Live Free or Move
Hanging out with the young kids who want to turn New Hampshire into a libertarian paradise.
Well, that's complicated. Steven Lindsey, a Democrat who represents Keene in the state legislature, got into politics after years as a reporter and an activist; once, he and some protesters dressed up like ninjas and pulled a stunt to prevent a McDonald's from being built in nearby Peterborough. (It worked, as did some other strategies.) So he understands Free Keene. He likes them. "They call me Government Steve," he says. "It's somewhat affectionate."
Some of what they do still strikes him as "callow." He tried last year to push a medical marijuana bill through the legislature in Concord, and he wanted the city of Keene to endorse it. And then came a Free Keene protest, with marijuana being smoked outdoors, and with cops getting filmed by cameras. There went any chance of a city council endorsement.
Bygones. He's optimistic about Courser getting elected to city government some day. He thinks the movement will mellow. "My theory is that this, too, shall pass, just like the hippies came here, and that passed."
Free Keene's rebellion against the government started under George W. Bush, so it's not just a fractal of the Tea Party. But the Tea Party protester who hates the stimulus and the man who moves here and shreds his tax bill—these guys come out of the same place. They are not just skeptical that the current government can work. They think government can never work. They respond to the pressures of the Great Recession, the drug war, and everything else that bugs them by giving up on the system that made them. They won't be alone.
Clarification, June 27, 2011: This sentence about the connection between the Free Keene movement and the Koch Foundation has been adjusted to make its ironic meaning more clear. There is no formal relationship between the group and the foundation. (Return to the modified sentence.)
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph of Keene Action Center bookshelf and Ademo Mueller and Ian Freeman by David Weigel. Photograph of New Hampshire by iStockphoto.