Being Right Ambition, Politics, and the New Hampshire Primary

Anthony Palazzola, Maroon-News Staff

In Federalist Paper No. 51, James Madison declared that “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” Clearly, Madison warned that ambition can be a threat to America’s political system. But ambition can also be a threat to the politician obsessed with it. That is, a politician’s ambition may block him/her from seeing reality. Madison’s warning was apt. Following the New Hampshire primary, the ambition within certain Democratic presidential candidates obscured them from seeing the truth. As a result, these candidates had irrational reactions to the results of the primary. 

In 2016, Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire Democratic Party over Hillary Clinton by 22 points, or about 57,000 votes. Sanders won every county and all but four towns. Moreover, the race was called for him immediately by MSNBC when polls closed at 8:00p.m. This cycle, however, Sanders’ performance was far less decisive. Sanders defeated Pete Buttigieg by only 1.3 points (or 4,000 votes), and Sanders was not declared the winner until about 11 p.m. and after 94 percent of the vote was counted. In addition, whereas Sanders received over 150,000 votes in 2016, he only received 76,000 votes this primary. It is fair to conclude, then, that Sanders’ victory was of the weakest possible fashion and that the so-called “Bernie Bros” are either not as numerous as initially thought, or just not loyal to the Vermont senator. Yet, despite this weak performance, Sanders declared his victory as “great” and as “the beginning of the end for Donald Trump.” Really? Sanders’ ambition is clearly preventing him from seeing the warning signs that New Hampshire illustrated to him in the closeness of the results. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren also had a nonsensical reaction to the results of the primary. Rather than realizing her embarrassing performance in which she did not win a single town and barely edged out Joe Biden (who rightfully conceded the state and moved on to South Carolina), Warren claimed that her campaign is “just getting started.” This statement is illogical. Warren represents Massachusetts, which borders New Hampshire. Because New Hampshire is in Warren’s backyard, she should have at least been competitive in the Granite State. Instead, she lost to Sanders by 50,000 votes. But going a bit deeper into the data shows even worse news for Warren. The weakest part of New Hampshire in which Warren performed were, ironically, those towns which directly border Massachusetts. In other words, Warren did the worst in the areas closest to the state from which she hails. For example, in the border town of New Ipswich, Warren came in sixth place and received fewer votes than Tulsi Gabbard. When analyzing this data, it is almost impossible to see any path of future victory for Warren. Once again, Warren’s ambition is clearly preventing her from seeing the obvious truth. 

However, despite being a Republican, I have an obligation to be objective. So I write this final paragraph as a warning for President Trump to not allow his ambition to prevent him from seeing the truth. By most accounts, the president performed well in the New Hampshire Republican primary; Trump won 86 percent of the vote and received the most votes in history for an incumbent president (130,000). Not surprisingly, the ambitious Trump celebrated his performance on Twitter. However, the president’s victory was not perfect in the sense that 14,000 Republicans voted for Bill Weld, the former libertarian-leaning Massachusetts governor. 

The president must reach out to these voters if he wants to win New Hampshire, which he lost by 3,000 votes to Clinton in 2016. In short, the president would be wise to check his ambition and work to win over these 14,000 GOP voters; it is in his electoral interests to do so.