From nmpolitics.net a letter to fellow Democrats by Senator Eric Griego:
Dear New Mexico Democrat:
Last year’s election was a momentous occasion. Not only did we elect a Democratic president and an entire Democratic congressional delegation, but we picked up several Democratic seats in the state House and Senate. With a Democratic majority in both houses of the Legislature (27 Democrats to 15 Republicans in the Senate), and a Democratic governor, we expected to implement a state policy agenda in line with the Democratic platform.
We were wrong.
In spite of a net gain of three Democratic seats in the state Senate, and the election of progressives (some would call it the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party) to replace more centrist incumbents, not much has changed in the New Mexico Senate.
In the words of former Who lead singer Roger Daltry, “Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.”
While the state House has tackled some of these issues including ethics reform, domestic partnership and progressive tax reform, the state Senate has mostly thwarted the Democratic agenda.
For those who don’t follow legislative politics, the current Democratic leadership in the state Senate was elected by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. Nineteen members of the Democratic caucus supported Senator Carlos Cisneros of Questa for president pro tem. The other eight voted with the 15-member Republican caucus to elect Senator Tim Jennings, a conservative Democrat from Roswell.
While Senator Jennings is a nice enough guy, his political philosophy is in stark contrast to the majority of rank and file Democrats – not to mention the state party platform.
The state Democratic Party seems to endorse the coalition. One of those eight coalition Democrats was just given the first annual Bruce King Award Public Service Award by the New Mexico Democratic Party.
Working with Republicans to stop the Democratic platform
What has been the practical effect of this coalition? No significant Democratic bills, other than repealing the death penalty, have passed the Republican/Democrat coalition-controlled Senate. They have worked with the Republican caucus to kill conservation, progressive taxation, consumer protection and equality legislation.
Most of this legislation has died in committees set up by Senate leadership to minimize the influence of progressive members and thus ensure no legislation implementing the Democratic Party platform would ever come to fruition.
In 2006, the party’s state central committee passed resolutions opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Yet, domestic partner legislation has been thwarted by Senate committees stacked with anti-equality Democrats. Despite the 9-5 ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the Senate, equality legislation has failed in committee and on the Senate floor.
In 2006 and 2008, the state central committee passed resolutions calling for repealing tax cuts for the wealthy. The state Senate leadership did not consider even one bill on the Senate floor that asked the wealthiest New Mexicans to pay their fair share. All such bills were killed in stacked committees with several “centrist” Democrats voting with Republicans to kill the bills.
In the 2010 legislative session, the majority of Democrats voted with all Republicans to kill all floor amendments that would have reduced or eliminated tax cuts for the rich. Instead, a tax on food was passed by the several Democrats in coalition with Republicans. The coalition rejected the more Democratic and balanced House budget and instead voted to cut education and other basic services instead of asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share.
In 2006, the state central committee passed a resolution to support small businesses in their competition with national firms. A bill to do just that and make out-of-state corporations pay corporate income taxes on profits made in New Mexico died in the Senate, with several Democrats, including leadership, voting against the bill.
In 2008, the state central committee passed resolutions to promote active environmental policies and renewable energy and reduce carbon emissions. Yet, little if any conservation legislation has seen the light of day in the Democratic state Senate, despite the Democratic majority. Even worse, coalition Democrats voted with Republicans to remove Neri Holguin, a conservationist, from the Environmental Improvement Board.
On ethics and campaign reform, the state platform includes support for public financing of campaigns, same day registration for elections, and holding public officials accountable. Yet, the Senate Democratic leadership has not even let most bills related to ethics and campaign finance bills be heard.
Most have died in the Senate Rules Committee, which is chaired by Senator Linda Lopez – one of the eight coalition Democrats. The ones that did make it to the floor were so watered down as to be nearly irrelevant.
Time to discuss a third party?
I believe if we lose statewide and legislative elections in November, we will have no one to blame but ourselves. Despite numerous scandals of state officials, our state Senate leadership has fought most reasonable ethics or campaign reform. Over the past two years the Democratic Senate leadership has bottled up, watered down or otherwise stymied ethics and campaign finance reform bills.
We have effectively deferred to the Republican Party on ethics reform and, as a result, given them a strong issue for the 2010 cycle.
The slow drift to the right of the Democratic Party has meant we no longer stand for anything. It has given our Democratic base no reason to show up in November. If the talk of reform and change that brought in the overwhelming Democratic majorities at the federal and state levels was just that – talk – we are going to lose in November. And we should.
Maybe it is time to discuss a third party that reflects what’s actually in the state Democratic Party platform. We need a party that supports ethics reform, a fair tax system and equality for all New Mexicans. We need a party that puts the environment ahead of corporate interests. We need a party that fights for working people, not for corporate greed.
That used to be the Democratic Party. I can’t say that anymore, at least not in the New Mexico Senate.
Before I address the letter I really have to second a comment made to the post above by "new_direction_2010" - its not a good sign for progressives that Carlos Cisneros always votes against Domestic Partnerships. Doesn't seem he's that great a Dem - you really can't call him a progressive.
Re: Eric Griego's letter - the dirty little fact is that the progressives and liberals in both the State and National Democratic Party are essentially doormats and until we stop voting for anybody with a D after their name we will remain on the floor and "they" will step on "us" whenever the mood strikes them. The fact is we need a new game plan - here's one that I and a few other folks are talking about -
1) the best way to get rid of a bad Dem is to primary them and replace them if possible. Folks in the Senate like Tim Jennings, Linda Lopez, Mike Sanchez & etc immediately come to mind.
2) if that fails or isn't possible (i.e. I don't think we can find somebody to run against Tim Jennings) then we need to select a couple of the worst Dems in the House and Senate and go to the liberals and progressives in their district and really work to explain who this person is and what they are doing and then ask folks simply not to vote for them. Essentially we need to try and sacrifice their seat to the Republicans for a cycle. Sadly, we need to play hardball and these are our only two choices.
The simple fact is that the corporate interests that control the Democratic Party have bought the politicians because that's where the power is. If we split they win and we loose - we need to stay but change how the game is played. If we pull this off once everything changes. The game we are currently playing clearly doesn't work for us - I think its time we change the rules and see what happens.