Such is Life
“Let us do something, while we have the chance!”
New Mexico’s 800,000 or so voters swung blue with Democrat Hillary Clinton garnering 48.3 percent of the vote. Libertarian candidate and former Governor Gary Johnson took a little over 9 percent. Perennial Green Party candidate Jill Stein got 1.2 percent. Republican Donald Trump swept up 40 percent of New Mexico’s vote along with taking 19 out of 33 counties, all rural. Trump supporters included our neighbors in Torrance and Valencia Counties, but McKinley and Cibola Counties showed up blue. Counties that have a sizable number of Native American and Hispanic voters went blue.
But just adopting an attitude of punishing the press is very dangerous to our democracy. We need to financially support local and national progressive media outlets as well as encourage citizen journalists to increase the number of eyes watching. Practically everyone has a phone with a camera and video recorder.
What can we expect? On day one Trump said he would do things that directly impact New Mexico. His immigration policy includes extending the walls or fences along our 180-mile border with Mexico and possibly canceling an executive order by President Barack Obama, (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) which allows children of illegal immigrants to pursue schooling or work permits. There are thousands of young New Mexican people who have submitted applications to this program. The Trump win leaves these dreamers on the edge of being deported from the only life they know. But litigation and legislation can help with over-reaching executive orders, a consequence that even Obama faced with some of his executive orders.
Our Washington D.C. representatives won’t change, as all three Incumbent U.S. House of Representatives members—Ben Ray Luján, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce—will continue to represent the state. New Mexico did not have U.S. Senate races this time around.
In his immigration policy proposal, Trump said in his first national interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes that he plans to round up, deport or incarcerate two to three million illegal immigrants who are criminals, including those with DWI infractions. While this does not seem to directly impact all N.M. folks, it very well may. This policy gives law enforcement on all levels carte blanche to use their own judgment to investigate and potentially violate the civil rights of anyone they think might be an illegal immigrant with criminal proclivities. Again, unless litigation and legislation provide checks and balances, residents of this state may be affected.
Repealing Obamacare was another priority of the Trump campaign, although the new president-elect has been backpedaling a bit on this issue so we will have to see what will happen. Just about half of our state's residents are on Medicaid and Medicare.
Another challenge to New Mexico from a future Trump administration involves putting a freeze on all hiring of federal employees in an effort to slim down government and fight corruption. New Mexico is very dependent on government jobs of one kind or another. There are many New Mexicans working for the national laboratories, U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies. Our statewide economy depends on the feds, and federal jobs.
Further, Trump’s stance on the media is a potential challenge to the First Amendment. He has said he is going “to open up our libel laws” so he can sue and get lots of money,” but of course, such draconian steps are a legislative function. Its not clear if Trump even understands that the executive branch does not even have a role in such activities, and libel law is typically administered under state law, not federal law. But just adopting an attitude of punishing the press is very dangerous to our democracy. We need to financially support local and national progressive media outlets as well as encourage citizen journalists to increase the number of eyes watching. Practically everyone has a phone with a camera and video recorder.
Other quick hits on Trump policies include expanding the school voucher program, which could undermine New Mexico’s already shaky public school system. His tax cut ideas, at quick glance, won’t effect too many of us, because we don’t have that many super rich people, and they are the ones who will get the big breaks. His stance on marriage equality is, interestingly, accepting, but his comments about reversing Roe v. Wade should concern all citizens, even though it is extremely unlikely that any court would reverse such a long-standing precedent.
There is good news here at home on the local levels. Democrat and current Bernalillo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver will take her talents to Santa Fe as Secretary of State after she beat her challenger. The county treasurer and clerk will be Nancy Marie Bearce and Linda Stover, respectively, both competent Democrats. On the court benches, governor-appointed Republican Court of Appeals Judge Stephen French was replaced by Democrat Julie Vargas. The Supreme Court will keep appointed Republican Judith Nakamura.
Things will be different for Republican Governor Susana Martinez this time around after state Democrats took back the 70-member house. Democrats kept control of the Senate and will probably add one, maybe two, seats after recounts. Gov. Martinez said she sees no problems working with an all blue Roundhouse. With Democrats in control of the Roundhouse there is a better chance of initiatives—such as joining Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and Maine in legalizing, on some level, adult recreational marijuana use—and reaping associated tax benefits.
New Mexico voters also gave the judicial system more flexibility for judges to withhold bail for criminals they consider too dangerous, while retaining the right to pre-trial release for non-dangerous defendants who don’t pose a flight risk.
County voters gave the thumbs up to changing the type of government Bernalillo County operates under to Urban Home Rule, which will give the county the same power as municipalities like Albuquerque. The new charter leaves the current county framework in place and adds ethical requirements and oversight of county investments into the charter.
One question was, should there be a yes or no election to see if Burque area residents want to have the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project or not? Seventy-six percent of the voters said the project should go to the voters. The question held no weight of law and was just a litmus test to see if folks really wanted to rip up Central. The result of the vote says the public does not support Mayor Richard Berry’s bulldozers, which have already ripped up Central and are working furiously, even without funding firmly in place.
Progressive Burqueños need to be vigilant activists against the promised rollback of many of the strides made during the Obama administration, and over the course of most of our adult lifetimes. The Supreme Court might swing back decades. We have to take Trump's campaign words seriously.
In 2018, New Mexico will have the chance to pick a new governor, the Albuquerque mayor and many other statewide and local offices. We not only have to get out and vote, but we have to put up younger, progressive candidates, and get the vote out for them. Reason and science and rational vision is up against “ideology and culture war” types. We need younger, better educated candidates, not only in the Democrat party, but in the Independent party and the Republican party as well. It is time to find the common ground, but that does not mean its time to give into a newly evolving white nationalist movement. Republicans did not win the presidential popular vote nationally. Legislators and litigants can stay the course while we all start anew in the next rounds of elections.