Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Fun With Sue

I have been in a bad mood since 2010.

Obviously, I've had a lot of bright spots, but there has been an underlying gnawing rage that can be summed up in one name:

Susana Martinez.

Back in 2010, I worked in the anti-violence against women movement, and Martinez was well-known in our circles from her work as a prosecutor in Las Cruces.  When I first heard she was running for governor, I foolishly assumed she was running as a Democrat and was excited at the prospect of a badass Chicana running for office. Boy, was I wrong.  Not long after announcing her candidacy as a Republican, Martinez began her attack on Mexican Immigrants and pulled no punches in attacking the Richardson administration for passing a law that allows Undocumented Immigrants the right to apply for a drivers license. Her opponent, then-Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, had very little recourse against the attacks and Martinez breezed into office. I was disgusted to see that so many of my fellow Nuevo Mexicanos voted for Martinez based on fear mongering that played right into the internalized racism and oppression that plagues our communities and turns us against our Immigrant sisters and brothers.

Martinez immediately tried to repeal the law that allows drivers licenses for Undocumented people, which is actually a pretty benign law. There is little evidence of fraud taking place, and streets are indeed safer, given the boost of licensed and insured drivers. None of this mattered to Martinez when she took office, as much of her campaign was built upon the promise that she was going to take drivers licenses away from those people and "restore" law and order to New Mexico.

Five legislative sessions later, Undocumented Immigrants haven't been denied drivers licenses, but New Mexico has slipped to near last place in child well-being, high school graduation rates, and recovery from the 2008 recession. We are first in child-hunger, unemployment and have the widest income gap in the United States (meaning NM has the widest gap between the wealthy and the poor). Add in the corporate tax breaks she pushed in 2013 (while vetoing an increase in the minimum wage), the eroded environmental protections and failed school evaluation system and what we have is a governor who is more interested in reading to children (otherwise known as an easy photo-op) and angling for a place in national politics. The office of governor is simply a stepping stone, and when she moves on to a bigger stage, New Mexico will be worse for wear, all on Martinez's watch.

One would naturally think - wow, that governor sure is incompetent. How is is she still in office? Credit is due to the governor's right hand, Jay McCleskey, who is widely believed to be running the show and has made sure that the governor's image is tightly maintained.  Detractors are severely punished and the media seems to be controlled by the governor's office - there is little to no in-depth analysis of the failure of the Martinez administration in the mainstream media. In addition to this, the Democratic party has been mostly silent - almost as if they are waiting out her term as governor in order to get back to work.

While Martinez handily won her reelection in 2014, it should be noted that voter turn-out was less than 40% - hardly a referendum as much as it is voters who feel disengaged and apathetic. In the last five years I left my service provider career and moved on to grassroots organizing. I have stood with people who are fearless while participating in direct action against the governor (silent protests, delivering a Christmas stocking full of coal and marches, to name a few) and still, despite all the noise we made about the terrible job Martinez has done and her agenda to sell New Mexico to the highest bidder, it felt like she was untouchable.

That is, until her drunken phone calls to 9-1-1 surfaced last Friday.

Friday afternoon, as soon as the New Mexico Political Report broke the news of Martinez's drunk dials, my social media timeline lit up with gleeful posts about the governor's slurred attempts at bullying both the hotel staff and the Santa Fe police department. The memes quickly followed and the status updates featuring the hashtag #partylikesusana were in abundance. The underlying story was that of the governor showing her true colors - a bully who will stop at nothing to get her way.

Martinez is hardly the first public official to be caught in an embarrassing moment - hell, almost everyone I know (myself included) has been, ahem, to a pizza party or two, so why does this feel so good? Why are we getting such a kick out of this?

The answer is simple - this is the first time that information is sensational and damming enough to stick.

As much as I've wanted a revolt over the governor's horrible job and brutal policies, it seems that her downfall is by her own hand - or rather, the drink(s) in her hand. I am not as much concerned about her drunkenness as much as I am her blatant disregard for the people whom she sees as beneath her, which has been her modus operandi throughout her tenure as governor. It's fine that she cut loose at her Christmas party, but what isn't fine is that said party cost taxpayers roughly $8,000, according to Progress Now New Mexico (via KRQE). I'm sure the governor's office has held a Christmas party every year and tax payers have footed the bill, but like everything else associated with Martinez, no one questioned her or her decisions; she has received a free pass for the last five years.  This time, she couldn't hide, nor could the media turn a blind eye.

As we head into the 2016 legislative session (which is a short session focused on the state budget), Martinez will once again try to repeal drivers licenses. She will make no real changes that benefit New Mexicans and will continue to bully any detractors she encounters. This year, however, we are going to see her Roundhouse of cards begin to fall apart. The next two years will be a long for la Sue; perhaps we should all chip in and buy her a round, or maybe just a piiiiiza.