Is It Even Possible to be Non-Partisan in 2020?

Two years ago, we wrote a piece “The Challenge of Being Non-Partisan in Partisan Times,” acknowledging the sharp political divisions in our small state. Little did we know what lay ahead on both the state and national levels. With a majority of lawmakers who do not align with our principles now controlling both houses of the New Hampshire legislature, bills and actions that have directly challenged our values of life, faith, and family have become the rule rather than the exception. And 2020 has only sharpened our differences. We’ve all been witness to New Hampshire and our proud country struggling with serious constitutional questions around the months-long restrictions of COVID-19 and unrest seen in destructive protests in the name of social justice. If we’ve learned nothing, it’s that we live in a bitterly divided state and nation when it comes to our government, institutions, and even our very liberties.

In New Hampshire, we’d already seen the damage of these divisions. “Gender identity” was added to the list of protected categories in our public schools, opening women’s sports and locker rooms to biological males. Identification cards in our state can list whatever the person’s self-selected gender identity may be. Minors who want to explore feelings of confusion over their gender identity or same-sex attraction cannot work with a therapist on goals such as affirming their biological sex or work through the roots of their same sex attraction. Sports betting has been legalized, and taxpayer dollars going to abortion providers have dramatically risen under the guise of family planning programs. Just recently, in a stand against school choice, our joint fiscal committee turned away a $46 million federal grant for charter schools, impacting the availability of vital learning alternatives for children who don’t thrive in a public school environment. 

And it isn’t just the substance of legislation that has challenged us. When the legislature resumed after an extended break due to COVID-19, we learned some hard lessons in the form of new tactics to move questionable legislation forward, the democratic process was subverted to push a single legislative agenda. For the first time in our memory, omnibus bills were created, a hasty combination of up to a dozen or more separate bills into one impossible-to-untangle legislative construct. One such bill housed a key change to our adoption laws in the state that would fundamentally impact the composition of a family. We even saw one bill gutted of its original content (insurance coverage for ambulance services) to be replaced by an abortion coverage mandate for certain insurance policies. (Fortunately, the Governor wisely vetoed it when it reached his desk.) Just that quickly, time-honored standards of transparency and accessibility in our legislative process were set aside for expediency and one party’s platform.

Through it all, we have challenged ourselves to adhere to our core values and resist being drawn into the political fray, instead calling attention to the issues we care about and the tactics we felt were not serving the people of New Hampshire. 

And we have seized every opportunity to work with those who may not typically share our beliefs regardless of party. When Democrat-sponsored bills fighting child trafficking  (HB 189 and HB 201) were introduced last session, we fought hard to see them pass. Our efforts were instrumental in the success of HB 189, and we were proud to stand with the sponsors to celebrate the signing of the bill by the Governor.

Last week, Cornerstone Action released our endorsements for the 2020 general election (to see our Primary endorsements go here). With every legislative and executive council position up for election, it’s not an overstatement to say the future of our state is at stake. Despite what some will certainly say, our endorsements are not a rubber stamp for any party. We continue to operate by the following tenets:

We are principled, not partisan. 

Our beliefs and our stands are too important to be filtered through or diluted by any political party platform. We are guided by a strong belief in God and a desire to promote religious freedom, families, and the precious gift of life for all of New Hampshire’s residents. If you read our commentary, you will find we are not afraid to challenge lawmakers in both parties and the status quo when it comes to jealously protecting these principles. 

We rely on data, not party affiliation.

Our criteria for scoring candidates and assessing those in office are clear and not party-dependent. We send every candidate on both sides of the aisle a comprehensive survey. We compile detailed statistics, so we can fairly and objectively measure candidates on our values and how they compare to one another. To get an idea of the work we put into assessing our current lawmakers, take a look at our 2020 Legislative Scorecard

We want to engage.

This year we sent candidate surveys to every candidate for state senator and state representative. This year, out of 221 surveys we received from candidates, only two were from Democrats (we did receive a third from a self-proclaimed “Smarter than you arrogant hypocritical idiots,”  but don’t want to assume). In the last election cycle, 8% of our return responses came from Democrats —  a clear sign of the increasingly divided times we live in. As a nation and a state, we know we are better and stronger when we work together. We at Cornerstone, recognize the issues facing our state and nation are increasingly multi-faceted and complex. We welcome the opportunity to talk with lawmakers in both parties, not only to share our position, but to listen to theirs. 

There is no doubt, we live in a sharply divided and troubled partisan state and nation. With the events of this year, that divide looks more like a deep chasm. If we are going to reverse the current echo chamber of party-first politics and governance, there must be a willingness to connect with and hear all voters and not discount a significant percentage of constituents. Sadly, with lawmakers succumbing to the pressures of loud voices and party lock-step voting, many of the people they represent are left without a voice in our state government. Our fervent hope for this critical election year is that we elect lawmakers who will engage, listen, and vote as the peoples’ representatives, not party members. For our part, we will continue to speak out independently on the critical issues we are all facing. 

We thank all the lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, who support our state and nation by engaging with their constituents and standing strong on the multiple challenges that face us today and whose outcomes will define us for generations to come.  As we prayerfully consider 2020 candidates who can best represent us, our hope is for a state and nation united, strong in their protection of religious freedom, law, and life.