New Hampshire has been overrun by politicians, activists and journalists in the run-up to the presidential primary. And they’ve been joined by large numbers of people from overseas as well. People like Willem Post, a political scientist from the Netherlands.
Post is an academic at the Clingendael Institute for International Relations in the Hague. He’s a huge fan of the direct democracy that the primary represents, in terms of politicians literally knocking on doors to garner a single vote.
“It’s like a political fairy tale for a European,” says Post, “in the sense that — we are not naïve in Europe; of course we know that the big interests, big money, media, are very important — but still, people knocking on the doors, all the volunteers, and the candidates. It’s fair to say it’s a wonderful tradition of direct democracy.”
Post has been coming to New Hampshire for the primary since 2004, and vividly recalls that first visit.
“It was a quite a surprise. It was very cold in Manchester, New Hampshire. Snows storm. Weather alert. I walked in the street, on Elm Street — the main street in Manchester — and there was a lady standing there with a sign: ‘I want to marry John Kerry,’ and I talked to that lady and I said, ‘well, you’re a big fan of Senator Kerry?’
"And she said, well, he will come into that restaurant in an hour, you can talk with him. And I said, ‘Come on! I cannot believe that!’ So I walked into that restaurant and, yes, for 5 or 10 minutes I talked with him and asked him questions. So I was very much impressed.”
Post says that kind of intimacy, the excitement, and the scenery simply make the primary a "magical" experience for an outsider.
He’s impressed with how seriously New Hampshire voters take their responsibility and reminds them, when he can, how they have is a global responsibility. The safety of the world, he says, depends on having a serious candidate in the White House.