One thing that many U.S. voters can probably agree on is that we, as individuals, seem to have limited influence on our national politics. Only 62% of eligible New Mexico voters cast a ballot in the 2016 Presidential election. Nationwide, voter turnout was even lower––a 20-year low of 58%. There are many factors that affect voter turnout, not the least important of which is a perceived powerlessness, especially in states not considered to be “key” in terms of electoral college votes.
This feeling of powerlessness–that one’s vote doesn’t matter–is often misinterpreted as apathy or as ignorance. However, a feeling of powerlessness can also be seen as frustrated power. And that power can be activated and applied, with profound effect.
There is a saying that “all politics are local”. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill used this phrase to argue what might seem like an obvious idea: that a politician’s success is directly tied to his or her ability to understand and affect the unique issues of his/her constituents. According to this principle, national policies and agendas are of less importance to a politician’s career than are the concerns of the voters who put them in office.
Although Sen. O’Neill was talking from the politician’s point of view, the flip side of the idea that “all politics are local” is that voters’ concerns at the local level are vitally important to elected officials, rippling upward to the highest levels of government.
On January 17, the New Mexico Legislature will convene in Santa Fe for the 2017 Session. A list of the pre-filed House and Senate bills is available on the Legislature’s website (see below). This list contains an enormous variety of issues that directly affect our lives, from law enforcement to education and environmental concerns, from small loan interest rates to consumer protection. Whatever your position on these issues, it is important that your voice is heard. For the next two months, the citizens of New Mexicans have an opportunity to exercise their power. You can visit the roundhouse, call, email, text, or write letters. It’s time to remind ourselves–and our elected officials–that indeed, all politics are local.
List of Legislation: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Legislation_List (you may need to hit the Go button)
Find Your Legislators: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Members/Find_My_Legislator