Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Do-Nothing Governor

Two New Mexico stories about two entirely different things, two seemingly unconnected stories, appeared at the top of the New Mexico section of my Google new page this afternoon. At least at first blush they seem unconnected.

Susana Martinez-Think
Stories rate high with Google because they are currently getting a lot of web hits. Either many people in New Mexico are reading them, or the stories have gone national. These two stories, one each, seem to fit each category.

One is about how New Mexico fared in the recently released US Census Bureau report that showed national declines in income and wealth for working folk while the rich were getting even richer. Basically we did a little worse than the national average. More children here lost health care coverage while nationally that number increased. That story was in a local business journal. It would be the one that's being read a lot locally.

The other story appears in a publication with broad national readership. Susana Martinez, our poplar Republican governor, is trying to reclassify rape in the way the religious right wants it defined, as in how Republican Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin talked about "legitimate rape" a few weeks ago and brought nationwide scorn upon himself and the Republican Party.

In the parlance of the Republican Religious Right, "legitimate rape" and "forcible rape" are the same thing. Those terms define good old brutal forced penetration and don't include things like incest, date rape and various forms of abuse of minors that are now legally considered rape in many states. In some new regulations Martinez is trying to get through, only women who are "forcibly raped" will be eligible for social services for the child that results from the rape and only if they can prove they were forcibly raped. Also, women who become pregnant through abuse or incest or date rape will have now to prove that they have first tried to get the child's father to support the child.

Think of a 16 year old girl who runs away to escape an abusive father and is staying in a shelter. I'm reminded of a case in Dallas a few years ago, a single father with a daughter. If she wanted to do any of the things teenagers want to do, she had to pay him first with sex. She was a cheerleader, and if she wanted to go to practice, she had to give him oral sex. If she wanted to leave the house for a game, she had to perform coitus with him.

In Susana Martinez' new New Mexico, this girl was not forcibly raped. If she runs away and then finds out she is pregnant, in order to get state support for the child, she will first have to go back and ask her father to support her child. Since what she went through wasn't what Todd Akin considers legitimate rape, she will have to go back and face her father and relive everything that has happened to her, and then Susana Martinez will help her, maybe.

It's been remarked that Susana Martinez really hasn't accomplished much in her first term as governor in terms of getting legislation passed or creating jobs. Which is very true, and by doing nothing, of course, she has accomplished widening of the gap between the rich and poor in New Mexico, which is the centerpiece of the Republican agenda, after all.

It remains to be seen whether she'll accomplish redefining rape the way Todd Akin wants it defined, and we don't know yet just how much of the religious right agenda of putting women back where they were in the 1950s she'll accomplish, which is really what's behind things like the redefinition of rape, but she's making progress already.

Women suffer the most when there's economic decline, and the lower New Mexicans sink in economic terms, the less able single women will be to support their children, and the more dependent they will become on abusive men and incestuous fathers and on governments that define women the way Susana Martinez does, which is the centerpiece of the Religious Right's agenda.

So in terms of furthering Republican economic and social agendas, Martinez, who switched from the Democratic to the Republican party to further her ambitions and whose name was bandied about as a possible vice presidential candidate, hasn't exactly been sloughing off. She may not have made it onto a national ticket yet, but you can't say she's not trying.


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