Elections have consequences and the recent New Mexico elections are no different. You would think, as a Democrat, that I would be thrilled. While I am happy with the results, I also have some serious concerns. The Democrats won every statewide office, retook the governorship, and has all five members of Congress represented by the same party. The Democrats have retaken the U.S. House of Representatives and now act as a check on the abuses of the current administration. The New Mexico House of Representatives has increased its majority from 38-32 to 46-24. While the New Mexico Senate was not up for election, it will enter this legislative session with the same 26-16 majority. At the county level, all of the commissioners in Doña Ana County are Democrats.
Good legislation is the result of varied ideas and careful consideration of the benefits and consequences of that legislation. This works best when there is both a majority view and a minority view with both sides listening carefully and considering the other side’s viewpoint. In a two-party system of government, the majority rules and the minority has a right to be heard and the majority has an obligation to listen and consider. With such negative rhetoric and divisive politics coming from the national leadership of the Republican Party, I fear we are losing the rational reasoned voice of the minority in New Mexico.
With the Republican Party losing significant strength in New Mexico it provides an opportunity for the Democrats to rule and make major changes without that careful consideration. A weakened minority makes it too easy to ignore the minority voice that serves as a check and balance against badly written or badly conceptualized legislation. The Democrats in the Roundhouse must be extra careful to ensure that we are writing good laws for the people of the state and not just passing laws because we have the power to do so. The New Mexico Senate has been an effective working body because we respect and listen to our colleagues from the other side of the aisle and keep discussions on issues not party line.
As a state Senator, I hope the Republican Party moves away from the negative ideology of recent years and back to statesmanship responsive to good government. A weakened and fractured minority voice does not provide the needed check to the majority power. New Mexico needs the breadth of ideas that leads to good government. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues and will continue to listen and consider their thoughts and ideas. I will also listen to my Democratic colleagues and hope we use our power for good government and not just because we have the votes.
Bill Soules is a Democratic state senator from Las Cruces who represents the 37th district.