Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5-6 Puerto Rico trying for statehood again

50613 Puerto Rico

SANTA FE – Oh, no. Don't look. Puerto Ricans have decided they want to become a state. They are in for an even rougher time than New Mexico had.
Puerto Rico suffers from the same difficulties New Mexico had but to an even greater degree. It has a different culture, different language and it is too far from Washington, D.C.
Even more difficult were the politics of the situation. In 1850, President Zachary Taylor wanted to admit New Mexico to become a state as soon as it became a territory.
But it was politically impossible because leading up to the Civil War every Western territory that wanted to become a state had to be paired with a territory that allowed slavery.
Unfortunately all the slave territories had already been admitted. New Mexico did not permit slavery so its goose was cooked.
Puerto Rico faces a similar dilemma. The Democratic Party is most popular there. Democrats would be very likely to take both U.S. Senate seats and almost all the U.S. House seats.
Washington D.C. faces the same problem. Its quest for statehood has been stymied for decades. There are no Republican territories to offset Democrat requests.
Democratic Hawaii and Republican Alaska were the last pair of states admitted to the Union.
Western Washington State has tried hard to be separated from its coastal brethren where Democrats reign. But that is unlikely.
Many states have a geographical difference in political philosophies. New Mexico, for instance.
It has been suggested by some, however, that these two states be allowed to split, creating two new conservative states, thereby allowing Washington, D.C. AND Puerto Rico to become states.
The extra requirement would be that none of the four states created by splitting Washington State and New Mexico be allowed to keep their old name.
That little maneuver would eliminate confusion over whether people are talking about Washington State or Washington, D.C. And it would eliminate confusion about whether New Mexico is part of the United States.
With both of those possibilities being extreme long shots, Puerto Rico has an unenviable task. Up until now, it was content with its present commonwealth status. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens receiving most U.S. benefits but are not required to pay federal taxes.
For many years that argument appealed to most everyone but politicians who wanted to play on the big stage. But now with tensions over immigration laws, Puerto Ricans decided they would like it to be clear that they already are U.S. citizens and not required to show papers when they enter our country.
There was some doubt about the conduct of the election, so President Obama has decided to conduct a new election paid for and monitored by federal officials for the first time.
The choices are present status, statehood or independence. Statehood and the present status always drew the great majority of votes but there always was a small group pushing for independence, which Puerto Rico would have great trouble handling.
But those wanting independence felt strongly. In 1950, two independence seekers tried to assassinate President Harry Truman.
Those not wanting statehood also have a good point. They worry about losing their culture and identity. They see themselves as a Latin American nation and as a Caribbean nation, not as an American state.
Still, most Puerto Rican political leaders have long felt statehood would be best for Puerto Rico. So they have been asking Congress for statehood for years. They say they feel like second-class citizens. When they come to the states, they often are hassled for green cards and called immigrants.
A 1998 vote by Congress was close. It even had the support of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. When it fell short, Puerto Rico went to the United Nations and asked to be declared a colony in need of international attention.
When that didn't work they tried a court suit. But it is hard to prove mistreatment when your commonwealth and its citizens receive most of the benefits of citizenship without paying federal taxes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

5-3 Why is Cinco de Mayo celebrated?

50313 Cinco

SANTA FE – On Sunday, May 5, America will celebrate the most increasingly popular day of the year. It is ironic that just four days earlier, on May 1, we almost completely ignored the celebration of a day with many reasons to observe.
May 1 has been celebrated as a pagan festival to welcome spring and encourage fertility since long before the beginnings of Christianity. Then it was International Workers Day; then the day the Soviet Union paraded its military hardware. Then it was Law Day and Loyalty Day.
International Workers Day still is celebrated in most industrialized countries but in the United States and Canada, we recognize labor in September. So May 1 passes without notice.
But on May 5 we let it all hang out. It is Cinco de Mayo and we celebrate a Mexican victory in a small battle to stop the French invasion, which soon succeeded in taking over the country.
The big celebration in Mexico is on September 16, commemorating victory in the long struggle for independence from Spain. So if the United States wants to help its neighbor to the south celebrate a glorious occasion, why don't we celebrate their biggest day on September 16?
Some suggest the timing is off. Even though September 16 technically is still summer, our Labor Day is considered the last bash of the summer. Everyone is home from vacation and the kids are into their school activities.
So why is May 5 better? Could it be because the May 1 events don't involve partying? Neither do Easter and Memorial day. Wikipedia says it is because the French loss at Puebla kept them from helping the South in our Civil War so their cotton ports could stay open.
That doesn't make much sense because France just brought over more troops and crushed everything its path on the way to Mexico City. England and Spain, which Napoleon III expected to join him, had found other sources of cotton in India and Egypt, which France began using too.
I'm more convinced by the argument that the timing is good for beer companies to kick off their summer season. Practically the entire nation gets involved in Mexican-themed celebrations.
Why? Maybe it is to acknowledge the significant numbers of Hispanics found in many communities throughout the nation. Perhaps it is because the culture is known for having fun.
Do you suppose there will be evidence that the Republican Party at the local, state and national levels will be more involved in Cinco de Mayo activities this year? Sounds like a good idea to me.
Meanwhile the people of Mexico must be scratching their heads about the fun we are having with their little celebration. I have read that only the people of Puebla and surrounding area make it a big celebration.
They have good justification for making it a big celebration. Mexico wasn't winning a lot of battles in those days. They had recently lost half their territory to the United States.
The French were completely surprised by the fierce fight the locals and Indians put up under the leadership of Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza. The French retreated and sent for reinforcements.
Ever since our fifth president's Monroe Doctrine, The United States had taken a firm position that Europe should keep its hands off the Western hemisphere. But we were too busy fighting each other here in the United States to enforce our doctrine.
The French took advantage of that by taking control of Mexico for several years until we got our problems resolved.
When our Civil War ended, the U.S. government took note of France's action and managed to apply diplomatic pressure get them out of Mexico without us firing a shot. By 1867 France began withdrawing its troops.
Emperor Maximilian, who had been installed by Napoleon, was captured by troops of the Mexican Republic and executed by firing squad.

Friday, April 26, 2013

5-1 May Day

50113 May Day

SANTA FE – May 1 has to be the most unusual day of the year for celebrations. It has more reasons for celebrating than does any other day but almost no one, especially in America, pays much attention.
It all started in pre—Christian Europe when pagans celebrated the beginning of spring, the arrival of flowers and the planting of crops. The winding of maypoles goes back to this time. They considered the poles as phallic symbols bringing fertility to the land and its people.
Eventually this evolved into the giving of May baskets filled with spring flowers and sweets. The routine was that a basket would be placed on a girl's front doorstep. The boy would then knock on the door and then run in order to avoid being detected. If he was caught, the girl got to plant a big kiss on him.
This practice continued into the 20th century. My mother had me playing the game, although minus the kissing part. My wife Jeanette says she would accompany her mother to nursing homes where Jeanette would hand out May baskets.
This all seemed to end around the middle of the 20th century. The reason was competition from other events focusing on May 1. In the 1880s factory workers throughout the world began protesting unsafe working conditions and 16-hour days. They chose May 1 as International Worker's Day.
The day's observance often was marked by demonstrations and violence. In many American communities, a much tamer version of honoring labor began to appear. That celebration was held on May 1 and was called Labor Day. Congress made it an official national holiday from work. Since then, Congress changed the date to the first Monday in September.
As the Cold War began in the late 1940s, the Soviet Union chose May 1 to show off its military might and take advantage of worker demonstrations around the world. The growing power of American unions caused Congress to decide it had to give unions some official recognition. Considering the Russian takeover of May Day, it wasn't difficult for Congress to decide on the September 1 Labor Day holiday.
When President Dwight Eisenhower took office in 1953, he decided that America should do something to distract attention from the Soviet Union's display of military might, so he created Law Day. Congress later wrote it in law. The stated purpose is to proclaim that we are a nation of laws that doesn't rely on military might.
Some bar associations hold banquets on May 1. Some school districts in New Mexico and around the nation hold assemblies featuring lawyers and judges lecturing on the law. In Albuquerque, the Turner Branch Law Firm has done much to publicize Law Day, including a two-page spread in the Albuquerque Journal a few years ago reprinting the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
This is the same Turner Branch who bought the naming rights to the University of New Mexico football stadium, now called Branch Field.
In 1958, President Eisenhower realized that some American communities celebrated what they call Loyalty Day. It is a time to celebrate our loyalty to our country. So the president officially recognized the day and Congress quickly made it a law.
Loyalty Day is celebrated even less than Law Day. Both were good tries by President Eisenhower, who was trying to blunt the Soviet Union's influence on the rest of the world. Forty years later, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell apart. But it wasn't because of Law Day or Loyalty Day.
International Workers Day still is celebrated in most industrialized countries on May 1 but not with the fervor of old. Working conditions and pay are much better in nearly every country of the free world. In 2009, Immigrant groups across the country used the day to push for changes in U.S. immigration policy. So far, that hasn't shown much success. No wonder MayDay also is a distress signal.

Correction 4-29 Presidential Libraries

Mike Johnson informs me that the Gerald Ford Museum is in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not Ann Arbor. It is in the very last line.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Presidential Libraries worth visiting


42913 Presidential Libraries.txt


     SANTA FE – With the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, we now have 13 presidential libraries, each one grander and costlier than its predecessor.

     The Clinton Presidential Center, in Little Rock, topped all previous libraries at $165 million, 300,000 square feet, and 80 million presidential items. Watch for the George W. Bush Center to top that.

     You paid for much of that, just as you paid for the previous libraries. But it's not all money down the drain. These are 13 impressive museums, six for Democrats and now seven for Republicans, so no one should get their partisan hackles up over that.

     Jeanette and I have been to most of them and intend to get to the rest. Historians get a little edgy about all the self-promotion, excessive adoration and unmitigated praise, considering we are a democracy founded on the disavowal of kings.

     But for those of us in the general public, the libraries are quite an experience. I'm sure we all enter them well aware that we will receive that president's slant on the events of his term and are prepared to filter that information just as we would treat presidential campaign ads.

     A Counter Clinton "Lie-brary" was planned for just down the street from the Clinton Center, courtesy of the folks that were after him throughout his two terms. It was grandly announced but never materialized. 

    Some think it was more than coincidence that the Clinton Center opened just two weeks after a Democratic presidential candidate had lost an election and the party was looking for someone to rescue it. Hillary was featured prominently during the opening ceremonies and in the exhibits.

    The opening of the Clinton Center had been scheduled for November 2004 since early in the planning phase, but that doesn't mean the Clintons didn't have a Hillary presidential candidacy in mind.

It might also be noted that the Bush Presidential Library and Museum prominently features his son, George W, who was seriously consideri9ng a presidential run at the time.

Wouldn't it be something if the 2016 presidential race featured Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush? The clash of two dynasties. They were both at the dedication of the George W. Bush Center dedication last Thursday.

    Officially, these showcases are known as presidential libraries. The purpose is to safeguard presidential papers, which long were thought to be private property, and which for most presidents are scattered far and wide.

    Franklin Roosevelt didn't want that to happen to his papers, so he arranged for them to go to the government. Harry Truman followed suit and urged his friend Herbert Hoover to do the same. Thus, the official libraries begin with Hoover.

    But now it is the museums that have grown to great importance. The last few presidents have added the word museum to their library. And Clinton did them one better by calling his a center.

    The next time you are traveling in the vicinity of a presidential library, think seriously about stopping. We have found each one to have a very special feel about it and lasting memories. I have never been able to find a list of all of them and their locations, so here is what I have compiled. Our favorite so far is the Reagan Library.

* Herbert Hoover – West Branch, Iowa

* Franklin Roosevelt – Hyde Park, New York

* Harry Truman – Independence, Missouri

* Dwight Eisenhower – Abilene, Kansas

* John Kennedy – Dorchester, Massachusetts

* Lyndon Johnson – Austin, Texas

* Richard Nixon – Yorba Linda, California

* Gerald Ford – Ann Arbor, Michigan

* Jimmy Carter – Atlanta Georgia

* Ronald Reagan – Simi Valley, California

* George Bush – College Station, Texas

* Bill Clinton – Little Rock, Arkansas

* George W. Bush - Dallas, Texas

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gov. artinez on Most Influencial List

42613 Time 100

SANTA FE – New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has been named to Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world. That's a big deal as far as I'm concerned.
But it hasn't seemed to mean much to others in the news business. Other than short reports saying it happened, the only opinion I have noticed was in Joe Monahan's blog last Friday. Obviously I don't get around to reading all blogs but I expected to see much more by four days after our governor's honor.
Most of you won't be reading this for another four days so maybe the news business will have noticed by then. Obviously Time magazine isn't the last word on who is important in this world but I saw part of an interview with the editor who put the list together.
He said the staff working on the project tried to spread the recognition among as many new people as possible each year. Obviously the president of the United States is going to be included every year but not most of the rest of the Top 100.
Others chosen in the "Leaders" category were Joe Biden, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Chris Christie, the only other Governor chosen this year. The influential Christie has been picked before.
Others in the "Leaders" category were Pope Francis, Xi Jinping of China and Kim Song Un of North Korea. The list wasn't intended to be all good guys. It is people who influence the world.
In the "Entrepreneurs" category Elon Musk added to his Silicon Valley influence by successfully sending two rockets to the International Space Station. He didn't launch them from New Mexico's Spaceport America, by the way.
Categories such as entertainment and sports change yearly. Time has been compiling its list of 100 for 10 years.
Gov. Martinez likely won't make the list next year. Although the brief tribute to her done by Karl Rove didn't mention it, our governor surely was not chosen for what she has done since assuming office in 2011 but for her feat of winning office despite being Hispanic, female and a Republican in a Democratic state. Her feat can influence others to realize they can do the same.
From what I can dig out, Martinez is the first New Mexican to be selected for the list in its 10-year existence. Former Gov. Bill Richardson was selected to a list of the top 25 Hispanics in the nation.
We heard a lot about that. Had he been selected to the most influential in the world list, he would have flooded the place with news releases. So far, I haven't seen anything from Gov. Martinez's office. She should do it.
Others in the leader category were Malala Yousafzai, the 15 year-old activist who survived a Taliban attack, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whom President Barack Obama boorishly called the prettiest attorney general in the nation. And then there was Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association.
Karl Rove, in his tribute to Gov. Martinez said maybe this award will help her be reelected next year. Yes, it will help. She is already at over 60 percent popularity among New Mexico likely voters. This will only add to that figure.
The road won't be entirely smooth, however. Democrats will contend that Martinez doesn't deserve the recognition because her accomplishments are meager. But voters like her anyway. They like who she is and don't worry much about what she hasn't done or that she hasn't been as bold as she promised.
Former Gov. Bill Richardson seemed to have been too bold for voters and he did too much. Voters seemed to worry that Lt. Gov. Diane Denish would follow in Richardson's footsteps although she said she wouldn't.
New Mexicans may be enjoying sitting back, relaxing and saving some money rather than experiencing constant action during the previous administration.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Group Honors Bataan Vets

42413 Bataan

SANTA FE – I've discovered a great new organization. Or rather, it discovered me. The New Mexico Guardians of our Heritage Defenders of Bataan recently presented me an award for the many columns I've written about the New Mexico National Guard's defense of Bataan.
The purpose of the organization is to preserve and perpetuate the story of the soldiers from the New Mexico National Guard regiments of the 200th and 515th Coast Artillery and Antiaircraft unit through education, preservation, participation and service.
Membership is open to people willing to support the organization's goals. It is not necessary to be a descendant of a Bataan veteran. The organization wants to broaden participation and interest in keeping the memory of Bataan alive. Members need not be from or live in New Mexico. Yearly membership is $20. Membership forms are on the website
Very few Bataan Veterans remain. In 2010, the remaining members of the New Mexico ExPOWs of Bataan and Corregidor presented the their descendants with a scholarship fund and charged them with keeping the memory of their service and sacrifice alive.
The Guardians organization has embraced that charge. In 2011, it was awarded a $1,200 grant from the National Descendants group, formally the America Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor.
The grant was used to create and distribute a Bataan curriculum and distribute it to all high schools in New Mexico. It is called Bataan in a Box. It is a manual containing two-day and five-day lesson plans along with maps, assorted graphic and print material, student forms for analysis and an annotated bibliography to aid further research and study
The packet also contains a professionally done DVD, narrated by Gene Hackman, depicting the Bataan experience. My third-grade grandson was glued to the screen as we viewed the presentation. The DVD comes courtesy of Tony Martinez, who also received a Guardian award at the group's annual banquet.
Other awardees at the banquet were James Owens who created the Bataan in a Box curriculum, Bob Stockwell who created an extensive Bataan exhibit at the Carlsbad Museum, and Joe Brown for a monetary contribution on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The donation was used to cover some expenses of the Guardians new website and other communications.
The New Mexico National Guardsmen who served in Bataan deserve to have their story preserved and perpetuated in every way possible. Only half of the 1,800 men survived their Japanese prison camps. I have heard that they suffered the highest attrition rate of any regiment in World War II.
The deaths and the misery of those who survived occurred because the United States deserted them. We stayed out of the war in Europe until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and began taking the Pacific from the Aleutian Islands to the Philippines. At that point, England's Prime Minister Winston Churchill convinced U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to "get Hitler first."
The tremendous U.S. war production machine was concentrated on Europe. The war in the Pacific got very little. The Philippines received nothing.
New Mexico's 1,800 guardsmen were transformed from cavalry units to an antiaircraft unit and sent to Fort Bliss, Texas. They were given World War I weapons and equipment but were told that by the time they needed to fight, everything would have just rolled off the production lines.
Much of the World War II weapons, ammunition and equipment was discarded as unusable. When our guys unloaded in the Philippines, they found the discards from Fort Bliss waiting for them to fight with.
The Bataan DVD, called "Colors of Courage," describes the frustration well. Many were untrained. Their weapons were obsolete. After the Death March, they were starving and sick. Gen. MacArthur fled to Australia. They were truly on their own.
Their feeling was summed up by the only war correspondent left in the islands. "We're the Battling Bastards of Bataan. No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam."

Group Honors Bataan Vets

Monday, April 15, 2013

4-22 NM hosted Heavyweight Championship

42213 Jack Johnson

SANTA FE – Did you know New Mexico once hosted a heavyweight championship fight? It was held in Las Vegas. The colorful fight fell off my radar screen during our state's centennial last year. But then-heavyweight champ Jack Johnson still is in the news so let's talk about him now.
The fight was held on the 4th of July, 1912, just short of six months after New Mexico finally became a state on January 6, 1912.It was difficult for Johnson to find a fighting venue because he was the first black heavyweight champion. Most states wouldn't allow an interracial fight. Most of his fights were held in Mexico, some in Canada and Europe and one in Australia.
The fight was known for being stopped in the ninth round by the local sheriff because Johnson's opponent, fireman Jim Flynn, was fighting extremely dirty and the referee couldn't handle the situation.
Johnson made it even tougher on himself because of his preference for white women. He had three wives, all white and many white girlfriends. His detractors constantly looked for a Great White Hope to take the championship away from Johnson.
They had no luck. Johnson was large, muscular, with very long arms and he was smart. After many years of trying, they found Jess Willard, who beat Johnson in the 25th round. Yes, they had very long fights in those days. I've heard of as many as 45 rounds. Many families named their new sons after Willard.
Johnson's fondness for white women finally got him in big trouble. Not long after his Las Vegas fight, he was arrested for taking a girlfriend, whom he later married, across state lines. He was prosecuted under the Mann Act, which was designed to prevent prostitution. Under a very broad interpretation of the act, Johnson was sentenced to a year in prison.
It was that sentencing that has had lawmakers ever since trying to get Johnson a presidential pardon. Four years ago, shortly after President Barack Obama took office, Sen. John McCain led a successful effort to get Congress to pass a resolution asking Obama to grant Johnson a presidential pardon.
So far Obama has done nothing. So now, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson has started an online petition to send to President Obama. Sen. McCain and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are assisting with an effort to recruit celebrities to sign the petition and make public statements in support of a pardon for Johnson.
Jack Johnson didn't waste his time in prison. He fought some exhibition bouts and invented a gadget that he got patented. Still holding the championship, Johnson continued to fight after leaving prison. In fact, he fought for 48 years.
His first fight was in 1897 and his last was an exhibition at age 68. He fought three rounds each against two well-known heavyweights at a benefit to sell war bonds.
Johnson continued fighting in order to support an expensive lifestyle. He loved to lavish his riches on his women. He also loved fancy, fast cars. Once he was stopped for speeding and fined $50, a very stiff find for the time. The policeman said he didn't have the money to make change. Johnson said he would be coming back along the route later in the day at the same speed.
Johnson once challenged Barney Oldfield, the first Indianapolis champion, to a race. Oldfield beat him badly, dashing any hopes Johnson might have had about starting a racing career.
Jack Johnson only fought a black man once. It wasn't much of a fight. He said he preferred beating white guys and he didn't want to be known as just the black champion. Besides, he said, gate receipts were much better when he fought against whites.
Johnson was not the perfect gentleman but he feared nothing in the Jim Crow era. He was unjustly sentenced and he paved the way for other black boxers.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weather Hype

41913 weather

SANTA FE – Are biblical prophesies about the end of the world coming to pass or will global warming predictions beat them to it? We've been hearing both in the wake of recent natural disasters.
But it may not be as bad as it seems. Some weather watchers blame the hysteria on the Weather Channel and various weather websites pumping up minor disturbances with dire predictions. Last year, the Weather Channel began giving names to snowstorms.
Sometimes the storms barely materialized. Remember back around the time Congress was about to vote on sequestration, a major storm was predicted for Washington D.C.? I was termed Snowquestration. Jim Cantore, the Weather Channel's disaster master was sent to town. His biggest chore was not hanging on to light poles to keep from blowing away. It was trying to explain why only a half inch of snow fell.
We see the same situation on Albuquerque television. We wake up, flip on the TV and see some cub reporter stationed at Sedillo Hill in Tijeras Canyon, east of Albuquerque, waiting for the first snowflake to fall.
Occasionally, one of them will make a wry comment about being sent out to cover a non-event at an ungodly hour. They are being honest but it probably won't grease their way to an anchor position in the studio.
The trouble seemed to start some 20 years ago with the advent of 24-hour news channels. On slow news days, they had to buff up the news in order to hold their viewers. Then came the 24-hour sports channels that had to do the same.
And now the Weather Channel makes predictions that have us hiding under the bed regularly. Often they aren't any better than the pundits who were still predicting a Mitt Romney win until election night.
Two websites, and weather underground have joined in and claim 183 million monthly visitors. Reportedly all three are owned by NBC. The worry is that such sensationalism trivializes the real disasters and makes them seem like just another storm even though many are still suffering.
Even stock reports have now gone hysterical. Witness Jim Cramer's Mad Money show on CNBC some afternoon. He puts on quite an act. He sometimes wears me out so much that I switch to the Weather Channel.
The Weather Channel still is often better than the murder and mayhem on local channels or a boring ball game. So I'm still glad it is there. You just have to remember to watch out for hype.

Switching to another weather topic, the state of Texas has filed a Supreme Court suit claiming that New Mexico is siphoning Texas water from the Rio Grande. New Mexico has long tried to get a new calculation of how much water it owes Texas.
The formula was set in the early 1900s which was an extraordinarily wet period. I remember from the days when I followed the Billy the Kid story that the cemeteries in Fort Sumner and Silver City were partially washed away by huge floods. It is always amazing to me to look into the Big Ditch in Silver City and imagining water ever flowing that high.
Much of Texas is experiencing extreme drought – even worse than New Mexico. So the days of over-irrigating their fields with water from New Mexico are over. I can remember traveling Texas farm roads south of Carlsbad along the Pecos River where water was standing in bar ditches almost as high as the road. I haven't driven that area recently but I bet it no longer is happening. The big problem is the amount of ground water pumping in New Mexico.
Over on the Pecos River, New Mexicans are fighting over allocation of water rights following a priority call by the Carlsbad Irrigation District. Farmers upstream say they would suffer historic and crippling economic cultural injury which would take decades to repair.

41913 Weather Hype

Friday, April 12, 2013

4-17 A new GOP?

41713 GOP Failing?

SANTA FE – The National Republican Party is getting long of tooth. So say many of its current leaders. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Chairman, says yes. He wants to get on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and her morning TV friends.
Priebus is quoted as saying we have to stop divorcing ourselves from the American culture. The party chair and several other top Republican strategists have laid out a plan to rebuild the GOP. The plan has been embraced by Newt Gingrich, House Speaker John Boehner and Deputy Eric Cantor.
It is something the GOP should have done four years ago when the national and state rumblings were that the party was dead, gone the way of the Whigs in 1850. But they caught a break when new President Barack Obama chose to make health care reform his major project.
Suddenly, the uproar at the grass roots was deafening. The Tea Party was born. Democrats suffered for it nationwide. In New Mexico, Democrats lost the governor's office, the 2nd Congressional District and for the first time since 1930, they lost the secretary of state race.
Losing our southern congressional district wasn't a big surprise. But the governor's office? Then Lt. Gov. Diane Denish had been running for it for years. During that time she built up a two million war chest. She scared out other Democrats. And Republicans couldn't attract any big name to run against her.
As you know 2010 was one of Republicans biggest years ever. They captured gubernatorial races nationwide. Many state legislatures switched to republican just in time for redistricting. Democrats won't recover from that for 10 years.
But in presidential politics, Democrats still carry the day. And they are best positioned to profit from the intense changes our culture currently is going through. As polls show, the majority of Americans are fed up with wars, marriage inequality, immigration laws and gun violence; Democrats seem ready to tackle those issues. But Republicans are fearful of losing their conservative base, which includes the Tea Party. Consequently they have become labeled as a party of old, white, cranky men.
But they will survive. Democrats had the same problem during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Their Southern Democrat wing held them back until Richard Nixon's Southern Strategy made most of them Republicans.
Republicans also had their problems in 1930 when the Great Depression caused a Democratic takeover at the state and national level. It took20 years until New Mexico elected a Republican governor and 22 years until a Republican was elected president. Republicans still have trouble gaining a majority in the New Mexico Legislature but they still are very much a major party in the state.
Barack Obama surprised the world by getting elected U.S. president twice. In 2008, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin chortled "What's a community organizer?" She and the Republican Party found out when the GOP ticket got outorganized without realizing what was happening. It took a second drubbing in 2012 to figure out what Obama was doing.
Priebus understands and leading Republicans are beginning to jump on board with the goal of rivaling Democrats in data gathering, volunteer recruitment, voter targeting, outreach, turnout, online fundraising, ad placement and campaign talent.
Volunteer recruitment may be the most important factor of all. Mitt Romney thought he could match Obama's recruitment efforts with extra paid staff. But he was missing a key ingredient. Small government and low taxes don't turn on potential volunteers like the issues Democrats address.
Depending on how the gun debate develops in Congress and the states, Republicans may be able to draw volunteers from the NRA and other gun rights supporters. But the demographics may not be right. Gun rights supporters tend to be mostly older men, while Democrat issues such as immigration and marriage equality attract young people with energy and vision.

home again

I am back home and hopefully on schedule. Billing for April will be one-half.