Thursday, January 10, 2008

Governor Richardson's Call to the West

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for President today. Arguably the one with the most executive and diplomatic experience out of any of the remaining candidates, he has decided to stay out of the endorsement game...for now. To be honest, I'm surprised he bowed out before Nevada's caucus but apparently didn't have money to run any advertising to make a decent stand.

On CNN earlier today, he issued a call to the West to show up at the primaries and caucuses in force, which opens up a good opportunity to talk about the way power is unequally balanced in the U.S., though rarely talked about, between the different parts of the country. I recall over the summer when I was doing that whole Latino Blogger study thing, the interviewer was surprised when I told her that I thought the country was East Coast biased.

I began with the history books and the way they affect the discussions of politics in this country. Taking english-only legislation as an example, I explained to her how the very idea is offensive to someone like me who has ancestors in U.S. territory that spoke a different language and were beaten, literally, by teachers and employers for having the audacity to speak it. The outcome: future generations that lose it unless they have the motivation to learn it academically.

In the modern era, the U.S. actually has a language besides English that is considered official - Puerto Rico.
Language: Spanish and English are the official languages, but Spanish is without a doubt the dominant language. English is spoken for about 1/4 of the population-with limited capabilities. English is required in all federal matters. English is spoken in all major tourist areas (%80 Spanish, %20 other).
Of course, as a conquered people, puertorriqueños get the substandard citizenship afforded to groups that lack the political clout to demand change. Another example would be the residents of the District of Columbia; though, to their credit they have mobilized wonderfully and gained allies that will (hopefully) bring about some forward movement for their rights with the next Administration.

Speaking of the next Administration, I think the reason that the populism meme has become so central to the discussion is because under the Bushistas, more people were shut out of an already inaccessible form of governance. Policy-wise and also rhetorically. It's refreshing to hear that it may come to an end, at least to my ears, but I also hope that it doesn't come at the expense of accountability for the litany of egregious actions that have occurred over the past seven'ish years. That's a fine balance to walk, which is probably why I remain decidedly undecided as February 5th approaches.

While Hillary is not going to get my vote, I was sort of...relieved? applicable word escapes me...that a different candidate than the Iowa winner was victorious in New Hampshire. Ideally, I would've liked to see Edwards do a stronger showing, but at least now we have a race instead of a corporate-owned media coronation. Each remaining contender will have to work for the votes - and I think the country wins every time that happens.

The candidates will have to answer to the needs of communities that are worried about nuclear waste storage, new mining operations, having their ancestral lands forcefully taken, etc etc etc that are different than they've faced so far. They will have to learn to speak to regions that are multi-cultural in the sense that they don't draw their roots elsewhere than pilgrims and pioneers. In Arizona, I hope they'll actually pay attention to rural areas like the Copper Belt that is still heavily union. The vote totals may not be worth their time, but it would go a long way to walking the walk of 'speaking with Everyone'. Environmentally speaking, there's a sense of respect for the Earth that has a more spiritual connection, at least in my family, than the headspace that talks exclusively about emission rates and what type of light bulb to buy.

But. We have to show up and engage. Voting levels are atrocious, especially among Latino voters, and I know a lot of it has to do with not being listened to - but I'm one of those "if you don't vote, don't complain" types. Governor Richardson is right to call on the West to show up and engage so our concerns are at least put on a stove burner instead of stuffed in the back of a pantry. I plan on working with friends and family members in the next few weeks to do so. It's too late to register to vote for the February 5th primary, but the general election looms in November. If you're an eligible voter reading this, and you're from Arizona but unregistered, please click this link and do it online.

What other issues, locally speaking, do you wish the candidates would address?

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