Roswell voters remain cynical
Record Staff Writer, Roswell Daily Record, November 9, 2006
The end of the election season meant rejoicing for some but apathy and cynicism for many in Roswell, especially among those who feel disenfranchised by the political process.
Just 68 percent of Roswell’s citizens are registered to vote, and only 46 percent of registered voters, 31.6 percent of total Roswellites, voted during this year’s general election, which, it is estimated, mirrors national numbers. And on the day after the election, it was clear an alarming number of those who do not vote do so not because of satisfaction with the status quo, but rather because they feel helpless, hopeless, and choiceless.
Joe Helm, 82, who lives near Artesia, had one word to describe the future of the country.
That chaos, he said, would come in the form of severe inflation if minimum wages were increased, fewer liberties, a border open to any immigrant who wished to come in, and what he called “the socialization of America.”
Helm didn’t vote, he said, and hasn’t in years, because it didn’t matter which party was in control.
“We’ve lost our country. Our politicians are not really concerned about constitutional protections, they’re just there to placate everybody,” Helm said. “The Republicans haven’t done a great deal, they just got us bogged down in a war.”
When he was a young man, Helm said, things were different. Now, he said, most citizens were more concerned with watching sitcoms than paying attention to the world.
“Now it seems like there’s just no hope for it. People are, well, they kind of get the government they deserve,” Helm said. “It doesn’t bother me, because I’m not sure I’ll wake up in the morning, at my age, but gosh it scares me with young people ... you’re going to have a difficult time.”
One of those young people, Brittany Griffin, of Roswell, said the only thing good she expected to come of the future political dealings, especially a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, was a minimum wage increase, which the minimum-wage earner said would be “awesome.”
And like others, she was glad to see the end of a particularly nasty season of political ads, especially, she said, between Heather Wilson and Patricia Madrid in the first congressional district.
“’Stay the course,’” she said, referring to an anti-Heather Wilson ad. “God, that one gets on my nerves.”
Griffin said she felt no incentive to vote.
“I don’t see a point in it,” she said. “I’m not Republican or Democrat or anything, I just don’t care.”
And her predictions for the country, mirroring her dissatisfaction with the political process, were grim.
“We’re going to get out of Iraq and Iraq’s going to come bomb us,” she said. “They’re mad at us now ... I don’t want to be in a war, but I think if we stop now it’ll just get a lot worse.”
Darlene Nevarez, a Roswell mother, was also concerned about Iraq and said she was most concerned these days with how an America at war is viewed by the rest of the world.
Nevarez, who said she voted when she was a teenager living in Texas, said although the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan upset her deeply, her vote made no difference these days.
“It doesn’t matter who they pick, it’s not going to change what’s going on,” Nevarez said. “We shouldn’t be there ... but I mean, there’s no sense backing out now, because then they’ll really hurt us.”
And, she said, neither party offered her a clear way out for the country.
“I think they’re both the same, personally,” Nevarez said. “Everybody’s fighting everybody.”
With two young children, Nevarez said she was especially worried about the world that would be left to them when they grew up.
“I pray to God they don’t have a draft. That’s the thing. And I pray they have a better world than we have now,” Nevarez said. “But I know it’s only going to get worse.”
Of course, some in southeastern New Mexico had hope for the future.
Justus Bowe, an election judge at Precinct 22 who has worked five elections in Roswell, said he’d seen more people vote and get active in the election process in the last two elections than ever before in his life. He said it was unfortunate that people in New Mexico saw so clearly during this election season “how our government operates in a negative way sometimes,” but he said sometimes the negative ends up spurring on positive things.
In the last two elections, in 2004 and now in 2006, people “were dissatisfied with the way our government has been handled,” said Bowe, a veteran who himself was upset by the “deception” that got the country into a war in Iraq.
But Bowe said rather than giving up, it was important to get involved more than ever, if not for the world now, to make the world a little better for the youth.
“If we teach them bitterness, they’ll become bitter. If we teach them love, they’ll learn to love and serve their country with friendship and love,” Bowe said. “In order to make a better government, become involved. Don’t just criticize. Add something to the pile.”
Though the ranks and motivation of those people getting involved were visibly growing, Bowe said, especially with eyes toward the presidential election of 2008, he said there is still work to do.
“The more we train our people and teach them about how our government is operated, the more they get involved,” Bowe said, both in school and as adults. “The average person, I’ve found, doesn’t know the process of how our government works.”
“We put these congressmen, these representatives up there to represent us. We’re going to have to demand that they do.