Friday, April 1, 2016

Can Bernie Win in New Mexico?

Where is the Sanders campaign in New Mexico?  The last poll of Democrats was released in late February, showing (click here) Clinton well ahead, overall (especially with women), but trailing Sanders considerably among likely voters between 18 and 49.  This follows the national trends, and if the Sanders campaign can mobilize this demographic, he stands a fighting chance to close the gap and take the lead as he has done in other states.

The same elements fueling Sanders nationally are present in New Mexico, in spades:  poor job prospects as employers offer temporary jobs with fewer benefits, growing income disparities between the rich and the lower 99%, entrenched party leaders, comfortable with the status quo, etc.  This should be fertile ground for Bernie.  But most observers believe it is not.  Here are some reasons why.

1.  The Bernie phenomenon looks White in a New Mexico where most Democrats are Hispanic.  There appears to be no serious outreach among Bernie organizers toward heavily Hispanic populations or Native American, except at colleges and universities; no surrogates advocating for Bernie among these populations; no Spanish language outreach.  Clinton appears to be headed for a primary victory simply for lack of attention to the bulk of Democratic voters.  The small number of delegates and the lateness of the state primary election almost certainly have something to do with this, but if Bernie followers really want to ignite a "revolution," New Mexico is a relatively inexpensive place to explore the views of the Hispanic and Native populations.

2.  There has been no visible effort to link New Mexico's economic plight to the stakes in the presidential campaign.  In spite of poor economic conditions in the state (this has received enormous attention in recent months) and a more unequal distribution of income in New Mexico than in the nation at large, there has been no effort to link the state's poor economic performance to some of the things Bernie is for:  campaign finance reform (the blogs are full of examples of statewide abuse), lower interest on student loans and free college education (UNM is about to raise tuition again, hurting Hispanics more than Anglos), expanded health care (Hispanic and Native American access to the best health care is significantly below that of the White, non-Hispanic population); raising the minimum wage (the New Mexico poverty rate is exceeded only in Mississippi and Louisiana).

3.  The state's liberal (progressive?) political and civic organizations appear to be dominated by Clinton supportersLeadership among the gatekeepers of civic action in New Mexico appears to be firmly in the hands of Democrats attached to traditional power structures.  This is not something the Sanders campaign can do much about, but his campaign has overcome these odds in other states.

4.  The Sanders campaign appears to be deliberately non-hierarchical, dispersed among groups throughout the state without an apparent central leadership cadre.  This may have worked in other states, but in New Mexico it pays to have a statewide strategy that can identify geographic and demographic priorities and follow these through with action.  In particular, there is no single media market outlet for the state.  It takes knowledge of multiple media markets and their demographic correlates, to be effective.

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