Thursday, November 06, 2008


It’s over.

The longest election cycle in the history of the galaxy is over.

Hopefully, the volume of new messages in my e-mail in-boxes, both work and personal, will be reduced to humane levels.
My cell phone won’t be constantly buzzing with new text messages from the Obama campaign. (I just signed up last summer to get the news of his vice-presidential pick and suddenly they wanted me to work for them.)

I won’t feel compelled to start off each day looking at the electoral college map.
Indeed, it’s been a long election. For me it actually started in June 2005, when I followed Gov. Bill Richardson to the great state of New Hampshire. He hadn’t yet declared his candidacy. In fact, it was still more than a year away from his gubernatorial re-election campaign. Though he wouldn’t admit it at the time, Richardson was clearly testing the waters back in 2005 in the first primary state, making speeches, doing interviews and making contacts who could help him in the 2008 primary.

The real campaign, at least for most New Mexico political reporters, didn’t start until January 2007, when Richardson formally declared he was running for president. By the next month I was traveling to Carson City, Nev., for the first Democratic presidential forum. Richardson was there, as was Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, “Mad” Mike Gravel (who brought some much-needed laughter to the rather dull affair) and Tom Vilsack. (Remember him? He dropped out of the race not long after the Carson City forum.)
The only no-show in Carson City that day was Barack Obama. A year later I wondered if that contributed to his defeat in the Nevada caucus.
The presidential race was pretty nonstop after that. There seemed to be a debate every couple of weeks. But things didn’t really get serious in New Mexico until several months later when Pete Domenici announced he wouldn’t seek re-election. Reporters had to scramble to see who was and wasn’t running for Domenici’s seat, then all three of the state’s Congressional seats. Six Democrats and two Republicans ended up on the 3rd Congressional District primary ballot, not to mention two independents early in the race, plus a small army of Democratic politicians who were considering or rumored to be considering the congressional race.
Normally I bellyache every two years about the number of state legislators who get a free ride on election day. But this year I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved that there wasn’t any competition in the Roundhouse races in the Santa Fe area.

I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t fun.
I’ll have lots of fond memories from this election — the freezing cold of New Year’s Day in Iowa, which made January in New Hampshire seem like a tropical paradise; the Democratic cigar party in Denver, plus running in to the likes of Jimmy Carter, Madelyn Albright, The Daily Show fake-news team and Captain Morgan; Obama in EspaƱola; John McCain in Albuquerque; Mitt Romney at an Airport Road tire store, just down the street from the restaurant where Caroline Kennedy spoke a few days before; strolling the farmer’s market with Tom Udall; eating tamales with Steve Pearce on a sunny day in Mora County; watching Richardson campaign among New Hampshire Hispanics at a Manchester barbershop; Richardson’s “job interview” ads, Udall’s “parrot” ads, Pearce’s “hippie” ad.
Yes, it was a heck of an election, Brownie. Now I’d better get busy deleting e-mail before my computer goes catatonic.

’60s Flashback: At the risk of mixing my roles as political columnist and music columnist, prompted by the first victory of a black presidential candidate, and the image of tears streaming down the face of the Rev. Jesse Jackson on television after Obama had been declared the winner, I spent a good chunk of Wednesday morning listening to Mavis Staples’ excellent We’ll Never Turn Back. This album, produced by Ry Cooder, consists mainly of civil rights-era songs — spirituals, civil-rights anthems, union songs and even blues, such as J.B. Lenoir’s “Down in Mississippi.” In the middle of the latter tune, Staples does a lengthy spoken part during which she remembers the Mississippi of her youth, when she was forbidden to drink out of certain water fountains.
“My gran’ma said, ‘Young ’un, you can’t drink that water,’ She said, ‘You drink from that fountain over there.’ And that fountain had a sign, said ‘For Colored Only.’ ”

I’m not black, and I didn’t grow up in Mississippi. But I clearly remember back in the mid-’60s, when I was a grade-school kid in Oklahoma. Our class had a field trip in which we rode in an old bus — apparently an old city bus — that had a sign saying: “Back for Colored Only.”

I don’t even remember where our class went that day. All that stands out from that day is that sign. I’m not even sure whether the back-of-the-bus rules still were being enforced in Oklahoma City by that point. But it was still close enough in time that nobody had bothered to remove that weird oppressive message from that bus.

So it’s easy to see why Rev. Jackson shed a tear, and why U.S. Rep. John Lewis, himself a civil rights activist, was speaking so emotionally in television interviews on Tuesday night and why, as blogger Joe Monahan reported, Lenton Malry, the first black state legislator in New Mexico, had tears in his eyes at the KNAW-FM studios when Obama’s victory was announced.

BLOG BONUS: Here's Mavis singing "Eyes on the Prize" from We'll Never Turn Back"

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