Alibi V.29 No.2 • Jan 9-15, 2020 

News Interview

The Next Blue Wave

Chatting with Miranda van Dijk of DPNM

Miranda van Dijk
Miranda van Dijk
Eric Williams Photography

In November 2018, the blue wave flowed over the state of New Mexico, bringing with it change and hope. You can attribute that sea change, at least here in The Land of Enchantment, to the Democratic Party.

Machinelike in its majesty yet still ultra-responsive to the basic need to provide progressive governance in this state, the New Mexico Democratic Party went to bat for the citizens of this state. In that base-rounding process, voters made sure there was a compassionate and professional donkey running the Roundhouse as well as creating a Congressional delegation that is all Democrat all the time—even in the South where conservative, pro-fossil fuel voices persist, the election of Xochitl Torres Small demonstrated not only the power of the party but the will of the people.

One of the reasons the Dems were able to handily grasp the reigns of the future away from incompetent usurpers like Susana Martinez has to do with the Democrat demographics.

That party—despite whatever controversies and internecine fighting grip it currently—has always been the party of youth. The idealism of Kennedy still flows through the collective anatomy of a political brand that is growing, even as a truculent and dangerous Republican administration continues to do its damage as it calls for America to ignore the future and cling steadfastly to a past where things like civil rights and a clean environment weren’t givens.

To find out more about the direction the Democratic Party in New Mexico is taking as the year 2020 quickly carries us toward a very important November election, Weekly Alibi chatted with Miranda van Dijk, the new Communications Director for Democratic operations here in The Land of Enchantment.

A graduate in History and Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania, the former press assistant to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York), and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nevada), van Dijk came to live in New Mexico this past summer to help prepare for what can only be termed the political battle of a lifetime.

She’s already made headway, assisting New Mexico Dem Chair Marg Elliston with the huge task of engendering and preparing for the next—and hopefully Republican-swamping—big blue wave. Here’s what she had to tell Weekly Alibi about being a young woman in the Democratic Party in the year 2020.

Weekly Alibi: Miranda, could you please tell our readers about who you are and what you do?

Miranda van Dijk: I’ve been the Communications Director for the Democratic Party of New Mexico since July. I moved to DC right after graduation. I got through with college and knew that I wanted to get involved with politics. I started off interning in Senator Schumer’s office; I’m originally from New York. Eventually I became his press assistant. Then, I got the chance to move out to Nevada in 2018 to work for Jacky Rosen’s election campaign. I fell in love with campaign politics and decided that this is something I really want to do with my life. I also fell in love with the Southwest and wanted to spend more time out here.

Is that a stressful career path? Only a relatively few number of young Americans take the political plunge, these days it seems.

I think that it attracts the kind of people that love the work that they do. It’s good for people that are comfortable with a hectic schedule, with a 24/7 schedule. For me, that was a perfect fit.

What do you do as the Communications Director at DPNM?

What I do is try to make sure that the essential message of the Democratic Party of New Mexico gets across to people. For us, that can mean an issue that we’re really focused on, which varies from week to week. It can also mean communicating about how to get involved and how to make sure we’re building the Democratic infrastructure in the State. A lot of people have a lot of interest in getting involved but sometimes they hit roadblocks. They may want to know how to volunteer, how to find an event they want to participate in. We work together to facilitate that. The Democratic Party is doing things year round, we have events in all parts of the state. We give citizens an opportunity to learn about those events. I also work to promote the work of our elected officials. We want citizens to know how their state legislature and their governor have been passing laws that impact everyday New Mexicans in a positive way. We also work with the congressional delegation on issues that they are focused on, to make sure they continue to fight for New Mexicans.

Here we are at the beginning of 2020. What issues are important to you right now?

For us—what we’ve always been focused on—we’re trying to build a New Mexico for all and that means focusing on issues that affect everyday New Mexicans. That could be the economy, health care, immigration. A lot of our constituents have a family member who emigrated here. Lately we’ve been having much discussion about policies at the federal level and how they contrast with policies at the state level. Republicans in the Senate—and President Donald Trump—have passed laws that give tax breaks to corporations and billionaires, while we see, in our state legislature, Governor Lujan Grisham really working to counter those by doing things like expanding the working families tax credit. We want to give more economic opportunity to New Mexicans and we think that the kind of leadership we are seeing at the state level—the kind of leadership we also see in our Congressional delegation—is what we need in the White House.

We can change all that if we all come out to vote. Besides that basic remedy, how else can we get citizens—especially young people—involved with politics?

The first thing to do is register to vote. Make sure your registration information is updated. And then after that, make sure you are getting this information. The best channels for that are social media. We’re on Twitter and Facebook at @NMDEMS and on Instagram it’s @NMDemocrats. You can also sign up for our email list and get our newsletter. After that, find an event near you and plan to attend. In terms of local activism, get in touch with your local or county branch of the Democractic Party. We have several large scale projects going on, from knocking on doors to participating in [telephone] fundraisers.

Anything coming up that you want to bring attention to?

What we’re working on right now is really apprising all the things that worked in 2018, to help set us up for this presidential election year. We’re moving forward at full speed. Our plan has three pillars. Number One is engaging Democrats across the state to help keep the enthusiasm and momentum going as we approach November. Our Chair, Marg Elliston, promised she would visit all 33 counties in New Mexico to reach out to voters in each county. We’ve already accomplished that goal. We’ve been going to a lot of community discussions to find out what’s important to New Mexicans, even in the rural parts of the state. We went to Roy, N.M., for instance to hear from the Eastern part of the state. It was a great meeting. We got to hear from citizens whose issues don’t necessarily overlap with the issues citizens have in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Access to healthcare and water issues are very important in that part of the state. We want Democrats to know that we are really passionate about those issues.

So, let me get this straight. You want your values to be inclusive, to reflect not only urban progressive culture but also rural traditionalists?

Yes, totally. We want people to understand we have a big tent party and that we want to bring people together. Another thing we’ve been emphasizing is unity. We know there are a lot of candidates in the presidential primary race right now. And so we are looking at commonalities. The day after the convention ends, we want to all come together and make sure we are fully supporting the nominee chosen.

Right now there are centrist candidates in the Democratic camp and there are progressive candidates. There’s some conflict about the direction the party will take to defeat Donald Trump. How is your party working on bringing those separate forces together?

There’s a lot of debate. Primaries are healthy because they allow us to discuss the particulars of the people we choose within the party. But we all have more in common than we have issues that separate us. No matter who you talk to in the Democratic Party, we all agree that climate change is a crisis we need to address now. We all believe the Dreamers should not be living in limbo and facing deportation. We all agree that our tax system should benefit hard-working families and not the richest, the most powerful, the corporations. And we all understand that health care is a human right. We all know that a Democrat in the White House is going to be our best option for the year 2020.