voted for Sanders. Overall, Sanders won 40 percent of the vote from those with an income under $50,000, which was more than twice the amount of any other candidate. By contrast, wealthier towns such as Windham, Hampton Falls, Amherst, Auburn, and Hollis (all with a median household income of over $115,000) supported Buttigeig as their candidate. In fact, almost all of the highest-earning towns in the state showed significantly less support for Sanders. These are very notable trends that could potentially continue into other state elections. It will be interesting to observe the future results from different communities of varying socio-economic standing.

Aside from environmental and socio-economic commonalities, the majority of New Hampshire voters agree with other policies Sanders aims to enact. In an exit poll, it was reported that 60 percent of voters supported abolishing private health care and replacing it with a government plan for everyone. Bernie also has an ambitious plan to tackle drugs and the justice system for offenders. Considering New Hampshire’s problem with drug use, this is also an aspect of Sanders’s campaign that voters can appreciate. We must consider the implications of those who vote for personal benefit and those who also look toward the state-wide implications. The amount of far-left or far-right citizens can be important, as Sanders claimed over 40 percent of voters who identify as “very liberal,” but it is clear that some can alter liberal or conservative views to support specific aspects of campaigns. For example, over 35 percent of voters said the most important issue was income inequality, which could explain why almost 20 percent of conservative voters backed Sanders in the primary. Bernie’s victory in New Hampshire may seem unexpected to some, but the voting trends simply explain what the voters want.