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The political dynasty America needs Chris Sununu will beat Biden at his own game

Make America boring again (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Make America boring again (Scott Olson/Getty Images)


May 26, 2023   5 mins

In an era when social media dictates political decision-making and open contests are vulnerable to capture by fervent ideologues, the call for “boring politics” might seem like a non-starter. Yet to write it off is to write off history. Some of America’s most prosperous and stable periods — the “Era of Good Feelings” under James Monroe; the post-war “Eisenhower Boom”; the dotcom-fuelled prosperity of the Nineties — were under the stewardship of national leaders who were, by all accounts, quite dull.

The modern Republican Party, aiming to re-establish itself in the aftermath of Trump’s shambolic administration, should pay close attention. The path to a successful future may not lie with the likes of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin or South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, as competent and capable as they appear to be. These figures, though skilled, often appear hesitant to challenge the MAGA base on divisive issues such as immigration, foreign policy and LGBT rights — yet offer the base far less red meat than leading contenders like Trump or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is strongly courting this contingent. Instead, the party’s future might be best served by the extraordinarily unassuming figure of New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. This leader, far less contentious, embodies a less polarised approach that might resonate with a broader spectrum of voters — particularly the Independents who swing the crucial elections in America’s toss-up “purple” states.

Born and raised in Salem, Sununu is firmly part of the state’s premier political lineage: his father, known for his terrifyingly high IQ, also served as New Hampshire’s Governor, while one of his seven siblings was elected as the state’s Senator. Yet despite hailing from arguably the most “boring” political dynasty in American history, Sununu may well be the steady hand the Republican party needs. Of course, his candidacy is rightly considered a long shot — but the allure of his pragmatic approach to politics is increasingly compelling.

Consider the striking figures of former North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn and New York Congressman George Santos, both of whom have made headlines for less than desirable reasons. Cawthorn, the youngest elected official in Washington D.C. and a wheelchair user, made claims about his Paralympic aspirations, academic background, drug use and even his sexuality that were subsequently debunked or exposed during a primary campaign that he lost to a boring Chamber of Commerce-style Republican rival. And Santos, an openly-gay representative seen as a symbol of the party’s diversification as well as a habitual liar, is now facing a litany of serious charges including wire fraud and money laundering. Then, of course, there is the inescapable Trump: the bright orange sun, recently found liable in a civil proceeding for battery and defamation, and immersed in a half-dozen other legal proceedings.

Amid such turbulent times for the party, Chris Sununu’s steadfastly fiscally-conservative approach and well-grounded governance stand in stark contrast. His political journey over four terms in office exhibits a balance between maintaining personal convictions and adapting to evolving societal demands. His record on abortion rights, for example, shows a clear progression. Starting from a vote while serving in New Hampshire’s legislative assembly to defund Planned Parenthood in 2015, he reversed his stance and has repeatedly endorsed contracts with the organisation, even declaring himself a “pro-choice governor” in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

Furthermore, Sununu has demonstrated allyship to the LGBT community during a period when even Trump, who once declared “the gays, they love me”, has seemingly disappeared from that scene. He has enacted legislation to protect LGBT rights, such as laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity and banning conversion therapy for minors. He has also supported the inclusion of a non-binary gender option on driver’s licences and vetoed a bill that could have resulted in trans children being inadvertently outed to their parents in schools. Admittedly, this could be viewed as excessively progressive or perhaps something a “Republican in name only” governing in a Northeastern state might be compelled to do. It may, however, serve as an effective strategy to pacify the GOP base and shift focus towards major economic issues. This strategy, of course, could be precarious during the primaries, as MAGA voters may oppose him. Yet, there’s a slim possibility that figures such as Trump and DeSantis could split the hard-Right vote, allowing Sununu to eke out a victory with the support of centre-Right voters.

There, Sununu has maintained conservative stances, supporting state-funded school choice vouchers for disadvantaged and low-income students — critical at a time when more and more parents are pulling their kids out of failing public schools — and vetoing a bill for a paid family leave policy which entailed a state-wide payroll tax. In essence, Sununu’s record presents a unique blend of principled conservatism, fiscal responsibility and an understanding of social shifts. While the spectre of scandal or stupid sloganeering looms large over other figures in the party, Sununu’s comparatively mundane, yet effective, political career offers a refreshing divergence that could represent the Republicans’ saving grace in this politically tumultuous era.

Consider how this has worked for the Democrats. President Joe Biden, a centrist Democrat for as long as he belonged to the party, has somehow made good on four decades of blustery “Middle-Class Joe” and “Amtrak Joe” rhetoric. From the perspective of his conservative critics, he’s an aged figurehead manipulated by “woke” elites, while to some progressives, he’s perceived as a detached incumbent under the sway of corporate interests. An objective analysis, however, shows that Biden is handling the complex challenges of presidency in a more nuanced way than he’s often given credit for.

Initially, expectations were tempered for the elder statesman: could he merely get out of bed each day, mumble a few words to the camera, and avoid wetting himself on television? Yet Biden’s administration has spearheaded significant policies — from the withdrawal from Afghanistan to the bipartisan $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — which, if associated with a more vivacious ideologue, might have sparked significant enthusiasm across the political spectrum. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Democrats fared remarkably well in the 2022 midterm elections — a success that can partly be attributed to the party’s capacity to resist ultra-conservative contenders backed by influential figures such as Trump.

Who knows, perhaps Biden’s centrist approach might offer a blueprint for a novel style of leadership that could reshape America’s political landscape — a style of leadership that the much younger and much sharper Chris Sununu, who lacks only national name recognition despite a fairly well-known political surname, could emulate for the Republicans. Certainly, as we look towards the 2024 elections, it’s worth considering the importance of a calm, steady contender against President Biden.

It’s unfortunate, then, that the prospect of a tranquil political landscape seems improbable. The potential return of Trump to the Republican ticket will be good news for media outlets and social media platforms that thrive on conflict, but less so for the functioning of a society we call home. Indeed, in the coming months, the likely reality is that we’ll be inundated with Trump-centric media coverage, reminiscent of the intense attention he received during a recent CNN town hall in which he used the hapless former Daily Caller listicle writer Kaitlan Collins to dust off his greatest hits. Potential contenders like Sununu, in comparison, may remain relatively unknown, much like former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in the 2016 Democratic race, or Ohio Governor John Kasich on the Republican side. We’re all set to lose from this situation, becoming the victims of content algorithms designed to prioritise engagement over quality discussion.

The resulting indifference towards a “mundane” Sununu candidacy reveals a profound predicament: a political landscape that undervalues stability and practical policymaking. Addressing this is not merely a matter of preferring dull personalities over dynamic ones, but electing leaders committed to the collective welfare, rather than those who thrive on division and disharmony. In this context, Sununu emerges not just as a quiet politician, but as a soothing balm to the heated partisanship that has marked recent years. His calm demeanour could be just what we need to restore tranquillity in the turbulent sea of American politics. As Sununu said earlier this month: “If you can’t assure the Republican Party that you can cross the line in November of 2024 — and it’s pretty clear [Trump] can’t — then we have to find somebody else. That’s it. It’s nothing personal. We’re moving on as a party.”

The party does indeed need to move on: it’s time to allow reasoned dialogue and pragmatic policy to echo within the not-so-hallowed halls of our fraying democracy. It’s time to make America boring again.


Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

I’m sure the great teaming hordes of Jeb Bush voters will embrace Chris Sununu. Oh wait… there were no hordes of Jeb Bush voters, were there?
Well surely his “high IQ”, “evolving abortion stance” and “LGBT outreach” will endear him to Josh Hawley’s “blue collar Republican Party”. Because after putting in a hard day, what blue collar guys really look in their leaders is intellectual elitism and moral squishiness.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago

I actually kinda liked Sununu until I read this article. I had no clue about his “evolution.”

T Bone
T Bone
1 year ago

I actually kinda liked Sununu until I read this article. I had no clue about his “evolution.”

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

I’m sure the great teaming hordes of Jeb Bush voters will embrace Chris Sununu. Oh wait… there were no hordes of Jeb Bush voters, were there?
Well surely his “high IQ”, “evolving abortion stance” and “LGBT outreach” will endear him to Josh Hawley’s “blue collar Republican Party”. Because after putting in a hard day, what blue collar guys really look in their leaders is intellectual elitism and moral squishiness.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian Villanueva
Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
1 year ago

Part of the issue with going for a more centrist candidate is that they won’t necessarily draw the support from the right that they need and they will be torn to shreds by the left regardless of how milquetoast, ‘nice’ or bipartisan they are. For recent examples see Mitt Romney or John McCain. Once you get that nomination you are literally Hitler and getting ready ‘to put y’all back in chains’ or drive grandma off a cliff to save some cash.

Joe Biden won on being a return to normal centrist, and he was able to do that as the media coverage of him presented him in this way, he hid in his basement for almost the entire campaign and enough independents and Republicans spilt their tickets or went straight D to get Trump out. This will not be the case for a prospective R candidate.

I would point out, Biden is hardly the ‘centrist’ he ran on being and as is described in this article. I assume this was deliberate trolling and comment bait.

Caty Gonzales
Caty Gonzales
1 year ago

Part of the issue with going for a more centrist candidate is that they won’t necessarily draw the support from the right that they need and they will be torn to shreds by the left regardless of how milquetoast, ‘nice’ or bipartisan they are. For recent examples see Mitt Romney or John McCain. Once you get that nomination you are literally Hitler and getting ready ‘to put y’all back in chains’ or drive grandma off a cliff to save some cash.

Joe Biden won on being a return to normal centrist, and he was able to do that as the media coverage of him presented him in this way, he hid in his basement for almost the entire campaign and enough independents and Republicans spilt their tickets or went straight D to get Trump out. This will not be the case for a prospective R candidate.

I would point out, Biden is hardly the ‘centrist’ he ran on being and as is described in this article. I assume this was deliberate trolling and comment bait.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
1 year ago

Admittedly, this could be viewed as excessively progressive…
All of the points listed will be anathema to the socially conservative (=large swathes of the population). He is evidently comfortable with destroying women’s sports, dropping safeguards in women’s only spaces, and allowing children to be indoctrinated and manipulated behind their parents’ backs. Why this makes him an attractive proposition to voters is beyond me.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

Bingo! Any GOPer who is comfortable cozying up to the radical Trans agenda is a hard pass.

James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago

Bingo! Any GOPer who is comfortable cozying up to the radical Trans agenda is a hard pass.

Bronwen Saunders
Bronwen Saunders
1 year ago

Admittedly, this could be viewed as excessively progressive…
All of the points listed will be anathema to the socially conservative (=large swathes of the population). He is evidently comfortable with destroying women’s sports, dropping safeguards in women’s only spaces, and allowing children to be indoctrinated and manipulated behind their parents’ backs. Why this makes him an attractive proposition to voters is beyond me.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
1 year ago

True conservatives do not want “soothing balm,” we want fire and brimstone. We want to completely dismantle the economic and social policies of the left and Uber left. There are no more centrist Democrats and there can be no more working across the aisle. This is a war for the heart and soul of our country and milquetoast people like Sununu do not have the guts to do what it takes to win.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Davis
James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

Spot on, Mr. Davis. Sununu is basically Susan Collins in cross dress. Meh!

Last edited 1 year ago by James Stangl
James Stangl
James Stangl
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

Spot on, Mr. Davis. Sununu is basically Susan Collins in cross dress. Meh!

Last edited 1 year ago by James Stangl
Jim Davis
Jim Davis
1 year ago

True conservatives do not want “soothing balm,” we want fire and brimstone. We want to completely dismantle the economic and social policies of the left and Uber left. There are no more centrist Democrats and there can be no more working across the aisle. This is a war for the heart and soul of our country and milquetoast people like Sununu do not have the guts to do what it takes to win.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Davis
Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
1 year ago

Sununu will not win over anybody with the exception of Jeb! republicans. He is, in a word, unelectable, his qualities notwithstanding.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

Precisely. This is just more drivel from the fox reporting from the hen house with great lines like

“An objective analysis, however, shows that Biden is handling the complex challenges of presidency in a more nuanced way than he’s often given credit for.”
Mr. Bateman knows nothing objective.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

We get the leaders we deserve.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

Precisely. This is just more drivel from the fox reporting from the hen house with great lines like

“An objective analysis, however, shows that Biden is handling the complex challenges of presidency in a more nuanced way than he’s often given credit for.”
Mr. Bateman knows nothing objective.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Buteau

We get the leaders we deserve.

Bruce Buteau
Bruce Buteau
1 year ago

Sununu will not win over anybody with the exception of Jeb! republicans. He is, in a word, unelectable, his qualities notwithstanding.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

The age of weak, tepid ‘cuckservatives’ becoming popular is over. The sooner the hagiographies of these lukewarm technocrats stops, the better, as nobody is buying it.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

The age of weak, tepid ‘cuckservatives’ becoming popular is over. The sooner the hagiographies of these lukewarm technocrats stops, the better, as nobody is buying it.

Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
1 year ago

Sounds like commentary from someone who doesn’t realize they are swimming in a completely leftist cultural river, and is happy with themselves for tacking a little bit right. Which also perfectly describes Sununu, so congratulations on being consistent. Having enjoyed many of your less political articles in the previous months, I’m surprised you’re not more free thinking.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
Nathan Sapio
1 year ago

Sounds like commentary from someone who doesn’t realize they are swimming in a completely leftist cultural river, and is happy with themselves for tacking a little bit right. Which also perfectly describes Sununu, so congratulations on being consistent. Having enjoyed many of your less political articles in the previous months, I’m surprised you’re not more free thinking.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nathan Sapio
Kevin Kilcoyne
Kevin Kilcoyne
1 year ago

From what I have read in this article, the only reason Sununu is a “soothing balm to the heated partisanship that has marked recent years” is not because he has – as the author put it – he “adapted to evolving societal demands”, but rather caved on every contentious cultural issue of our day. From embracing gender identity politics – non-binary through to ‘gender-affirming’ medical treatments to children, to a seeming total 180 degree u-turn on abortion.
The author seems to think it is more important for the Republicans to court the fringe left elements than it is to embrace what it means to be a conservative – and let the merits of that do the speaking. You can be fairly sure the ‘center’ the author is trying to court is more aligned with the right than the left on most of these cultural issues.

Kevin Kilcoyne
Kevin Kilcoyne
1 year ago

From what I have read in this article, the only reason Sununu is a “soothing balm to the heated partisanship that has marked recent years” is not because he has – as the author put it – he “adapted to evolving societal demands”, but rather caved on every contentious cultural issue of our day. From embracing gender identity politics – non-binary through to ‘gender-affirming’ medical treatments to children, to a seeming total 180 degree u-turn on abortion.
The author seems to think it is more important for the Republicans to court the fringe left elements than it is to embrace what it means to be a conservative – and let the merits of that do the speaking. You can be fairly sure the ‘center’ the author is trying to court is more aligned with the right than the left on most of these cultural issues.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

You are absolutely out of your mind. I told Chris Sununu to his face that he was a callow opportunist with zero experience in any real world occupation. He was and remains a nepo baby. He is largely responsible for why we left New Hampshire for Florida.
I’ve long thought your contribution to UnHerd was trolling for hate readers, but perhaps you’re a nepo baby yourself? Can’t think of any other reason you still have this gig.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

You are absolutely out of your mind. I told Chris Sununu to his face that he was a callow opportunist with zero experience in any real world occupation. He was and remains a nepo baby. He is largely responsible for why we left New Hampshire for Florida.
I’ve long thought your contribution to UnHerd was trolling for hate readers, but perhaps you’re a nepo baby yourself? Can’t think of any other reason you still have this gig.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It’d be interesting to see Biden up against Sununu just to hear the incumbent trying to pronounce his name; he can’t get “Sunak” right after several attempts!
And incidentally, Sunak is probably the “boring” equivalent of Sununu.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Yana Way
Yana Way
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

No, no. Dementia makes it easier to recall old things. So, he will just think Sununu is his Dad and will sometimes look confused by Sununu’s face, if anything.

Last edited 1 year ago by Yana Way
Yana Way
Yana Way
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

No, no. Dementia makes it easier to recall old things. So, he will just think Sununu is his Dad and will sometimes look confused by Sununu’s face, if anything.

Last edited 1 year ago by Yana Way
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

It’d be interesting to see Biden up against Sununu just to hear the incumbent trying to pronounce his name; he can’t get “Sunak” right after several attempts!
And incidentally, Sunak is probably the “boring” equivalent of Sununu.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Given American’s love of media performance, I am surprised that there are so many candidates not being considered? Officer Dibble from Top Cat?… Fred Flintstone?…….Yogi Bear? All have the intellectual capacity and popularity?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Actually, my favourite candidate… who WOULD win is Ms Brandi Love… look her up?

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

Yep, she’s a dish.

Peter Joy
Peter Joy
1 year ago

Yep, she’s a dish.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

Yogi Bear : Smarter than the average democrat!

Yana Way
Yana Way
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I literally heard Yogi saying this as I read. You made my day.

Yana Way
Yana Way
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Doyle

I literally heard Yogi saying this as I read. You made my day.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Actually, my favourite candidate… who WOULD win is Ms Brandi Love… look her up?

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
1 year ago

Yogi Bear : Smarter than the average democrat!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Given American’s love of media performance, I am surprised that there are so many candidates not being considered? Officer Dibble from Top Cat?… Fred Flintstone?…….Yogi Bear? All have the intellectual capacity and popularity?

Richard Barrett
Richard Barrett
1 year ago

This fellow could be the worst of all worlds. At least Trump is not a neoliberal.

Richard Barrett
Richard Barrett
1 year ago

This fellow could be the worst of all worlds. At least Trump is not a neoliberal.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Dull or boring candidates do not make the news. They might do well if they have the Party Elite behind them (see Sleepy Joe), but even then their efforts can be undermined by effective (not necessarily correct) communication (see Orange Man).
I don’t see a plea for boring gaining traction until things get much, much, worse.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

Dull or boring candidates do not make the news. They might do well if they have the Party Elite behind them (see Sleepy Joe), but even then their efforts can be undermined by effective (not necessarily correct) communication (see Orange Man).
I don’t see a plea for boring gaining traction until things get much, much, worse.

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
1 year ago

I’m not American and never heard of Sununu but as we’re about to enter Pride Obedience Month I think the article addresses a topic that warrants further discussion. Specifically, the Right’s (Republicans/Conservatives) real need to focus on the moderate centre. They should realize that the tyranny of the social justice Left will probably not be defeated by wielding an even bigger ideological sword from the Right. It’s a war of attrition that destroys sanity and unity. IMO, the socialist Left is on the road to collapsing under the weight of its own hypocrisy. Like McCarthyism, it can’t exist without dragons to slay. When it runs out of real the real article it has to invent dragons that reasonable people know don’t exist. It ends badly.
Conservatives should be pushing the true language of inclusivity: Everyone. They should form policies that appeal to the Somewheres. They need to distance themselves from rabid anti-Woke raving and recognize that the cultural witch hunts have driven many ‘go along to get along’ moderates underground. Maybe MLK’s “character, not color” message is waiting to be resurrected.
Perhaps Sununu can make a some headway, perhaps not, but we need to get moving down that road. We need to see an end to this divisive tyranny.
 â€œHave you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Walter Lantz
Walter Lantz
1 year ago

I’m not American and never heard of Sununu but as we’re about to enter Pride Obedience Month I think the article addresses a topic that warrants further discussion. Specifically, the Right’s (Republicans/Conservatives) real need to focus on the moderate centre. They should realize that the tyranny of the social justice Left will probably not be defeated by wielding an even bigger ideological sword from the Right. It’s a war of attrition that destroys sanity and unity. IMO, the socialist Left is on the road to collapsing under the weight of its own hypocrisy. Like McCarthyism, it can’t exist without dragons to slay. When it runs out of real the real article it has to invent dragons that reasonable people know don’t exist. It ends badly.
Conservatives should be pushing the true language of inclusivity: Everyone. They should form policies that appeal to the Somewheres. They need to distance themselves from rabid anti-Woke raving and recognize that the cultural witch hunts have driven many ‘go along to get along’ moderates underground. Maybe MLK’s “character, not color” message is waiting to be resurrected.
Perhaps Sununu can make a some headway, perhaps not, but we need to get moving down that road. We need to see an end to this divisive tyranny.
 â€œHave you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”