The Republican Party rules the roost here in southeastern New Mexico. Donald Trump for president, Steve Pearce for Congress, Nora Espinoza for Secretary of State—these are the front-running candidacies in this corner of the state, along with the many other district and local races also on this year’s ballots. Expect Republicans to win big down here, as they always do.
This is my seventh presidential election cycle as a journalist, and I’m weathering this latest storm as editor of the Roswell Daily Record. I’ve noticed a lot of anger this time around, more than in elections past. It doesn’t help that I’m a left-leaning journalist in a right-leaning town.
This statewide column hasn’t helped my situation either, but most of the local criticism I’m getting isn’t for my opinion pieces. It’s for the editorial cartoons I approve for publication in the RDR. They’re just too anti-Trump for a lot of our readers’ tastes. Subscribers call and chew me out, still others write anonymous letters. It’s a good year for hating on the media.
There’s tension in the air, and it’s thick on both sides. Consider a couple of the RDR’s larger political stories in recent days:
• Sergio Gonzalez, a candidate for Chaves County Commission, told Roswell police and this newspaper that a woman pulled up to the Democratic Party headquarters on a recent evening and started yelling politically laced obscenities at he and his mom before almost hitting them with her car as she drove away. The suspect remains at large.
• A few days later, the Republican Party released a home security video that showed a woman getting out of a car and having a wrestling match with an embedded Trump sign, finally ripping it out of its frame and stealing it away. Three unidentified people were part of this nighttime caper.
Turns out, hundreds of signs are being stolen from Roswell yards, according to the local GOP. Most are Trump signs, but not all—someone even set fire to a Steve Pearce sign, they told us. One GOP campaign worker, Pat Hittle, suggested that it’s an organized effort against the GOP candidates. The Dems, of course, said they have nothing to do with it.
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Sign-conspiracy theories aside, Democrats in Roswell aren’t nearly as well organized as the Republicans. At the top of the political food chain here is the Chaves County Republican Women, the largest GOP women’s group in the state. Its members do a great job raising awareness and getting the vote out for GOP candidates up and down the ballot.
Still, it’s a tough year for a lot of Republicans, all because of the man at the top of the national ticket. Conservative Christians, of which Roswell has plenty, are internally torn between the amoral Trump and the immoral Clinton; at least that’s their moral dilemma. On a more pragmatic level, they fear the Supreme Court appointments that a President Clinton would nominate, so they feel they’ve no choice but to vote for Trump.
And on the Democratic side, more hidden from view, the Bernie Sanders faction still holds a grudge against Hillary for the way her campaign manhandled the nomination process. They too face a dilemma, of either voting for one of the third-party alternatives that won’t win or throwing in with the Clinton machine they despise so much.
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A lot of people are holding their nose at the polls this year, voting for Trump because he’s not Clinton, or Clinton because she’s not Trump. A relative few will vote for Gary Johnson because he’s neither, and fewer still will vote for Jill Stein for much the same reason.
Maybe I’ll go third party, too, though I’m leaning toward Hillary these days. She’s deeply flawed, but contrary to a familiar Trump mantra, she’s no criminal. No charges, no convictions, just plenty of smear campaigns that make it look that way. I’ve finally come around to thinking that she might not be half bad as our 45th president.
But this year has exposed something else, a deeply flawed two-party system, which is why I still think about voting for Johnson. A vote for the Libertarian Party candidate would be a stick-in-the-eye for the partisan nonsense that permeates Washington these days.
This election, it’s been said over and over again, is a choice between the lesser of two evils. Yet all indications point to a large, maybe even record-breaking, turnout. That’s a good thing, in case you’re wondering.
Yes indeed, the fix is in. The voters will decide this election. Let’s get it over with.
Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.