6-4 The polarization of politics
SANTA FE – The political world has changed. It hasn't happened overnight, although the morning after President Barack Obama's inauguration, when Rush Limbaugh said "I hope this president fails," was perhaps the most seminal event in this change.
Most Republicans in our nation's capital followed Limbaugh. Those who didn't, don skates designed for thin ice. The following year, the Tea Party came into existence and gave a home to those who wanted to camp on the right end of the political spectrum and not budge.
They were hugely successful in the 2010 congressional elections, ousting many of their party's longtime moderates and replacing them with new members who had taken pledges not to give an inch on their promises.
And now that view is being duplicated in the Democratic Party. U.S. House candidate Eric Griego of Albuquerque says in a campaign commercial, "The last thing I want to send to Washington is Democrats who are just a kinder, gentler version of Republicans.
Griego is addressing those remarks to his two opponents, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Marty Chavez. The two of them had made comments in the Albuquerque congressional district's only debate indicating that Griego would not be a good member of Congress because he is so adamant in his beliefs that he is unwilling to reach across the aisle to seek agreement.
Don't be surprised to see Griego win. He is supported by unions and environmental organizations. Unions have somewhat learned the art of the deal but they seldom support a Republican. Environmentalists are known for wanting 100 percent voting records out of their endorsees. The result is do-nothing legislatures and Congress.
The problem of moderation has vexed U.S. Senate Republican candidate Heather Wilson in her primary election races. Wilson had a fairly moderate voting record during her 10 years of service in the U.S. House. But she had to run as a full-fledged conservative in primary elections. She then moderated her stands somewhat in her general elections and labels her Democratic opponents as liberals.
The formula worked for her during her time in Congress. She was beaten four years ago by Rep. Steve Pearce in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici. And she would have had trouble this year from a viable conservative opponent.
Lt. Gov. John Sanchez was in the U.S. Senate race for a while. He was viable but his voting record during a two-year House stint in the early 2000s was fairly moderate. That didn't bother GOP leaders who were supporting him back then.
By this year, they were willing to call him a reliable conservative against Wilson. But then something happened and Lt. Gov. Sanchez dropped out of the race. That left the truly conservative Greg Sowards, a Las Cruces businessman. For some reason, Sowards didn't catch on so he saved his money and didn't invest in a big campaign.
So we now have a Congress unwilling to compromise. The last chance we had for a truly big compromise was on President George W. Bush's comprehensive immigration bill in 2007. Not many Republicans supported it but there were enough so that when Democrats were added in, the president had a majority.
But then big labor unions became fearful that jobs could be lost and enough Democrats switched to kill the bill.
Gov. Susana Martinez has tried three times to repeal the law that allows illegal aliens to obtain a driver's license. It has passed the House but can't make it through the Senate. Various senators have proposed compromises they say address all the Governor's concerns.
But Martinez has refused to accept anything but exactly what she wants. By showing a little moderation, she could have been able to declare victory.
We are being told the current elections may show the lowest voter turnouts in years. It appears Americans are getting tired of politics as usual.