Northern Exposures:

Clinton Does the Democratic Primaries

Jerry wants to take the system back form the politicians and the corporations and put it in the hands of the people, and that's why he isn't accepted more than $100 from each individual to run his campaign. We can cleanse this system of corruption and provide health care for every American and cure the rot of our inner cities with a few simple techniques. All right, I'm sorry, I don't remember what they are, but Jerry knows them, and if you elect Jerry, he'll tell you himself. Or at least you should take a copy of his videotape. But if you do, be prepared to pass it on to five other people. This is how a grassroots movement gets started.

Jerry is wearing a white turtleneck and a blue denim jacket with brown leather strips on the collar and baggy black corduroy trousers. Jerry has a large bald spot and strangely mottled skin, red in the wrong places, and just between you and me, there is something a little delusional about Jerry, even though I know he really was the governor of California at one time.


In all fairness to the candidate, he only sounds this way because America has evolved so far from the notion of direct rule that even people who agree with Jerry understand he has no chance of being elected. One thinks of direct rule in connection with local rather than national politics. Brown does have a constituency in New Hampshire, as would any ecology-minded consumer advocate, because local communities have seen what can be accomplished by write-in drives, petitions, and town meetings. This I, paradoxically, partly thanks the William Loeb and the politicians he supported over the years.

Loeb, by the way, never resided in New Hampshire. For decades he occupied an 80-acre high-security compound in Pride's Crossing, Massachusetts, furtively darting back and forth across the border, it is said, in order to avoid subpoenas. In league with a succession of vacuous New Hampshire governors, Loeb sponsored uncountable schemes to wreck the environment in the interest of various contractors, developers, and high-tech corporations. Sununu's Seabrook nuclear reactor was only the most recent venture to mobilize conservation groups throughout the state.

Before Seabrook, there was Durham Point. In 1973, Governor Meldrim Thomson Jr. (now an occasional columnist for the Union Leader) announced his vision that New Hampshire needed an oil refinery. No one had perceived this need before, but because of his campaign pledge of no new taxes, Thomson had to find money somewhere for deteriorating state services. At the same time, employees of Aristotle Onassis's Olympic Oil Co., posing as real estate agents, began buying options on 3000 acres of shorefront in Portsmouth, Rye, and Durham, under various guises: the establishment of bird sanctuaries and hunting preserves, retirement homes, etc. The biggest chunk of optioned land was at Durham Point. Onassis also optioned parts of the Isles of Shoals, a little archipelago 10 miles off the coast.

In November 1973, Thomson announced the Olympic Oil would install a $600 million refinery at Durham Point. Supertankers would offload at the Isles of Shoals, where the oil would be pumped into Portsmouth via underwater pipe, then shunted to Durham Point through another pipeline. Onassis himself would visit the state on December 19. Loeb's front-page editorial announced, "WELCOME To the Two Big O's—Oil and Onassis!"

Appalled property owners in the quiet university town of Durham quickly joined forces with environmentalists to block Durham Point, as the Union Leader devoted reams of fawning newsprint to Onassis, whom it characterized as "Santa Claus." According to Loeb biographer Kevin Cash, the Durham Point project would have been "the largest single-unit oil refinery ever built." It also would have transformed the countryside around the University of New Hampshire into a moonscape.

The project met its toxic avenger in the form of Mrs. Thomas Dudley, the town of Durham's representative to the state's General Court. (Mrs. Dudley, therefore Dudley Dudley. She was a descendent of Joseph Dudley, who was governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire between 1723 and 1728.) A Mrs. Nancy Sandberg, also of Durham, organized Save Our Shores, which opposed Olympic Oil with legal services to optioned property owners, a speakers' bureau, bumper stickers, et cetera.

Mrs. Dudley cast the Durham Point issue in terms of home rule. This had immense popular appeal. Town meetings throughout the Seacoast area rezoned the target properties to exclude the refinery, while House Bill 34, intended to override the local ordinances, wnet down to defeat 109 to 233. Onassis returned to Skorpios and Maria Callas. Cash speculates that Loeb never fully recovered from the rejection of Durham Point by New Hampshire voters.

Now it seems, some kind of attitude shift is taking its gradual course in the state—very gradual, if you compare with the mall and condo boom of the Reagan years, when developers and retail chains could contrive, swept through southern New Hampshire like shit through a cane brake, transforming a landscape of harsh, bucolic beauty into one of unparalleled hideousness. Steady migrations of "Massachusetts people into the southland have brought with them, unexpectedly, a burgeoning circulation of the liberal Boston Globe. This, combined with a generous cable range, has eroded the Loeb information monopoly. Even if people generally don't like black and gays and other menacing elements, now they hear about them all the time.

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