April 2012

One-party rule

So the joke going around is that Montezuma County is sort of like the now-defunct Soviet Union – you know, one-party rule. You can vote for anyone as long as they are a member of the Communist – er, Republican Party.

Well, it has been a long time since the other supposedly major party in the county has had much going for it, as is discussed elsewhere in this issue of the Free Press. But party politics are fairly irrelevant to most offices at the county level anyway, of course. There isn’t a Democratic or Republican way of enforcing the law or prosecuting criminals, or, for that matter, registering vehicles and issuing marriage licenses.

At the national level, the GOP is generally portrayed as being more in favor of policies that benefit the affluent, and the Democrats more as champions of minorities and the underprivileged. And in many instances, this is borne out by the parties’ agendas and accomplishments.

But as former Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill was fond of asserting, all politics is local, when it comes down to how people vote. Meaning that citizens will vote in their self-interest, even if sometimes mistakenly. (For instance, when George W. Bush was president, he was blamed for high gas prices, just as President Obama is now. In fact, our commander-in-chief, regardless of party, has little power to do much about a commodity that is in high demand worldwide, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to hold someone accountable.)

Still, there are important differences in the philosophies of the two parties, although they are becoming more and more obscure as candidates gravitate toward the center to attract the votes of independents, whose number grow as many of us become disillusioned with promises not kept on both sides and a Congress that appears more interested in keeping their jobs than the national welfare.

But back to the local scene. If the Democrats are to reverse their dwindling numbers and again become a viable force in the county, they might want to take a lesson from our tiny local Green Party, which has less than a hundred people registered here, but has had an impact on voters in some important ways since its inception as the Southwest Greens a little more than a decade ago.

The greenies (full disclosure: some Free Press staffers are or have been Green, though not very active) have put on a variety of public forums and informational meetings for the general public, on issues ranging from the Middle East to state ballot questions to fracking. The Greens also used to organize an annual forum for students in local high schools where the young about-to-be voters got to meet candidates and office holders.

Political parties ought to exist to do more than win elections; they should serve the people, and we’d like to see the Republicans and Democrats do more of that.

Anyway, at the local level in particular, the person really should matter more than the party. And while there may be no Democrats on the ballot in Montezuma County this year (we’re not counting non-partisan contests such as municipal and special-district elections), there is a great deal of variety among the Republicans – and the two unaffiliated candidates – who are planning to run. There are moderates, Tea Party sympathizers, and even one or two who are somewhat progressive in their thinking.

So local voters do have some choice in the June 26 primary and the November election, despite the jokes about the oneparty monopoly.

But we’d still like to see a genuine opposition party in Montezuma County. So here’s to the Democrats and Greens of the future: May you be proud of your affiliation; may you work to nurture some viable candidates; and may you as well as the Republicans remember this: Officeholders need to serve the entire county, not just one particular interest group.