By Michael Kelley
It wasn’t immediately obvious to me five years ago when my partner and I escaped the heat and humidity of Memphis to spend our summers in Santa Fe. Gradually, however, I began to realize that this is more than a scenic, high-altitude home for artists and other creatives. The place is a hotbed of political activism, mostly of the progressive kind. I had never seen the level of civic involvement that the city had to offer – a group for every cause.
After we decided to make Santa Fe our permanent home last spring, I began looking for ways in which I could pitch in. First, it was attending weekly meetings of Indivisible Santa Fe, partly because they were happening a couple of blocks from our home but mostly because I had found a room full of people who, like me, were not happy with the direction the country had taken and were doing things about it.
Eventually I stumbled across RepresentUs New Mexico, and I was hooked on this place, too.
One can search with the tenacity of a Forrest Fenn treasure seeker and not find a more worthy vision than a “well-informed, engaged citizenry and government that truly represents and serves the best interests of all the people.” What better mission is there than to “promote ethical government that adheres to the Constitution, respects the rule of law and serves the public good”?
The goals adopted by RepresentUs New Mexico seemed to have been written to match my own long-held wish list: campaign finance reform, public financing of campaigns, lobbying reform, the elimination of gerrymandering by whatever party happened to be in the majority of state legislatures, making sure that every vote counts in fairly conducted elections. Many of these reforms I had campaigned for as an editorial writer and columnist for a daily newspaper for more than a decade. (Without much success, I’m afraid. That newspaper is in the South.)
And I was glad to see that the National Popular Vote – my personal favorite among progressive reforms – was among the initiatives supported by RepresentUs New Mexico. Imagine if the Electoral College had been tossed when it started smelling like a bucket of dead worms, we could be looking back fondly on the environmental protection reforms pushed through by President Al Gore, assessing Hillary Clinton’s performance in the nation’s highest office and deciding whether to support her for another term.
Instead, we have plunged painfully into a truly dark political age in which the European Union has banned U.S. citizens from visiting due to the coronavirus situation here, efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act persist, and relationships with American’s allies abroad continue to deteriorate.
As I type these words, stormtroopers in unmarked riot gear, driving unmarked cars, are snatching citizens off the streets like some Salvadoran death squad and punishing peaceful protesters with clouds of tear gas, batons and “non-lethal” weaponry. Something’s happening here. The call to reform government is becoming more and more urgent.
Would a vibrant turnout for the election on Nov. 2 turn the goals of RepresentUs New Mexico become realities? There are no guarantees, but accomplishment of those basic, fundamental goals, I believe, would preface solutions to many of our pressing problems – from militarization of the police to constant threats to women’s reproductive rights to environmental deterioration, global warming and beyond. Perhaps we might even be motivated to objectively consider universal health care. A national health care system could become more than a pipe dream.
Basically, what I’m asking for is a perfection of our democracy. There have been many advances in the past, but lots of work remains to be done.
Michael Kelley is a retired journalist and new member of RepresentUs New Mexico. He and his partner have made their new home in Santa Fe.