Commentary: I’ve come up for air after more than a year of intensive political work—and I'm not even running for office. Now that voting has begun I can take a deep breath and look back on what seems to be a critical time in our nation’s history. As with most people, my living-history perspective is purely local, and personal.
I've come to know dozens of candidates this year, many by their first names. I’ve seen how very hard they work for the opportunity to represent us—neighbor and stranger alike. The more I’ve gotten to know these political hopefuls, the more I’ve come to admire their grit. Campaigning in New Mexico requires “road dog” determination. Dona Ana County itself is bigger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Knocking on doors, a necessary tenet of campaigning is rewarding, but thirsty work. For candidates, their spouses, moms, and relatives of every stripe are their most valuable supporters. I’ve met them at countless Meet and Greet events. They are truly gracious, sometimes funny, and nearly always interesting.
I've seen rival candidates sitting elbow to elbow at cafeteria tables answering the same set of questions over and over, responding to each one ever so earnestly. It’s hard to imagine the discipline it takes to make their point in their allotted two minutes. But these exercises also seem true tests of their will, temperament, courage and intelligence. I found myself quietly rooting for one candidate, just as I winced at another’s stumble. It doesn’t look easy.
I’ve also stood alongside candidates at rallies with people in sloganeering teeshirts and jeans. We greet each other on the sidewalk holding our signs tight against the wind. At least at the local level, rallies, protests and marches—events of a kind—are almost joyous. Politicians seem to relish these public events for the chance to congregate with like-minded people. Like high school students at a carwash, it’s also a chance to be outside, yelling and waving at passing motorists.
When I took up this cause more than a year ago, I did so out of moral outrage. But in the months since, I've witnessed courage in my own countrymen and seen regained strength in the common good. Also, I’ve rid myself of that early righteousness through activism and elbow grease, just as I’ve traded an obsession with Washington for renewed hope in my own citizen politicians.
Tomorrow I'll go over to the county courthouse and vote. In my view, we’re going to be okay.
Linda G. Harris lives in Las Cruces, NM where she has been long-involved in the community. She is now Chair of Indivisible LAS CRUCES, a progressive grassroots organization.