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D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    May 2008


Primary Colors

How to make next month's primary a bit more exciting.

Although New Mexico was one of the last states to be admitted to the union, it wasn't because we weren't a lot of fun. Many politicians in Washington, DC, were a little fuzzy on the difference between Old Mexico and New Mexico, and didn't think it prudent to admit a sovereign nation into the union. Luckily, Santa Fe had powerful lobbyists in Washington who were able to explain that New Mexico was cleaner than Old Mexico, at which point statehood was granted, but only under the condition that the state's constitution contain a proviso that assured the preservation of a nonsensical and backward voting system. This explains much of the enchantment in our state, including the relevance of the upcoming primary on June 3. Well, by "enchantment," I mean "counter-intuitiveness." And by "relevance," I mean "pointlessness."

For those uninitiated in the subtle nuances of New Mexico politics, allow me to explain what our presidential primary means to the nation. It means that, technically speaking, New Mexico has the same voice in the process as, say, Guam. The Republican candidate for president has already been anointed, and John McCain is at this very moment deciding between the cornflower blue tie or the russet red, whichever one his aides decide is more presidential. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has already stuck a roadrunner feather in her electoral hat. In fact, New Mexico calls this election a "primary" because who we vote for is "primarily" a moot point.

The state Democrats held a caucus for their presidential candidate back on Feb. 5. Where I come from, a caucus is something you scrape off your boots before getting into the truck, but in politics, it is far more significant (but smells about the same). In this caucus, Democrats were asked which Democrat would make the best Democrat president, and the Democrats won in a landslide. This caucus took place early enough to have an impact at the national level, but nobody can be too sure since it took over a week to count the votes. In New Mexico, 26 of the state's 38 Democrat delegates are allocated proportionally to presidential candidates, 17 are based on the results in three congressional districts and another nine based on statewide caucus vote. To keep things simple, 11 more unpledged delegates are later selected from party leaders and are free to vote however they want, after voting in one additional unpledged delegate, making for a grand total of, umm. . . eleventy-billion delegates. The June 3 primary has no bearing on any of this, however, although voters can still go vote for the Democratic candidate. What could be any easier than this?

To more cynical citizens, this might make the whole June 3 primary seem pointless, and that's probably because cynics have a well-developed sense of reality. After all, there are a whole slew of nimrods running for senator or judge or egg-sucking dog.

As a long-time New Mexican who has learned to temper apathy with complete indifference, I propose we simply add a few more items onto the ballot to make the whole process more relevant. We can thereby let the people decide some important issues for New Mexico while behind the curtain of the non-functioning voting machine.

I propose we have a ballot initiative outlawing new-age menu items in Mexican restaurants. I don't ever want to be offered anything as subversive as a veggie taco, a blue-corn tortilla enchilada or a chalupa again. Proper Mexican food needs to be deep-fried in syrupy animal fat, layered in gooey gobs of melted cheese, festooned with dollops of sour cream the size of ice-cream cones, and doused with chile hot enough to rival fuel rods at Three Mile Island. If patrons want to eat healthy, they should stick with the salad bar. Besides, Taco Bell already offers Mexican food for people who don't like Mexican food.

Let's also use our primary to solve our immigration problem. A lot of level-headed freedom-lovers have voiced support for a fence built along the border to cut down on the uncontrolled influx of criminals, deviants, felons, renegades and advertising executives. This is an important issue, and our state is the front line in this crucial battle. I have no idea how much it will cost to build a fence all the way along the New Mexico-Texas border, but I feel it will be worth it. I'm tired of those carpetbagging Texans coming over and taking jobs from New Mexicans.

Finally, I believe it's time the voters of New Mexico weighed in on Gov. Bill Richardson's facial hair. Since dropping his presidential bid, he has let himself go by cultivating a mangy patch of jaw hair that looks like a family of extremely placid but hirsute field mice waiting for crumbs to tumble from his maw. The look is somewhat raffish, and walks a fine line between out-of-work aging porn star and out-of-work aging session musician for ZZ Top. Unless Hollywood is casting for a remake of the 1970s TV smash hit "Grizzly Adams," I can't see a reason for the Guv's disregard of the tonsorial arts, so maybe he just needs a few hundred thousand second opinions.

When it comes to primaries, maybe New Mexico was never meant to have a walk-on part in the nation's pageant. Maybe it's better that the more populated states get to decide important issues like who gets to run for president, and we continue to have meaningless primary elections. It's not like we're likely to have all the votes tallied up before the national conventions anyway, but it would be nice to have the facade of relevance.

Some citizens are proposing a new process, where all votes for candidates are cast in a single day, all across the nation. But then the media wouldn't have anything to talk about for six months and we'd be forced to find out what Paris and Britney are up to. Some even go so far as to suggest that candidates be decided by popular vote within the parties, but that's just crazy talk. How could the party machines retain control if Joe Lunchbucket were allowed to just toss about his vote all willy-nilly?

Whether election officials choose to call it a primary, a caucus or a non-binding referendum, it's hard to convince New Mexico voters how important it is to vote when they're disenfranchised from the process by design. Isn't it enough we have to struggle with lost ballots, malfunctioning machines, and the dead rising from the grave to vote in this state? Voters will be interested in the process when the process shows interest in the voter.

Henry Lightcap proudly casts his vote in Las Cruces.

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