We know you’ve been bombarded with “go vote” messaging, but really, it’s so important
Ok y’all, November 2 is election day and across the country, people are turning out to vote in local elections. Here in New Mexico, we’ve got municipal elections coupled with school boards and water conservation districts as well as bond questions. While these off-year elections can feel cumbersome or unimportant, in the wake of last year’s absolutely imperative presidential election, there are some VITAL reasons to vote in good candidates up and down the ballot, no matter what seat it’s for.
In the news for the last few months stories have covered radicalized conservatives increasingly taking up space at school board meetings. This is a revitalization of the early Tea Party movement’s tactics from 2009 and out of the playbook written by the Koch brothers in the 90s and 00s. The goals are to frustrate the local election apparatus and build a pipeline for conservative candidates as the world shifted more and more progressive.
This recent movement was once again thrown into sharp relief last week as members of a group related to the Bundy family, famous for their armed insurrections against the federal government over the last decade, stormed a school board meeting in Oregon and physically occupied the space for hours. Thankfully no one was physically harmed, but some incredibly racist language was recorded being used by members of this cult toward people of color on staff. Of course, their demands were rooted in the dangerous nonsense perpetuated by the former president and his ilk.
In New Mexico, we’ve seen similarly hostile school board meetings occur. Right-wing groups’ presence at these meetings have made the news and showcased how wild these conspiracy theory-pedaling grifters really are. They’ve gone so far as to take out billboards decrying the popular but completely not-a-thing issue around “critical race theory” and have taken up hours of time with their inane theories when school boards were supposed to be discussing important issues like classroom safety and fair working conditions for staff.
We need strong candidates to win who will be strong board members. We don’t begrudge people’s right to attend meetings and voice their opinions; that’s the very basis of our system of democracy in many ways. But through our elected officials, the will of the people AT LARGE is distilled into the small boards and councils that help govern our communities. There are folks who can, have, or will stand up to the bullying and abuse to continue making good and safe decisions for all of us whether at the city or school level. Then there are folks who really are coming in with regressive agendas hoping to roll back years of progress in the name of conspiracy
It’s hard to understate how perilous our situation is right now. We look around and see people running who’ve publicly spoken out with vitriol and hatred toward women, toward people of color, toward our indigenous communities, and toward the very basic concepts of justice, science, and democracy. They couch their claims under abstract buzzwords like “liberty” and “freedom,” but we all know what that means when wrapped in a Gadsden Flag or with a Punisher Skull tattoo. And some of the issues do affect all of us whether we have direct contact with the schools or not, issues like continued safety protocols for students and teachers as Covid remains persistent. Having strong leadership to help enforce state mandates, something the vast majority of New Mexicans support, is key to our larger collective health and safety.
Please take the time to vote today. These elections are the ones that are decided sometimes by mere handfuls of votes; we know, we stay up late every couple of years watching the returns. Your vote might matter more for your school board member or soil and water district candidate than you even know, so please, PLEASE, go vote!