It’s been two years since the insurrection attempt on the US Capitol and the fallout (and really, the preceding political and social occurrences that led up to it) are still a part of our lives no matter where you sit. In New Mexico, we’re poised to start another Legislative Session with another strong group of Progressive legislators and continued Democratic leadership across the Executive Branch, but we’re not wholly immune to the J6 rhetoric and we need to be aware of that as we prepare for #NMLeg23.
First some context:
We need to acknowledge that things still aren’t ok, not by a long shot. Attacks on LGBTQ people and spaces have been on the rise, specifically violent attempts to shut down events featuring Trans people just trying to live their lives. Those attacks are being perpetrated by Proud Boys and other adjacent White Nationalist organizations whose planning and presence at J6 is undeniable.
And of course up through the election last year there was a tremendous amount of trepidation around the country regarding the election itself and how the results would or would not be accepted by fringe radical elements on the Right. While many of those loud voices did attempt to raise familiar-sounding propaganda after Democrats did surprisingly well nationally, Thankfully there hasn’t been another large scale violent event to-date around election results.
Finally, whether you’re an active Twitter warrior or not, the rise of Elon Musk in the Twitterverse is really part of the ongoing conversation in this country about the spread of disinformation and we can’t ignore it all together. Twitter remains the one place where policy wonks and journalists collaborate in real-time and with Musk’s… “poor handling” of the app, those conversations are increasingly open to virulent racism, homophobia, and general hatred that had previously been relegated to the tombs of sites like 4Chan and Reddit.
Where are we at in NM?
The good news is some of the worst actors in #NMPol are less and less relevant than they’ve ever been. Couy Griffin, the now FORMER County Commissioner from Otero County and leader of the pro-Trump militia Cowboys4Trump, is no longer in office. After being found guilty by the courts for his role in the J6 insurrection, Griffin was removed from office last year. Yes, he still shows up at most of the meetings and spews hate and disinformation. Yes, he’s still doing the same online, but without policy making power this washed-up “cowboy” is less dangerous to us all. We’ll still be keeping an eye on him for sure, but thankfully he can’t vote on anything that affects us.
The bad news is we’re about to see another J6 attendee actually seated in the NM House and we should all be very concerned about that. John Block is the purveyor of a dedicated Far Right propaganda blog called the Piñon Post and was (according to his own posts) proudly in the crowd at the Capitol on January 6 2021. Block was elected to NM House, and while his fellow Republicans hold no real power in either chamber, his mere presence is a threat to our peaceful democracy as we know fullwell his beliefs lean FAR to the right. Couple that with the new leadership in the GOP’s Caucus and it feels like we should be bracing for some very ugly politics in the coming weeks.
A final thought about Block that we’d like to see addressed by SOMEONE, is how will he use his blog during the legislature? While we know he doesn’t have seniority within his caucus, he’s got a lot of sway with information (well, disinformation really) when it comes to GOP talking points by the presence of his platform AND since that platform is monetized, it feels like there’s a potential conflict of interest brewing for a seated legislator to also be (purportedly) “reporting” on the politics of the Roundhouse as well. New Mexico has struggled with the ethics of its elected legislature because they’re not technically paid and therefore people’s jobs have often been at odds with voting fairly on certain issues, but to have an avowed Far Right propagandist in one of those seats is, well, ethically ambiguous at best.
Ugh, and that’s not it…
Since J6, ProgressNow NM has been watching and documenting other NM lawmakers who’ve variously towed the line for the MAGA movement, been openly hostile toward the democratic process, or otherwise been adjacent to Far Right spaces. We documented a NUMBER of NM GOP electeds here in this blog that came as a result of a study by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights showcasing Republicans who were active members of Facebook groups where White Nationalist and other Far Right rhetoric was openly on display.
Additionally, the New Mexico Republican Party elected Steve Pearce AGAIN to lead their party another two years which, while funny on the one hand considering how bad of a showing they’ve had under his leadership, it’s terrifying considering we know how committed Pearce is to the “big lie” that was at the root of J6. Remember, he pushed for Republican members of NM’s Electoral College delegation to submit ballots for Trump despite, you know, Trump not winning in New Mexico, or nationally. Additional food for thought is the connection between NM’s GOP Party and the company they keep. Failed Republican Secretary of State candidate and absolute fraudster Audrey Trujillo not only openly backed “Big Lie” conspiracy theories but did so loudly enough to be invited onto Steve Bannon’s podcast last summer. Bannon, besides his active role in the Trump-era White House, continues to push his Far Right agenda including recently at an event where state-level Republicans in New York hosted ADMITTED neo-nazis and White Nationalists and yes, Bannon was there too. For some context, the headline of that article is “White Nationalists, Other Republicans Brace for ‘Total War.’”
So it’s not just the members who were physically at the Capitol that terrible day, but really the whole party that appears to be still pushing lies and disinformation as a platform.
What do we do about this??
Two years out and it’s hard to be writing ANOTHER doom and gloom article about how scary things are out there. We know, we get it. But the good news is that New Mexico’s voters have RESOUNDINGLY supported common sense candidates across the state and this year we are poised to pass some important legislation. Perhaps nothing is more crucial than the bill (or maybe series of bills) to further strengthen our democracy and secure voting rights in New Mexico. While much has been done in the recent past to ensure the constitutional freedom to vote to as many people as far and wide as possible, with as much accessibility as well, there’s more to be done and we need the power of legislation behind such bills to enshrine those features for future generations. We know as a reader of this post that you care about the myriad topics that will come through the #NMLeg this year, from a comprehensive climate bill to permanent protections for people seeking abortion, to a number of reform bills to make our communities safer, all of those bills and more ultimately rely on having good legislators in place to write and pass the bills, strong and progressive leadership in the Executive to sign them into law, and voters who can safely and consistently vote without any barriers being hawked by the radical Far Right.