Monday, March 9, 2009

Should Lt. Governor Denish Declare Independence?

I began answering a question I received in the comment section, but my answer got too long so I put it here.

Our Lt. Governor is from Hobbs and one of the great traditions of the East Side of New Mexico (Little Texas) is a strong culture, still maintained, of good manners, a modest demeanor, and speaking with fewer words than elsewhere in New Mexico. Lt. Governor Diane Denish is clearly within this tradition.

That said, there is solid evidence to suggest that, yes, she has at times shared with friends her audacity to think differently than the governor, even though in some political circles in New Mexico it has been considered treason to think such thoughts, and punishable if thought out loud.

The question now arises: now that the governor is a lame duck, and, due to the circumstances, lamer-- potentially wheel-chair lame or even bed-ridden lame--than would normally be the case in the seventh year of an administration, would it behoove the Lt. Governor, who is known to harbor thoughts of succeeding Richardson, to make a clean break with the governor, and begin speaking out like a normal candidate would, about the affairs of the state, which of course, are not quite normal under the economic circumstances of the nation and state? Even if it risks alienating the governor and the political class that put him in office?

My answer is simple. Yes!

The nation and the state are in economic crises, the likes of which we have not seen for more than six decades. There are no easy answers about just what role government ought to play in resolving the crisis. Why shouldn't potential leaders of New Mexico, who will be courting our vote a year from now, share their thoughts about the crisis which is breaking out today?

The news media and lobbyists and public officials, and potential candidates, are, like ostrich heads in the sand, pretending this is a normal legislative session. We've seen the usual childish games again: politicians indignantly floating ethics bills with their names on them while undermining their teeth behind the scenes, or talking about transparency through webcasting while turning off the lights, etc. The usual stuff. But the budget shortfalls are real, and given the current crisis perhaps the ostrich analogy isn't strong enough: how about Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns? Unemployment is up. Revenues are way down. The federal government stimulus package doesn't cover the projected shortfall in revenues for the state, predicted a month ago before the stock market plunged another thousand points. What do we cut? What do we keep? Do we raise taxes? If so, where will we raise them? Who will benefit?

The only person showing leadership is Sen. John Arthur Smith, by simply asking legislators to look at the numbers and take them seriously, and debate things honestly. If you want to pay for a program, which taxes will have to be raised, or which other spending will have to be cut? The numbers he's talking about ought to have stimulated a serious debate about top priorities in New Mexico and alternative ways of finding money or cutting spending. But so far they have not. President Obama has shown moral courage by putting all of the budget items on the table, and letting everyone know just how big the deficit and projections are. He also showed moral courage by voting against the war in Iraq a few years ago, before it was popular to do so. Shouldn't we expect the same from our future leaders? Judging by what has happened so far, Smith is the only one of the bunch I would trust to guard my share of the $5 billion budget paid for by the taxpayers.

There are parallels here to the situation in 1994. Then, an entrenched political class backing Governor Bruce King was easily defeated in November by a man no one had even heard of with a simple message: things are so rotten in Santa Fe it would be better to veto everything the political class of both parties puts out in the way of bills, and let state government languish without direction for eight years; which it did. Johnson was immensely popular with the public throughout his term. Today, given the inability of an entrenched political class to focus on a crisis like adults, would it not be better to elect someone who actually believes state government has a sacred pact to tackle the problems of the day, and is willing to ignore the political class to prove it can be done? As in 1994 the voters of New Mexico might just be willing to elect someone they've never heard of who can inspire them with straight talk.

So far, I haven't seen the kind of leadership from Diane Denish, or Michael Sanchez (who has been talking seriously about running for governor), or even less from potential Republican candidates, that one would expect from someone who actually wants to take over the troubled reins of the state 22 months from now. The Richardson era is over, guys. He has no capacity to solve next year's problems in New Mexico, nor the moral authority to address the current situation today. Who's up next to bat? Give us a reason today to vote for you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You seem to be, at best, either a very, very conservative Democrat or a democrat in name only. How a person such as yourself ever got elected as Democratic Party Chair in Dona Ana County is beyond me. The posts on your blog echo Republican thoughts in the rest of the state.

I have left several posts on this blog disagreeing and have yet to se one posted.