Tuesday, February 09, 2016

As N.H. likely votes for a Vt. senator for president, remember that the states are different

Americans unfamiliar with the Northeast often confuse Vermont and New Hampshire, two adjoining, wedge-shaped states where more than half of residents are rural. Despite their border and similar inverted shapes—each state claims the other one is upside down—the states are decidedly different, Kit Seelye reports for The New York Times. Even though Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is projected to win tonight's Democratic primary in New Hampshire, "natives of New Hampshire and Vermont are quick to note, if Sanders wins New Hampshire, it may be in spite of his coming from Vermont, not because of it."

John Gregg, news editor of The Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., and across the Connecticut River from White River Junction, Vt., told The Rural Blog that Seeyle "nailed it." The newspaper's logo, right, indicates its coverage area and even reflects the names of the states.

The states "sprang from different geological forces that produced the soft rolling Green Mountains of Vermont and the rugged, angular White Mountains of New Hampshire," Seelye writes. "The differences run through their colonial histories and are evident today in their cultures, politics and certainly in their state mottos: Vermont’s feel-good 'Freedom and Unity' shrinks before New Hampshire’s stark ultimatum to 'Live Free or Die.' While the Vermont electorate is liberal and its ethos collectivist, the New Hampshire ethos is fiercely libertarian. New Hampshire is the only state that does not ticket adults if they are not wearing a seatbelt."

"But theirs is not a classic rivalry," Seeyle writes. "New Hampshire, which has more than twice the population of Vermont, tends to ignore its neighbor to the west, turning its gaze instead toward Massachusetts and Maine; people in Vermont simply feel superior, in a laid-back kind of way."

"Vermont was once the most Republican state in the country and is now among the most liberal, thanks in part to an influx starting in the 1960s that included people like Sanders, although local politics had already started trending Democratic," she writes. "New Hampshire has no sales tax and no general income tax. Money for schools and other services is raised mostly through property taxes, but services are minimal. The University of New Hampshire is the most expensive public four-year college in the country because the state’s rate of support for higher education is the nation’s lowest."

Residents of both states are quick to take jabs at the other one, Seelye writes. David Briggs, a civil engineer, hotel owner and lifelong Vermonter, told her, “Those mottos tell you everything you need to know. Ours is about individualism, but the ‘Unity’ reminds us we’re interdependent. Now, ‘Live Free or Die’—that’s almost jihadist.” Jere R. Daniell, a retired historian at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College, told her, "The essential difference between Vermont and New Hampshire is in their degree of commitment to state authority," which "manifested itself some years ago in the phone book, he said, when listings for the Vermont state government took up 62 inches, while New Hampshire’s took up eight."

Willem Lange, a longtime New England storyteller who lived half of his life in New Hampshire until he decided the property taxes were too high, and then moved to Vermont, told Seelye, “The people reflect the geology. New Hampshire humor is a little grimmer, a little bitter. Its default mode is grumpy. Vermont is boring. There are so damn many liberals. I can never win an argument.”

Rebecca Rule, a New Hampshire humorist and storyteller, told Seelye, "When I cross the river into Vermont, I can see the difference and feel the difference. The fields open up, it’s more rural, there are more farms and more cows. Vermont is a gentler place. New Hampshire is more hard-edged. You don’t see that as much in New Hampshire."

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