Chris Sununu tried to dodge the culture war. That won’t fly for the Republican Party in 2024

Chris Sununu
FILE – New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Sununu has proposed a two-year $14.9 billion budget Tuesday, Feb.14, 2023, that includes hefty pay raises for state employees, more money for schools and a streamlined professional licensing system designed to attract new workers. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Chris Sununu tried to dodge the culture war. That won’t fly for the Republican Party in 2024

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The teachers union in New Hampshire is openly dedicated to preaching the gospel of gender ideology — telling boys that they might really be girls, and telling girls they might really be boys. The largest school district in the state explicitly barred any school officials from telling parents if their child was claiming an alternative gender at school.

That is, the Left was launching an assault on families, trying to tear children away from their families and from reality. And yet Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), perhaps afraid of looking like a culture warrior, didn’t want to touch it.


This is worth reflecting on today, as Sununu on Monday abandoned his flirtation with a presidential run. He never stood a chance because he wanted to run the sort of campaign that media liberals and some establishment Republicans wish a Republican nominee would run: Talk about tax cuts and deregulation, and totally avoid “social issues.”

That position was arguable in the 1990s, but it’s absurd today when the Left is using every possible ounce of power it has to enforce its morality and crush dissenters. Yet Sununu tried to pretend the Right could call a culture-war truce.

“If we’re trying to beat the Democrats at being big-government authoritarians, remember what’s going to happen,” Sununu said in February, criticizing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). “They’ll start penalizing conservative businesses and conservative nonprofits and conservative ideas. That is the worst precedent in the world.”

Every single conservative who had been paying attention laughed out loud at Sununu’s worry that the cultural Left might “start penalizing conservative businesses and conservative nonprofits.”

As I wrote at the time:

“The Obama administration tried to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive coverage. Obama tried to bar religious schools from having moral standards for their employees. The American Civil Liberties Union has spent years suing Catholic hospitals for not performing abortions. Colorado’s state government punishes every religious conservative it can for crimes such as baking cakes while Christian.

“Democrats have made it their stated goal to shut down pro-life crisis pregnancy centers . The Biden FBI has launched a crusade to file flimsy and obviously trumped-up federal charges against every pro-lifer it can.”

And again, Sununu had a front-row seat for this left-wing culture-war offensive.

The New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association in 2021 sued to allow teachers to preach gender ideology, the concept of an innate interior gender distinguishable only by the individual and unrelated to biological sex, in the classroom.

Meanwhile, the school district in Manchester, the largest district in the state, had a policy that explicitly forbade schools from telling parents if their children were identifying as some new gender. Put these two together, and you have local governments working to tear children away from their parents in deep and scarring ways.

There’s no way to be neutral in this culture war fight. Yet Sununu tried to be. He vetoed a bill granting parents the right to know if a child was changing his or her gender identity at school.


There are plenty of circumstances when a state can and should stay out of culture war fights. This isn’t one of them.

Sununu has many virtues and might be a fine senator or cabinet official. But with the Left on a furious culture war offensive, the country can’t afford a Republican president who pretends that the war can be avoided.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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