In April 2021, New Mexico is tired. We are tired of Covid, of restrictions, of divisiveness, of crime, of the economy. After this last legislative session, I am tired of one-party Democratic Party rule. The passage of the burdensome paid sick leave law, the failure of multiple bills that would eliminate some or all taxation on Social Security income, and the seeming indifference to multiple bills that would improve safety for children under CYFD supervision left me shaking my head.
With a few notable exceptions I don’t see a lot of hope from my own Republican Party. The state party organization remains dedicated only negative messages: every decision the governor makes is horrible, every plan the President has is wrong. I need to hear solutions and ideas instead of constant outrage, accusations and complaints.
The debacle of “Operation Freedom” is the latest “no” initiative from the NM GOP. Basically, the governor is so awful that the New Mexico Republican Party is having its annual convention— “Operation Freedom”—in Texas. The talking points are that Michelle Lujan Grisham won’t “let” Republicans have a meeting, so they are “forced” to go to Texas, along with the tens of thousands of dollars in hotel reservations, meeting rooms and restaurant checks that go with an event for 200 people.
It’s really hard to stand for change in New Mexico if you make your stand in another state. Splitting the meeting among four New Mexico hotels and connecting the participants via technology is absolutely doable. And nothing would stop organizers or participants from publicly criticizing the governor’s extreme economic shutdown during a socially distanced event while meeting current regulations—even if they don’t agree with them. This is what non-violent protest is kind of all about; you know, making your discontent known without breaking the law and all. The governor’s hospitality shutdown has gone on too long; but taking your business to Amarillo seems akin to taking your marbles and going home.
If this unrelenting policy of “no” were successful for New Mexico Republicans, I would be less critical. More Republicans are not registering to vote, and more Republicans are not winning elections, at least not in the last two cycles. Bashing the opposition does galvanize the base. I just reviewed 20 years of voter registration data; the GOP base in New Mexico has stayed largely level. The base is not going anywhere. What unceasing negativity is unable to do is attract new voters.
Nearly 24 percent of registered voters in New Mexico do not belong to either major party. Republicans need their votes. The unaffiliated voters need to hear ideas and a vision for prosperity, safety and a better way forward for our state. Simply put, the Republican Party needs to become the party of “yes.”
Yes, we can improve our dismal education numbers by focusing on the classroom with the state’s funding rather than pouring dollars into layer over layer of administration. Yes, we can support the business community without the bait and switch of newly available relief funds at the expense of punitive regulations and taxes. Yes, we can stimulate job growth by doing the basic accounting and weighing the value of enhanced unemployment benefits against prevailing market wages. Yes, we can improve oversight and accountability of our state agencies that exist to serve and protect our citizens and our most vulnerable populations.
See how easy that was?
Nationally, and in New Mexico, the coming election cycle will show whether the party of “no” will be able to persist much longer. The special election to fill the vacancy for Secretary Deb Haaland’s Congressional seat is a bellwether for 2022. And it is not nearly as ugly as I expected it to be. Sure there are negative ads. As much as many of us dislike them, they are not going away. But when an error in fact was pointed out in one of Republican candidate Mark Moores’ ads, the campaign changed it. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but I am used to the 2020 elections, where candidates said anything and simply did not care about facts.
Should Moores win the special election with his generally upbeat campaign, it will be hard to remain a lawmaker who believes in the power of “yes” in the current Congressional Republican caucus. On Tuesday House Republicans forced a failed vote to censure California Representative Maxine Waters just as Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all criminal charges for Goerge Floyd’s death. Waters’ remarks to escalate protests as the Chauvin trial jury deliberated were inappropriate; House Republicans’ censure vote simply escalated the escalation.
New Mexico needs more moderate voices like Moores’. After the Democrats’ purge of pro-business state lawmakers in its 2020 primaries, any voice of reason in New Mexico politics stands out from the crowd. I’m hoping for more exceptional candidates from both parties in 2022.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.