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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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Poor People: The Cause of America’s Eventual Demise and Why We Should Drug Test ALL OF THEM!

January 13, 2012 1 comment

Lately, I have been reading some disturbing things on my Facebook timeline, posts and comments by people I rarely talk to, yet wonder if I should continue following considering they have such a questionable outlook on what is really going on with domestic issues here in the United States.  Years ago, it would have been a random chain email (remember those?) from hard right conservatives, but in the last three years there has been a surge of “chain emails” disguised in updates on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media tools — specifically from “friends” I would never consider “hard right,” and publicly declaring their affirmation for what they post…which in my opinion is absolutely false.

The issue I am talking about is welfare and public services and all the misconceptions that come along with the issue.  I was utterly disappointed with the magnitude of comments I was seeing on certain posts, one in particular was a discussion on last year’s failed attempt by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, who signed a welfare drug measure in which all recipients would be forced to get drug tested before receiving services.  I find the array of diverse comments intriguing because, had they done their research, they would have known that 1) this measure was struck down as unconstitutional and 2) poor people are not responsible for the economic failures of this country, especially those recieving public assistance.  (Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has provided five myths of welfare you can read here)

Honestly, if I’d heard this discussion prior to just of a few weeks ago, I would have just ignored these people and moved on.  Why proceed with a conversation that you can’t convince the other side that they’re spewing false information?  However, today I am unable to ignore the topic because I am becoming more and more concerned knowing that these comments are no longer coming from just “bottom-dwellers” (that’s what I call a person who uses anecdotal evidence to make generalizations. I’m a liberal elitist so I’m allowed to label people) but from people we legitimize as prospective presidential frontrunners in today’s presidentital election.

Take New Gingrich, for example who just last month during his “surge” stated the following:

“Start with the following two facts: Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it’s illegal.”

If you don’t gasp out loud after hearing this, then stop reading this blog…like right now.  Seriously, Newt?  I can see this coming from the average joe at my office who would agree with this statement whole-heartedly, but a presidential candidate who was once the most influential person in Congress?  Believe me, I have very little interest in what Newt has ever had to say, but when you’re trying to become the leader of the free world and engage the working poor, you really think you’re going to get their support this way?  It’s not tough love, it’s a false generalization of a disenfranchised community and a long history of income inequality and racism.

The fact is that this particular comment is like many others provided by the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rick Scott.  Just last week, another GOP presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, told a mostly white audience he doesn’t want to ‘make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.

While there are those within the general population who declare these affirmations to be accurate, I would like to say that not only are they wrong, but they’re also misleading others and making it extremely difficult to shift the conversation to adequately reforming the social services system and instead reinforcing stereotypes that are inappropriate and utterly false.

Yes, poor kids in poor neighborhoods should learn what it means to have good work ethic, but so should every other child in the country, but Gingrich’s theory that no money equals no morals is utter nonesense. Furthermore, let me throw this out there as well.  The poor should not be held responsible for the ills of a nation in a time of economic downturn.  The working poor should not be your scapegoat when you are trying to find “resolve” to your own personal financial strife.  Instead, what we should be focusing on are the overall issues attributing to this downfall and how they affect the entire nation.  The poor are not the culprits.

There is income inequality in this country.  Bottom line.

I get sick to my stomach when I hear people try to explain to me this idea that we live in a utopia and that racism and income inequality no longer exists and that people should suck it up and just work.  “If I could do it, they can too!” is what I hear on a daily basis.  Class warfare? Blasphemy!  Well, it is class warfare and if you, who represent the working poor and s0-called “middle class” defend the likes of the top 1% by demeaning those who have to utilize social welfare, then you are the problem.

I say this with so much angst because I feel that I have to constantly repeat myself because people do not seem to get that racism and income inequality continue to exist and until we admit this weakness in our country, our economic trials will continue.  No one uses racism and inequality as an excuse not to work, it’s a reality.

Last night, I watched an hour of CSPAN in which a panel discussed poverty in America.  The panel were obviously to my left of center, the usual such as Tavis Smiley, Cornell West, and Michael Moore.  The panel I find to be important figures in our society, but I don’t always agree with them on everything — except for poverty in America.  As someone who has experience in consumer protection and has seen countless families face foreclosure and be overwhelmed in debt, I could relate to exactly what they were saying.  Things like, “poverty is color-coated” and “boot on the neck of people of color” were things that were said and all important because they are true.  Most importantly, however was Roger Clay, from Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland who said that after researching unemployment rates the last 40 years, the unemployment rate in African American communities have never been lower than today’s 8% except for one time.  On average, African American communities have seen a 16.7% unemployment rate, the worst in three decades.  The lack of jobs in this country is astounding, but it’s also been an incredible disservice  to communities of color, who continue to see an ongoing struggle, yet our leaders do very little to bring this issue to the forefront.  According to Forbes contributor Joel Kotkin, even the middle class in groups of color are deteriorating.  “White households may have lost 16% of their net worth in recent years, but African-Americans have lost 53%, and Latinos 66%.”  This is the reality, yet we have people around us constantly attacking the poor as if they’re to blame.  Think about this.  The top 400 riches people in this country have the wealth of 150,000,000 people in the bottom income bracket…combined.  COMBINED!  How can you condemn the poor for needing to use public services when there is an obvious problem of income inequality in this country?

The following diagram clearly shows the average income per family, by income group.  If you’ve read this far, more than likely you’re not part of the 1% #justsayin

When people like those on my Facebook timeline post “facts” about how wonderful it would be to drug test welfare recipients, I’d like to ask them why they think we should test “those” people when it’s CEO’s and Wall Street we keep bailing out.  Riddle me that.


What is sad about this whole argument is that it’s usually those who are the “working poor” who defend the top 1%.  How is it that people like myself, struggling to make ends meet, would protect the rich as if it’s a noble cause all the while blaming the poor for what is taking place in this country today?

Why?

The only thing I can think of and I agree with others that have taken on this theory as well is that American’s still believe wholeheartedly that if they work hard enough, they too will become rich one day.  They too will someday get to be a part of that “American Dream” as we now know it.  And when you have people like Mitt Romney, for example, telling us that we’re “envious” of his wealth and President Obama and his supporters should stop attacking millionaires and billionaires like Mr. Romney, we have reached a low point in our country’s debate on income inequality and instead conforming to this idea that oligarchy is ok.

Monday we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and the  legacy he left behind, after his tragic death in 1968.  His life was taken too soon and as he accomplished so much for civil and human rights, income inequality and poverty were at the forefront of his next battle, a battle that still remains today.

“There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

— MLK Jr.

Concerns about the welfare of our people is today just as much an issue as it was when Dr. King walked the earth and as a nation, we need to have a sense of urgency and realize that these inequalities exist and are a major threat to our democracy.  The future of the nation is at stake and unless we engage in a serious debate, to improve the lives of the poor all across the country, we will fail miserably.  But before we can do that, we…as a people, need to come to the understanding that the poor are not to blame.  The blame goes to those who we have allowed to take the power from us, the power to believe that anything is possible and that the “real” American Dream can exist.

Is Governor Walker, like…for real?

 

Wisconsin University educator under attack by GOP

Wisconsin "Union Busting" Governor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lot’s going on in the world right now, but tonight I am baffled by Governor Walker.  Is there some brilliant, political strategy he is pursuing that perhaps we don’t know about?

Well…whatever it is, good luck with that.