Tuesday, September 8, 2015

My Father's Daughter

Recently, my niece posted a status update on Facebook stating that she has only voted once in her life, and that was for the 2008 presidential election.  She wrote that she hasn't felt compelled to vote since and I nearly fell out of my chair.

What? I thought, what do you mean you haven't voted?  How did I not know this?

My niece is not alone in her sentiment, as I hear so many people say the same thing: "what good is voting going to do? My vote doesn't matter."

The first election I voted in was during the 1996 presidential election (I voted for Clinton).  I turned 18 a few months before the election and my dad made sure that I was registered to vote just days after my birthday.  On election day, my dad dressed in a suit and he, my mom and I went and voted. He was so proud that I joined them to vote and now, 19 years later, I've rarely missed an election (I think I forgot about a school board election - once).

My dad loved politics the way most men his age love football, or fishing, or fixing old cars.  My dad liked sports well enough, but he wasn't much of a fisherman nor was he a mechanic.  Politics were my dad's pastime of choice. Debates were his playoff games, conventions were his Super Bowl. Election night was his World Series Game Seven.  My pop loved C-Span, CNN, MSNBC, Meet the Press, This Week with David Brinkley (and later, George Stephanopolous), Nightline, 60 Minutes and the regular nightly news. His eyes sparkled when a new poll came out in favor of his candidate and if his person was losing, he never lost faith.  When Republicans took office, his disdain was visible but he always held out for the next election when the Democrats would make a comeback.

Representative Anselmo J. Serrano 
My dad wasn't merely a spectator.  He proudly served in the New Mexico House of Representatives in the late 1960's.  After that, he was always involved in politics on some level and he passed his love of politics - and arguing about politics - to me.  My dad was 45 years older than me, and though we didn't always have a lot to talk about, we always had politics, and that was everything.

We didn't always agree on candidates.  We were both registered Democrats but that was about all we had in common. In 2008, he was a Hilary supporter and I was Obama all the way.  When Obama got the nomination, my dad became his #1 supporter.  When I attended President Obama's inauguration in 2009, my dad had an envious gleam in his eye - and didn't miss a beat in reminding me he was at Carter's inauguration in 1976.

My pop passed away in June, 2014 at age 80.  The last election he voted in was the gubernatorial primary between Susana Martinez and a slew of Democrats, including Gary King.  My dad served under Governor Bruce King and we argued one last time about for whom he should vote (I didn't think King was a wise choice, but my dad was convinced he was the second coming of Bruce).  Come November, when Martinez won her bid for reelection, I was angry and sad - angry that she won, sad that I couldn't talk with my dad about the election.

I miss my dad every day, and in some ways, writing about politics continues our connection.  Every time I step in the voting booth, I'm voting in his place.  I'm pushing back on a system that has whittled away at the Voting Rights Act with every Supreme Court ruling and Voter ID law passed.

Voting, however, isn't enough, and voting for the lesser of two evils isn't a long-term solution. Even when we do vote in a progressive (or at least moderate) Democrat, we, as a community, step out of the process and our city councils, legislatures and Congress operate business as usual and our communities (people of color, women, LGBTQ, the poor, children, Immigrants, to name a few) are pushed back to the margins until our votes are needed once again.

If we are going to realize a stable future for New Mexico, we can't rely on policy makers to do the right thing on their own.  We have to remind them that our votes also carry a voice, otherwise we just become numbers in a demographics game.  The upcoming City Council races (more about that next week) are a perfect example of how Burqueños can hold our elected officials to a higher standard of accountability. If we want our community to do better, we have to do better - and expect more of ourselves, our elected officials and each other.

I also expect that my niece will vote and take her rightful place in a long tradition of trouble-makers.


  1. Bush won by 537 votes. There's a gallery over on CNN that features some of history's closest elections. It's proof that a single person can make a difference. I hope your niece sees her value and her voice, her opportunity to make herself heard. Voting matters because *she* matters. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/11/politics/gallery/closest-us-elections/index.html

    1. Yes! I agree completely! Every vote matters - and voting affects everything from schools to roads to libraries! Even if it feels like Congress is a broken system, voting still matters.

  2. Glad I caught up with you in your latest blog, Andrea. Today I was at a training for union organizing and this is fitting to read. I like hearing about your dad's influence. My mom is good at getting me to think critically around voting time and reminding me of the women's and civil rights movements paving the way for women and african american voters of today.