Arnie Arnesen, television talk host of Political Chowder and 1992 New Hampshire gubernatorial Democratic candidate, visited Colgate on Tuesday, January 29. The charismatic and witty former politician, or “politician in recovery” as she said, began her day at Colgate with a brown bag lunch, held in the Center for Women’s Studies, entitled “‘Testosterone Imbalance’ and Other Things that Tick Me Off.” It was sponsored by Democracy Matters, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Advocates.
Arnesen began her lecture with an explanation of how she got involved with politics, and in doing so addressed the “Testosterone Imbalance” within politics. In 1984, she was elected to the New Hampshire Constitutional Convention, in which the Constitution was re-written in a non-partisan way over six weeks. On the Executive Committee of this Convention, she mentioned, there was no secretary. The board consisted of twenty-six men and two women. She recalls being outraged when the chairman suggested that one of the women should adopt the role of secretary.
Arnesen also recalled the issue of being a woman in politics in the 1992 race for New Hampshire governor. With her involvement in this race, she became the first female major party nominee for governor in state history. She mentioned one particular moment in which a female reporter asked her, “What about your children?” Flabbergasted, Arnesen responded, “What about all our children?” She knew that if she were to win the election, she would politically represent both her own children, as well as the children of others. Similarly, in a speech about economics, one male politician was incredibly impressed by her knowledge and understanding of economics, but apologetically informed her that he could not vote for her because of that “regular woman problem.”
Experiences such as these further inspired Arnesen to be politically active and to work towards defying this “testosterone imbalance” within politics. A point she stressed during this lecture was that women must continue to run more frequently so that people “get used to” the idea of having women involved politically.
After the lecture ended, students were energized and excited for the main event in the Persson Auditorium later that day. This event was a lecture entitled “The New Hampshire Primary: Or How I Lived with a Conga Line of Candidates and their Spouses.” It was sponsored by the same organizations as the brown bag lunch, as well as the College Democrats and College Republicans. Her lecture involved a simplified explanation of the primary caucus, which helped the audience understand the process. She described caucuses as a forum of open, public persuasion, with neighbors trying to convince one another to go to one side or another. In particular, the caucuses in small states, especially New Hampshire and Iowa, are the sites of “retail politics” where potential voters really get to know who the candidates are as people.
“Her speech was very informational,” first-year Brian Bender said. “It really helped me understand the primary elections more fully.”
As well as explaining the caucuses, she provided some personal insight into the candidates. It was clear that her choice of candidate was Hillary Clinton, who she described as the “first real credible woman candidate.” However, she stated that her main problem with Clinton is her husband, Bill, whom she said is simply looking for a third term. She noted that Clinton needs to realize that she would be the asset to the nation, and not her husband. Additionally, Arnesen was vexed by the fact that Clinton seems to be “pulling the woman card” when her experience and plans for the future are sufficient, and thus should be “pulling the leadership card” instead.
Also, she described Barack Obama as the provider of “magic,” and the candidate who has inspired people to hope for change in politics. However, because of what she saw as his inability to debate effectively, as well as his substandard résumé, she noted her wariness of his ability to get ahead in the election.
This race between Clinton and Obama reflects the idea she called “Identity Politics.” She wondered how politicians and voters could talk about the candidates when no one can seem to get past the idea that the two major Democratic candidates could potentially be either the first woman president or the first black president.
As far as Republican candidates, she seemed most fascinated by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has “the most amazing charismatic style [she] has ever seen.” His ability to get people on his side trumps Mitt Romney, whom she believes is unable to separate his politics from his Mormon beliefs.
She also feels as though he “flip-flops” excessively.
“If Kerry flip-flopped in the 2002 election, Romney created the entire flip-flop factory,” Arneson said. She described the Republican Party as being in shambles, and also does not think that they can succeed when thousands of more Democrats are participating in caucuses than Republicans.
“Arnie was vivid and candid, and could make anyone enthusiastic about politics.” Senior Suzanne LeBarron of College Republicans said.