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New Mexico’s Congressional District 2: Who Said We Didn’t Matter?

December 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Lots has happened since my last blog post this past summer.  First and foremost, I’m sorry to all my readers who have desperately waited for a timely post from me.  My apologies.  It would be easy for me to just say that there was nothing to write about.  But that’s not true at all.  In fact, there was a ton of stuff to write about.  I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and write.  But that will all change.  I promise.

Regarding my last post, we have yet to see the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which I wrote about earlier this year.  My last piece regarded an action organized by the Alliance for Peace and Justice in Roswell, right outside the office of our representative, Congressman Steve Pearce (R).  Sadly, Mr. Pearce continues to be a disappointment.  Not only did he recommend that those affected by the government shutdown go out and get a loan from the bank to make it through the shutdown, he spent most of the summer and early fall advocating for inhumane alternatives directly affecting 12 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.  Which pretty much calls for a second class citizenry, which I countered in an op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal. I wish I could say he was the only radical conservative offering up some awful policies, but he wasn’t.  Other conservatives in Congress join Representative Pearce in these same efforts.

Despite this lack of leadership from our Congressman, many see the immigration issue not yet dead (depending on who you talk to) In fact, some advocates still see the possibility for immigration reform, even if piecemeal — which many predict for 2014.  This may be possible considering that next year is a big year in politics, as members in both the House of Representatives and the Senate are up for reelection and support of good policy helps garner votes. Also, there is President Obama who desperately needs a win.

My immigration post also coincided with my decision to move to Las Cruces — a move that was a welcome relief to friends and colleagues on the west side of congressional district 2. Despite what some may think, my hometown of southeastern New Mexico is not a lost cause for progressives like myself (I will be back). But with a burgeoning democratic base in the southwest, I can’t help but be excited about playing a role in a movement to transform this part of New Mexico. Our progressive homies north of I-40 should be paying close attention and take notes. When people think “New Mexico Politics,” Albuquerque and Santa Fe should not have the final word.

Despite being under resourced and underserved, CD2 shall not be ignored.  In fact, it is ground zero for real change.  This region has the potential to redefine politics in our state for years to come.  It can also be a model for other states across the country, facing some of the same political and social challenges our region faces each and every day. We’re a rural, conservative region — separated by miles and miles of open space.  Door hangers, social media and emails don’t win over the masses.  It has to be much more holistic than that.

The secret is simple.  It’s about building long lasting relationships.  It’s about connecting with families and individuals about common values. It’s about community organizing.

When President Obama came into the spotlight and talked about his work as a community organizer in south Chicago, those on the right found this work absurd. There was that moment during Sarah Palin’s speech during the 2008 Republican National Convention when she laughed at the whole concept. Winking her eye at those of us watching.  She laughed because like her colleagues on the right, they don’t understand this committment to organizing as being a tool for social justice and progress because this isn’t what its about for them.  Engaging their community in discussions on making things better is the absolute opposite of what they want.

Think about it.  Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting at a kitchen table, strategizing with close friends on how to make the world a better place to live for everyone? Him and his crew never sat around conducting a power analysis to demonstrate “people power.” They did power analysis to demonstrate how to take that people power away!

That’s the difference between us and them.

You transform the makeup of the political spectrum when you engage communities in conversations about real issues that affect our towns and villages.  You build on issues that directly affect each and every one of us and overtime you see real change.  Why? Because I whole-heartedly believe that our progressive values are values people believe in across the board.  It’s just a matter of engaging our community in these one-on-one conversations and to act on them.

We win elections when we sit down and learn from each other, developing strategies around the ideas that come from those we directly serve.  We develop leaders from our communities to bring forth change. We create opportunities for real change.

Will all this win elections tomorrow? No.

But overtime we transform ideas to greatly improve our communities.  That is the goal.

This is the game progressives should play because it comes naturally.  We are inclusive of everyone.

We are on the right side of history.  

This I know.

But being an organizer is not easy.  In fact, it’s one of the hardest jobs you can ever have.  But the effects of organizing are long lasting, if we take the time to invest in it.

We win elections when our community stands behind us. When we demonstrate true leadership and hone in on what the overall consitutency needs and wants.  Not what the few benefit from.

When we take on this philosophy, at all levels of leadership, we provide an outlet for our community to have real power.  We do this and we will never have to worry about losing another election that stands for progressive values.

It’s important that I write all of this because we’re at a crucial juncture here in New Mexico.  We rank last on all the good stuff and first on all the bad.  Sure, it’s fun to see the other side implode, but what does that do for our community? I find it shameful when I attend these democratic/republican events and people are excited to see the other side looking foolish. What does that do for our neigbor who can’t find work?

Politicizing issues that are important to our communities do nothing but sustain a status quo.  At what point do we say enough is enough?

My work in CD2 is crucial.  I know I’m not the only one who believes this.

To be continued.   

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Immigrants Advocate While Democrats Infiltrate: Politics As Usual When It Comes To Talks On Immigration Reform

July 18, 2013 2 comments

7:17:13 Day of Action 1Yesterday in Roswell, the Alliance for Peace and Justice, a group of activists promoting equality for Roswell and all New Mexican’s, organized a vigil outside of New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce’s office.  With over 60 activists in attendance, the Congressman was presented with a letter urging him to support their cause for immigration reform.  In the letter, the Alliance states,

Over the past decade we have doubled the number of border agents and vastly expanded border security spending, and now by every measure our border is more secure. Now a common sense roadmap exists that includes responsible enforcement and a citizenship process making us even safer, and our economy stronger.  To spend any more money militarizing our border would be fiscally irresponsible, and hindering the debate on immigration reform for the sake of ideology would be morally irresponsible.

While the group may not be able to sway the Congressman’s decision to support a pathway to citizenship, yesterday’s day of action gave a great showing of solidarity and support for the ongoing talks happening thousands of miles away in Washington.  But while we’re on that subject of Washington, who is in charge of the fate of 11 million “aspiring” American’s, let’s talk briefly about how politicized this immigration issue has become.

As an activist watching the Senate debate the bill and now urging the House to take action and put the bill up for a vote, I can’t help but wonder about the suspicions I have had about why we’re still talking about this.  I’m usually blaming the Republican’s for the gridlock in Washington, but now I’m not so sure if they’re entirely to blame.

Yesterday’s day of action by the Alliance for Peace and Justice was a vigil to urge Congressman Steve Pearce to support a humane and just bill that allows for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants already here.  But for a minute during this vigil, the action turned into political theater when local Democrats infiltrated the vigil by campaigning against Congressman Pearce. Here all along, I was worried over the opposition to the issue, nativists and/or Tea Party activists showing up to defend their political puppet, Steve Pearce.  But instead, what we saw was a carnival of self-involved Democrats, jabbering about “democratic values” and ignoring the fact that this was a non-political event, to demonstrate the need for reform for countless immigrants living in our communities here in New Mexico.

7-17 Day of Action 2Although this parade of politicization didn’t last long, it did leave me with a very lasting impression of what I was already struggling to accept, but never wanted to admit to.  When it comes to issues of immigration or any other issue around social justice, neither party really cares.  I’ve been an immigrant activist for 15 years and in all those years, we’ve come so close to reform, but in the end it’s always shot down.  Why is that?  Sure, let’s blame the Republican’s for everything but Democrats are responsible too.

Immigration reform is not a game.  Eleven million aspiring American’s are not here for your political enjoyment.  Our issues are not here to keep you all entertained.  But it sure is keeping you employed, huh?

Democrats:  This is why American’s choose not to vote. This is why your base chooses to sit out important elections like in 2010 and 2012. Realize this when 2014 comes around because you all are going to be given the shock of your life when you lose another major election.

We certainly expect pandering from the right. I guess we should start to expect it from the left as well.