|New Mexico State Auditor and US Senate candidate Hector Balderas|
To the extent that our political system, as currently configured and controlled by Capital, offers any hope of turning around Capital's current onslaught on the working class, can Hector Balderas, the state auditor from tiny Wagon Mound, NM, be seen as an alternative to Martin Heinrich, who campaigns like he is for the working class but then goes up to Washington and participates in its slaughter?
Balderas and Heinrich are contending in the Democratic Primary for the US Senate seat of retiring Democrat Jeff Bingamon. Heinrich is vacating his First Congressional District US House of Representatives seat to run for senate.
Balderas, a lawyer, served one term as a state representative and now has been the state auditor for five years during which, as he tells it, he has been watchdog for the public treasury, collecting unpaid taxes and uncovering corruption. In his campaign rhetoric he parlays that record into some very tea bagger like, and Obama like, and current Democratic Party like, talk about fiscal responsibility and budget cutting.
Understandable enough. But then what?
When questioned about them he takes the positions of a Liberal Democrat, like being pro choice and pro gay marriage. He avoids criticizing Heinrich directly, and even then it's only a mild nudge. When he takes a position on anything, it's a vague one. A couple of times in this interview he uses those chilling words "reach across the aisle," which may be an understandably calculated sound bite, but we don't need anyone who pretends to be on our side reaching across the aisle. We need getting as far away from the aisle as possible. We need standing with the people, not conceding yet more to the corporations. We need to send bombs and missiles across the aisle.
What Balderas hasn't yet shown, and what I haven't seen evidence of, is what we really need in Washington. A fighter. Someone who can take on the Republicans, middle of the road Democrats, and frightened Liberal Democrats in the war of ideas on the public airwaves.
As you may recall, last month during the debate over raising the federal government's debt ceiling, while our president was handing Republicans, as they put it, "95 percent of what we wanted," Heinrich never uttered a peep of protest and then voted for the massive Republican sellout of working Americans.
We need someone who will fight the battle in the media. That is the battle Liberals have been losing badly for many years. We need someone like a Jesse Jackson or a Dennis Kucinich who can make our case, who shows up at rallies, gives speeches that inspire people to fight back, and walks picket lines. Someone with some guts. Someone like Labor Party leaders in Australia who used to lead anti Vietnam War marches.
It's not that Balderas can't be that, but I haven't seen it while he tries to get the nomination. But Diane Denish seems to think Balderas has more of it than Heinrich. Balderas has received the endorsement of Denish, a New Mexico political heavyweight, if not the heavyweight champion of New Mexico at the moment, and I see that she is helping him fundraise, including here, at an event where those of us who can't afford a $250 donation won't be welcome, or, should I say, admitted.
I don't know precisely why Denish, who is certainly of the establishment, is endorsing Balderas instead of the establishment candidate Heinrich, but reading between the lines of her endorsement she might be tired of Heinrich going along with the Republicans and thinks Balderas will show more backbone. She also perhaps thinks New Mexico's Hispanics should be represented in the Senate for a change, as they should be. (Her endorsement did, however, stimulate some vigorous debate over just how Progressive Balderas really is, among the many Democrats who think Denish abandoned too many Progressive principals in losing the governor's race last year to Democrat-turned-Republican Susanna Martinez.)
Although Heinrich, who is already on the inside, has the endorsement of the AFSCME International Union, Balderas has been endorsed by two local firefighters unions and five AFSCME locals from some smaller New Mexico towns. This was reported not just locally but also in the the national political news web site Politico, which said, "....the move by a group of local, rural, heavily Hispanic memberships to buck their leaders in Washington and publicly endorse Balderas highlights a growing rift within Democratic activists over their choice for a nominee."
Balderas also is endorsed by "Cuanhtemoc "Tempo" Figueroa, the National Latino Vote director for President Obama's 2008 general election campaign, and former AFSCME Council 18 Administrator in New Mexico," according to Balderas' web site.
Denish also notes that Balderas polls well against the Republican primary contenders Heather Wilson and John Sanchez, and another national political web site, Roll Call, notes that Balderas has shown the ability to raise enough money to defeat a Republican in the general election, and that "Denish's support could unlock further fundraising channels for him."
Heinrich, in his capacity as congressman has shown no discernible potential as an advocate for working Americans in the Senate. Despite growing up seeing his mother, as he describes here, suffer some of the worst examples of Capitalist exploitation, not only has he been absent without leave as his party and President Obama capitulate on issue after issue to the Republicans, who, along with most Democrats now, represent the interests of Capital in its ongoing war on the working class, on unions, on anything the government does to benefit workers, indeed, on government itself, as I have noted on several occasions, but Heinrich, like Bingamon, and our other senator, Tom Udall, and the Party establishment under President Obama, has backed off in his support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have done more than anything since Roosevelt to remove some of the legal barriers to union organizing.
Judging by the mode he has settled into already, Heinrich the senator would follow in the footsteps of Bingamon, who like Udall, keeping his attention raptly focused on his reelection, enters and exits the capital by the back door, avoids the media, backs quickly away from anything controversial, and trades his votes for support for a few pork barrel projects that will make key constituencies back home happy and which he can then campaign on. That, and taking a lot of money from Lobbyists.
The other candidate in the Democratic primary will be Andres Valdez, a social justice activist. On the Republican side the nominee will be either businessmen Bill English or Greg Sowards or political figures John Sanchez, current Lieutenant Governor, and former congress member Heather Wilson, who can get her name in the paper here by saying Hello to the paper boy, who quit the Air Force to go into politics and spent several sessions in the US House seat Heinrich is quitting before she quit that, too. Wilson's intellectual underpinnings, and the source of her direction on how to vote over the years, has been a Ronald Reagan campaign brochure she saved and keeps in a safe in her basement along with some glossy woman's weightlifting magazines.
Note: Another take on Balderas and the implications of the race nationally and in terms of Hispanic voters, from a mainstream, that is, a corporatist-statist perspective, is at the Washington Post.