Sunday, December 8, 2013

NM State Legislature: MeanMesa Public Opinion Poll

There are Polls, and then There Are Polls
Of course, they're the most fun of all
 when they just have pretend questions and pretend answers.

 Of course this isn't REALLY a public opinion poll, you know, one with a sheaf of questions handed to thousands of carefully vetted "respondents."  There are such things in New Mexico, but one's "big picture" comprehension of contemporary opinions won't benefit much from paying too much attention to them.

Still, such an erratic, self-aggrandizing plunge into "public opinion fantasy land" is an irresistible invitation to a sturdy little high desert blog like MeanMesa.  So, setting aside all the troublesome requirements of passing out questionnaires which might be part of a typical effort to "feel the pulse of the public," we can simply dive into an exploration of our own unavoidably self-serving results.

"What would such a poll reveal if it were designed by a geriatric Albuquerque blogger instead of being conducted by the wreckage of a sold out local newspaper or a tediously well worn, 'long in the tooth,' wool jacketed 'academic expert' from UNM?"

Further, to keep things on Short Current Essays' world renown plane of inspired, almost majestic, objectivity, there will be but one simple, multiple choice question on this imminently relevant, fair and balanced, imaginary inquiry.

"What, exactly, do you think the New Mexico State Legislature is doing?"

1. Nothing.  They don't ever do anything.
2. The same stuff they've always done, whatever that is.
3. I couldn't care less.  Nothing they do is anything concerning me.
4. I don't have any idea.  I haven't paid any attention recently
 [recently:  a.) since 1954; b.) since 1996; c.) since 2008]
and, of course, to keep things neatly in groups of five, 
5. other

Well, the poll results, once they were completely analysed by experts from an out of state contractor, revealed a startlingly nondescript, wall to wall, eerie lack of interest from respondents interviewed further than 100 feet from Santa Fe's famous Roundhouse.  Beyond that ethereal, imaginary "boundary of relevance," it was a polling highlight every time one of these "passers by" even acknowledged that New Mexico actually had a state legislature.

The conduct of the state business of New Mexico is hidden from common "on the street" reality by thirty layers of wet wool.

And not by innocent coincidence, either.

Immured by insecure, career queasy State Legislators only the most uninteresting, arcanely routine matters ever surface to be "reported."  Those "reports," while scripted for seconds or minutes are actually broadcast only long enough for a remote controller to change the channel.

Of course, egregious, screaming corruption and other fiascoes present an irresistible temptation to New Mexico's "fear, outrage and hopelessness mongering media," but these are no more than "perturbations in the comatose equilibrium" of cruel, tedious boredom.   The day to day drudgery conducted in the Round House can almost instantly suck the life from even such outrageous stories.

Causes and Effects

When the State government can comfortably swizzle along at such a relentless low velocity, all manner of mischief can be inserted in its day-to-day operations.  In fact, there's no need to "disguise" these little mischievous stinkers at all.  They can be laid in large, bold font on the very first page of this clap trap, and still be quite safely hidden from the eyes of the "governed."

In New Mexico a legislator can be very confident that no one situated beyond the lobbyists' office will ever so much as see this legislation again, much less be the least bit interested in actually reading it.

In that case, they would be, ironically, "protected by boredom."

How can anyone be surprised that in New Mexico, government after government, is rife with corruption?  No one ever expects anyone to ever do much of anything about anything, so when some miscreant siphons off the top layer of some project, those on the street are still impressed that there was actually work being done on the thing to make the crime possible.

It just rolls along -- on, and on, and on.

The electorate is hardly free from blame, either.

New Mexico is the poorest state in the country.  It offers its citizens one of the worst educations of any states.  It is a state largely paralysed by the social cultural suffocation of centuries of Catholicism.  The rural areas of New Mexico are locked in immigration paranoia and 1950's style John Birch politics.  The majority of the urban population lives in more or less hopeless poverty.

Those in the country side have been terrified by the artificial FOX/ALEC tales of imaginary "tyranny," while those in towns and cities live in the terror of being "one paycheck away from disaster" amid a "social safety net" that isn't any more dependable than most other things in New Mexico. As collective residents of the State, we must admit that our vision of representative democracy has been profoundly deformed -- stunted -- by living for decades under an abusive economy.

That is, an economy groomed by unnecessary austerity.  And, not groomed by anyone nice.

We New Mexicans have been moulded into a perpetual state which is the ugly blend of patient suffering and desperate survivalism.  Because of this, we are willing to sustain something as grotesque as an almost entirely unnoticeable, entirely irrelevant Round House.

We can't complain that the Legislature doesn't respond when we ask for so little so infrequently.  Both the governing and the governed have the same dismal aspirations, both sharing a shocking lack of imagination.  If the Round House is showing the symptoms of coma, so are the voters.

All of this would amount to no more than idle ranting if there were not a point to be made.  There is.

The Dangers of Slow Motion State Government

Round House (image)
For any visitor who might think this depressing picture merely amounts to nothing more than a dismal exaggeration, just a tiny bit more "polling" is in order.  Ask a New Mexican whom you know to be a responsible "voter" the following:

"Which legislator in the State government do you respect the most?"
"Why, exactly, do you admire this legislator's work?"

Odds are good that your voter may have some respect the House member from his home district and may even be somewhat familiar with some legislation that member has proposed or supported in Santa Fe.  However, beyond the outer boundaries of whatever specific New Mexico "village" your voter inhabits, there may not be much more of an answer.

For the determined pollster, these questions can be followed up with  a couple more:

"Which bills currently in the Round House do you think are the most promising for the future of the State?"
"Which bills do you think are really a mistake, things our State should not be doing?"

MeanMesa predicts that this interview will become "beached on the rocks of perpetual disinterest" before your interview goes along much further, but if your voter continues to remain interested in your questions, you can, of course, keep asking.

"What legislation would YOU want the State government to undertake?"
"Which legislators do you think are most likely to do this?"

We can't complain too much about our State legislature if we're not interested enough to actually know what is being done in Santa Fe -- in our names and with our money and with our state.

To make your interview even more interesting go ahead, and add a "Why?" to every one of the questions posed above.

The Point.

New Mexico as Wisconsin or Michigan

The nightmarish state governments we see in the "red" states where the entire legislature and the Governor are all Republicans -- and in most cases, "tea party" Republicans -- hold a grave warning for New Mexico's near future prospects.

The reason this could happen here is identically the same reason it has happened in these terribly unfortunate "red" states which are now suffering under the boot of whichever oligarchs got to their state governments first.  Precisely the same corruption cash funnelling mechanism which destroyed democracy in these places is poised to inflict the same fate on New Mexico.

The "Wisconsin" and "Michigan" disasters mentioned in the title to introduce this section of the post could easily be expanded to include other states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina

Do you think that the voters -- both Democrats and Republicans -- in these states went to the polls to vote for a state future which would bring:
  • even higher unemployment
  • pensions trusts sold in bankruptcy courts
  • the eliminating of registered voters from election rolls
  • massive tax incentives for corporations and oligarchs
  • union busting
  • stifling public education budgets
  • bizarre, gerrymandered Congressional Districts
  • failing infrastructure
  • unelected emergency managers for their cities
  • deregulation of crimes against the environment
  • auctions of municipal museums and park lands
  • violent redistribution of state tax funds to billionaires
  • hatred and division as necessary political strategies

No.  They didn't.  Perhaps a handful of tea baggers might have, but the opinion of the majority of voters in these states would have drawn back in abject horror.

That is, would have drawn back in abject horror if they had known what was coming.

That is, would have drawn back in abject horror if they had even considered to vote.

In New Mexico roughly 55% of the eligible voters are expected at the polls [Read the state by state statistics here.].  Reflecting on the first part of this post [above], we are a state with voters making decisions based on almost no information.

Worse, New Mexico voters are essentially uninterested in any details about the State government's functioning.  This means that the decisions behind the votes being cast are founded on the basic background understanding for voters which is subject to misinformation, a flood of media misdirection, incomplete information, a lethal disregard for credible information and out right propaganda.

Voter disinterest has gradually ushered the practice of local media broadcasters to conform their local "news" to accommodate this lack of interest.  What began as simply boring, degraded to something profoundly distasteful and finally became something essentially unknown.

Further, quite beyond the bumbling commercial state news business, New Mexico is -- and has been for quite some time -- deeply infested with thinly veiled state legislators who eagerly dance to the tune played by ALEC sponsored lobbyists.  These sold out John Birchers have sworn to further disrupt and distort the remaining flow of information which might serve to foster better ballot decisions.

The problem is this 55% turn out statistic.

Face it.  New Mexico is so poor that there isn't much here to catch the eye of billionaire election riggers -- with two important exceptions.

1. New Mexico is the 6th largest oil producing state in the country.  It has 866 Mn barrels of proven reserves [statistics source].

2. New Mexico has two US Senators -- both of whom were elected with the State's traditional 55% voter turn out.

If that 55% were to grow to 65%, New Mexico would be in much safer waters.  However, with an utterly boring State Legislature which is unlikely to ever draw even a dozen more New Mexicans to the polls and with a swarming snake hive of ALEC lobbyists working feverishly on their extremely well financed anti-democracy agenda, representative democracy in the state is perched on a cliff.

The lure of a privately owned, essentially unregulated oil and gas industry shines brightly in the eyes of billionaires like the smiling brothers of Koch Industries.  But the dreamy, alluring prospect of two additional tea bags in the Senate amounts to the equivalent of an anti-democracy "heroin and cheap sex sandwich" when it comes to tempting the oligarch crowd.

The State democrats raise money for these campaigns, but the billionaires can completely over whelm even the most prodigious local war chest.  In fact, reviewing the "campaign contributions" we saw in the 2012 Presidential contest, it's completely realistic to assume that literally $100's of Mns of anonymous dollars could instantly flow into New Mexico tea bag political coffers in the next US Senate race.

Further, the ALEC gang will do everything in its power to further diminish voter turn out while "juicing up" the hill billies and bigots with an even higher octane tsunamis of hated and fear.  Those nit wits will vote, and they'll be so enraged by the time the purposely incendiary ALEC campaigns are through with them, that they will vote in much higher percentages than the expected 55% of more rational folks.

This is precisely how so many states have slid into the cess pools we see them in today.  It seems like the cheap "Guns, Gays, God -- and Abortion" scam always seems to work -- when voter turn out is low or when it has been lowered on purpose.  This is page one of the ALEC play book.

Stopping ALEC in New Mexico

Shrinking violet [image]
Now, MeanMesa is hardly famous for being a "shrinking violet" when it comes to scrapping with anti-democracy out of state plutocrats and their paid henchmen.  The first idea "out of the barrel" would be to simply make their whole scam illegal in New Mexico, but we know that somewhere in a secret red state bunker ALEC has a horde of otherwise unemployable "constitutional lawyers" already on retainer, and not even the finances of the entire State Treasury could stand up against such an onslaught.

So, what kinds of thing COULD we do?  Naturally, MeanMesa has a few ideas.

1. Publicize the names of ALEC infested State legislators.  No, New Mexicans aren't interested in the operation of the state government, but YES, they ARE interested in news stories about "red hot corruption!"  ALEC operates like cockroaches.  It functions best in total darkness, hidden behind things.

2. Publicize ALEC authored bills being introduced in the Round House.  It doesn't matter what the bills concern, publicize the fact that an out of state ALEC think tank was paid by some anti-democracy billionaire to write them before they were handed off to some sold out legislative toadie with orders -- ALEC orders -- to carry them to Santa Fe.  New Mexicans hate this -- when they know about it.

3. Complain about ALEC written bills to your State Representative.  Everyone in the Round House knows where these pieces of crap came from; they just make a point of never saying anything about it in public.  Make it into a very real hazard to sit dumbly in Santa Fe, whether you are voting for this garbage or not, and NOT say anything about how grotesque it is.

There is NOTHING about ALEC -- its motives, its out of state plutocrat bank rollers, its purchased Republican state legislators, its "hand written" think tank legislative bills or what it portends for New Mexico's future -- which can bear the light of day on the high desert.

Legislative Dues or Corporate Coffers?

Businessmen shaking hands over moneyAlmost 98% of ALEC's cash is from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, trade associations, and corporate foundations. ALEC describes itself as the largest "membership association of state legislators," but only a little more than ten percent of its funding comes from legislative dues. Some of the biggest corporations in the world bankroll and thus subsidize the activities of the legislators who are part of ALEC. Corporations provide general support that covers the annual ALEC conventions -- which are summer trips of politicians and their families to resorts for the annual ALEC meeting -- and the preparation of "model" bills and glossy promotional materials. ALEC could actually be called one of the most powerful membership associations of corporations attempting to influence state legislators. But ALEC's tax filings do not even count corporate donations as membership dues; they are listed under gifts. [excerpt - read the  Original PRWatch article here.]

We've got work to do before the 2014 election -- work to make sure it's not our last election.

For just a bit more  reading from previous MeanMesa posts about ALEC:

Just What Are Those Pesky Koch Brothers Up To Now?

ALEC New Mexico - Anti-Democracy in the High Desert

Latest ALEC Scourge Hits New Mexico

New Mexico: Climate Change, Infrastructure & Water

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