It’s not surprising that Democrats had a historic election night in Las Cruces and across the nation on Tuesday. The pendulum swings, especially after new presidents take office.
It’s swinging particularly hard and fast this time because of the radically abnormal presidency of Donald Trump. In New Mexico, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s low approval rating will exacerbate the swing to the left.
So Las Cruces’ city council now includes six Democrats, one independent and no Republicans. Burqueños will probably elect Democrat Tim Keller to be their new mayor next week. New Mexicans will probably choose a Democrat to be governor in 2018. Democrats will likely keep—and maybe even increase—their control of the state House of Representatives next year.
I believe who we elect matters, and I vote. I’m also sympathetic to the vast majority of people in this state and nation who could be voting—but choose to stay home instead.
What reason do people have to believe either party’s rhetoric and attempts to paint itself as the agent of change? Democrats have controlled this state’s government for most of its history. Republicans have held greater control of state government in recent years than ever before.
Did either party move New Mexico up in the rankings? Did either party substantially combat child poverty, improve education, create jobs for New Mexicans, give our children the means to be anything other than New Mexico’s greatest export?
The United States has been in decline for my entire life. The middle class is vanishing. Fewer Americans are earning more than their parents. The future doesn’t seem so bright. That’s been true my entire life, through the tenures of three U.S. presidents who were Democrats, three who were Republicans, and Trump, who doesn’t seem to have allegiance to anyone or anything but himself.
So as the pendulum swings, and Democrats are handed more power this year and next in local, state and national races, I want to hear what’s going to be different this time. I want to hear why electing Democrats in 2017 and 2018, unlike all the other times this state has elected them, will result in my 6-year-old daughter having a better future.
It’s easy right now for Democrats to run on a platform of dumping Trump, and they’re going to win lots of races by doing it. But to earn my vote, and to inspire the silent majority to engage, candidates are going to have to articulate what they’re for—and it’s going to have to be deep, systemic change.
Because Trump is a symptom of our dysfunction, not the cause. Our society is heading for a serious crash caused by bipartisan failure over decades. We need visionary, nuanced, bold action to change course.
The Democratic Party will have an opportunity over the next few years to lead us to a better future. I’m not yet hearing that it’s any better prepared for that challenge than the Republican Party.
I hope I’m proven wrong.
Haussamen runs NMPolitics.net, a news organization devoted to hard-hitting, fair exploration of politics and government that seeks to inform, engage and build community. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook at /haussamen, or on twitter @haussamen.