“It requires imagination and creativity. It requires organization. And it requires courage and discipline.” Erica Chenoweth
It takes a good number of us. In fact, a significant 3.5% of our population needs to be on board for us to achieve lasting political change (Chenoweth, 2013). In Bernalillo County that translates to nearly 23,850 people. Do we have the fortitude to push and continue pushing for a democracy that works for the many rather than the few? Do we want lasting change or do we want to perpetuate a system that favors wealth over community, consolidation of power over power for the people, and the preservation of a caste system over inclusive governance? I know what my dream is. What is yours?
Our country is woven with greatness, but the fabric doesn’t readily invite equitable participation. We have functioned on principles of democracy but have always hedged, knowing that power remains in the possession of the class that already holds it. Consider how the appointments of three Supreme Court Justices during Trump’s term demonstrated the effort to maintain our nation’s oppressive status quo. And here in New Mexico, although we are fortunate to live where many elected officials connect and relate to their constituencies, our state Legislature still functions under rules that favor the haves over the have-nots.
Our NM State Legislature is the only unpaid Legislature in the United States. In theory, democracy invites and expects citizens from within the community to serve in their government’s legislative bodies. Is it practical to expect that those representatives not only suspend their familial responsibilities and social lives but also forego their income during the legislative session? Or do we accept that only those who can pay their own way can afford to play the part? Do we want people who represent and give their communities a stake in government, or do we want elected representatives who take their community’s power and use it to raise their own status? Friends, we are at a crossroads.
We’ve seen some elected officials use political power for their own gain instead of connecting their communities to political power—and we know and see others who value their constituents and conscientiously perform civil service on their behalf. With every step in our political and electoral journey, we must ask ourselves: “Do we favor a democracy for the wealthy or do we strive for a rich democracy? And if we want a rich democracy, what does that look like?” In the days, weeks, and months to come, we will be taking steps to define our democracy. And with our advocacy and the decisions we make at the ballot box, we will bolster one side or the other. Let’s use our voices and our votes to make lasting political change.
We are building the bridge to a more inclusive democracy while crossing it.
Yours in service,
Chenoweth, E. (2013, November). The success of nonviolent civil resistance [Video]. TEDx Talks.