Barry Blitt’s New Yorker cover, “Welcome To Congress”, has gone viral and it’s no surprise why- the cover shows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation) (KS-3) with a crowd of brown people behind them at a door, about to walk into a room full of white men. This is a bittersweet moment for people of color across the country- until the late 1960s, ALL American citizens were not able to vote. The legal and physical battles fought to vote were (and are) hard, bloody, and racist. In New Mexico, we have taken Blitt’s concept to the max- the Roundhouse will see a lot of newcomers, mostly women of color and including the first ever Muslim to serve in the legislature, taking their seat on the House Floor.
New Mexico has a long history of racism and sexism, especially during the time New Mexico was vying for statehood. Many people in New Mexico spoke Spanish or a Native language and any time the United States sent someone to New Mexico, it was a must that an interpreter be present. Senator Davis (Minnesota) said in 1892 that it would be in the country’s best interest to wait until the territory’s population spoke English and was Protestant (read: white and Christian). Some politicians in New Mexico suggested limiting the ability of Native Americans and Hispanic people to vote. Racism also encompasses sexism and it is important to remember that, especially in politics. While New Mexico gained statehood in 1912, it was not until 1923 that the first woman was elected to the State House and 1925 in the State Senate.
Fast forward ninety-five years, forty-two Emerge New Mexico graduates were on the ballot this year and all but 5 won- that’s an 88% win rate for 2018. The 2018 legislative session had 34 women in the House and Senate (30% of the legislative body). Women are now the majority in the second highest ranking court in the state, the Court of Appeals. For the first time in the country’s history, the entire Congressional delegation of a state, OUR state, will send all people of color. This is the beginning of fruition for Emerge New Mexico, which has grown so much in over the last decade to set up women to get into public offices.
New Mexico has set a precedent though in electing women through programs like Emerge AND seeing them hold positions of power. When Democrats took back the house in 2016, the leadership team put in place was the first EVER to be made up of women, and women of color at that! Just this week Sheryl Williams Stapleton, House Majority Leader, Doreen Gallegos, House Majority Whip, and Doreen Wanda Johnson as House Majorty Caucus Chair were all reelected into their positions where they will lead the largest contingent of women in the House to date.
New Mexico is setting the standard of what it means to be intersectional in our politics and that politics does not need to be a zero-sum game to be successful. We can show the country how we can do better and you can count on ProgressNow New Mexico to be there to hold these new electeds accountable to the families that entrusted them with their vote.