One of our collective problems in developing public policy is a propensity to utilize the following approach: ready, shoot, aim, celebrate. (When you shoot before you aim, the result is never good.) With this process, you never miss the target because there never was one clearly defined. Today, we explore this dynamic and also offer commentary on fundamentalism and exceptionalism in the US. With the combined impact of “ready, shoot, aim, celebrate” and U.S fundamentalism, you can arrive at a clearer understanding of why policy so often misses the mark. And in thinking about fundamentalism and American exceptionalism, you can better understand how and why we are so divided and unable to reach common ground on much of anything.
Ready, Shoot, Aim, Celebrate!
Most often, our blog analyzes a particular issue, introduces research, and arrives at a concrete conclusion or action. Today isn’t one of those posts. Today I want to examine in broad strokes how the sausage gets made, how national and state leadership respond to an urgent need or crisis and arrive at a set of policy priorities or legislation (aka sausage). The consideration of this dynamic doesn’t lead to some earth-shaking conclusion or direction, it just adds a layer of understanding of the legislative playground in which we operate.
When it comes to public policy, America and NM seem resistant to basing policy on research and facts. Let’s start with national gun violence prevention policy.
As we reported on May 26 in our “Gun Rampages Must be Stopped. Our Inaction Allows this to Continue” post, the US far prefers offering prayers and hopes for recovery than research-based policy that works. But if and when they do finally decide to do something, they deploy “ready, shoot, aim,” and when done, celebrate. Their process is not complete, but what Congress appears to be about to celebrate is far short of what is needed if we were focused on meaningful goals. What Congress appears about to celebrate as a win is to expand mental health services (a good thing to prevent suicides) and to tighten up the background check system (which needs far more than tightening). That appears to be it. Done. Celebrate.
No laws prohibiting the sale of automatic weapons or large-capacity magazine cartridges that allow killers to kill dozens in seconds. There doesn’t even appear to be the will to raise the legal age to buy an assault weapon from 18 to 21. No 14-day waiting periods when purchasing a gun. Any one of those laws would result from “ready, aim, shoot” instead of shooting first to just get something done. But what was the target? Did Congress ever explicitly identify a goal for which Congress would pass legislation. I didn’t see goals published, but if there were specific goals, we might have had a target to aim at. For example if our goals were:
- To reduce the number of individuals killed in mass shootings? Aiming first would have identified a meaningful target: banning the sale of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- To reduce the number of people killed in domestic disputes? Background checks would include data on domestic disputes and the prohibition of sales of any firearm to anyone who has ever been involved in such a dispute. This would not protect family members from gun violence in homes where a gun or guns are already present, so a logical companion to this bill would be to pass “red flag” legislation like what passed in 2020 in NM and was strengthened in 2022. Red flag legislation comes in different forms but essentially allows a family member, or in some cases school personnel or police, to seek a court order to remove all guns from a home if one or more people in the home are demonstrating behaviors that suggest they could use the guns to harm themselves or others.
- To reduce the number of gun suicide? Legislation would include increasing access to free mental health services and suicide prevention education and training in middle and high schools, as well as community-based training on recognizing the signs of suicide and knowing what to do if you identify someone exhibiting suicidal behavior. Those who receive this training would include parents, teachers, police, coaches, after school personnel, and gun sales personnel. Red Flag laws would also reduce incidents of gun suicide.
- To reduce the number of Americans killed by guns in any context? Legislation would ban the future sale of guns in all forms while doing all of the above.
That is what would happen if you had goals and targets and took the time to aim before firing. Instead, my guess is that given the paucity of what will pass as progress, legislative thinking went something like this: What can I support that won’t ruffle NRA feathers or gun-toting Trump supporters? Different goal, different outcome. But whatever transpires, there will be much fanfare, back-slapping and celebration for their great success in finally reaching across the aisle and finding common ground…or common quick sand.
In NM: “Ready, Shoot, Aim” is Manifest in Economic and Climate Policy
In NM, we badly need to diversify our economy in advance of the inevitable demise of the gas and oil industry. Here the problem is not an absence of goals, it is who is making the goals. In NM, the gas and oil and utility industries establish the goals and the targets, although this is not done explicitly. But it is hard to understand how any leadership could come up with hydrogen production as a strategy if the goal was to diversify our economy and free us from reliance on gas and oil, since hydrogen production would actually increase our reliance on gas and oil while simultaneously increasing emissions and our vulnerability to future stranded assets.
This is an example of what happens when the wrong people are in the room when goals are set and initiatives framed. To develop successful policy, goals for initiatives need to be developed through an inclusive process with multiple stakeholders. Too often in NM, the doors are closed to the fourth floor and big industry is invited in the backdoor to establish the goals and parameters. In that context the goal is transformed from diversifying the economy to saving, expanding, or protecting gas and oil. In that context and with those goals, hydrogen production is a logical conclusion. And to make that palatable, the initiative will be framed in terms of jobs and local revenue, not the science and economic principles that determine the viability of hydrogen production as an investment. Thus framed, Hydrogen Hub was delivered to the legislature as a fait accompli, the Governor’s top priority. But hydrogen production was a bad idea from the start, as a small group of insulated industry reps framed the issue, the goals, and the strategy, and then were stunned when they could find almost no support for their ideas in the Roundhouse.
It is relatively rare that initiatives are so transparently industry-driven. What happens far more often is that an initiative or bill that once appeared to be a good thing, suddenly morphs into something else, often at the last minute, in the form of a benign-looking amendment. Here, you must ask yourself who is at the table creating the new target? The Energy Transition Act (ETA) was a good idea gone bad when PNM was allowed to amend the bill and substantially alter its purpose. Ditto the Clean Fuels Act. And now the effort to diversify our state economy and create sustainable local jobs and state and local revenue has morphed into what amounts to welfare for a dying industry. Not the original plan, not the original target. But the target now, apparently. See below for plans at the LFC’s hydrogen hearing tomorrow.
Bottom line, if legislation is being advanced or amended that is framed as being about “renewables,” “sustainable local economy,” “jobs and revenue creation,” or any other pretty labels tagged on to bills or initiatives with strategies that seem inconsistent with the high minded labels, it is good to ask: Who was in the room when the details were added? The Devil is in the details.
Why There Is No Common Ground to Be Found
Over the past week I’ve been reading Jonathon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. On one level the book is about the murder of a woman and her infant girl by a fundamentalist Mormon zealot who claimed to have been directed by God to do the killing. But while that is the “page-turner/suspense” angle of the book, the bulk of the narrative places the killing in the historical context of an era of religious fervor and fundamentalism/extremism that has spanned the continent. Krakauer describes in vivid detail how one Mormon sect after another — armed with God’s word — could dismiss any and all other points of view or facts if they conflicted with God’s word. Krakauer describes fundamentalist Mormonism not as an aberration from mainstream American religious thought, but as a manifestation of American religious thought, which Krakauer reminds us, again and again, is part of who we were and are in America: extremist and intolerant.
At the same time I’ve been reading this, I’ve been watching hearings on Jan. 6 and listening to right-wing extremists who are prepared to do anything to advance their twisted view of reality. If you needed more evidence of this, all you had to do was watch last night’s news of the arrest of a truck load of 31 heavily armed, white supremacists in Idaho who were a few blocks from a Pride Day celebration with a plan to start a riot. The brain spins as to what would likely have transpired had these men arrived at the rally, all armed with assault weapons and buoyed by their own perverted sense of history and justice.
My point is that there is a thread of right-wing extremism that has run through U.S. history and is blooming wildly in the 21st century. I am not at all clear on how to talk with folks with that world view, or whether it is worth it to even try. But regardless of whether we choose to engage them, they will soon engage us over our efforts to pass laws to restrict gun ownership or to fully legalize abortion in this state. And while we may not be able to find language to convince them of much of anything, we need to find effective language to dissuade moderate and conservative legislators from being moved by those extremists. Hence it seems a good idea to attend the webinar below.
WORDS THAT W!N WEBINAR!
Co-founded by grassroots activists Melissa Knutson, Ali Feldman, Lisa Wagner, and Heather Marko, Words That W!N came out of a shared interest in improving progressive messaging.
They are dedicated to training progressives on how to create winning messages as well as keeping them up to date on new developments and research.
If a message doesn’t spread, it’s not effective, no matter how accurate or clever. That’s why Words That W!N’s mission is to teach strategic messaging to as many progressive groups and individuals as possible.
From Word That W!n: This 75-minute webinar is an introduction to the basics of strategic messaging, using cutting-edge, progressive messaging frameworks. Get the tools you need to counter dog-whistle politics and disinformation, and learn how to advocate for what we want and need for a better tomorrow.
Roxanne and I will participate. We hope many of you will, too. Register at this link.
If we want to win, then it behooves us to hone the skills to get us to wins. Let’s do this together!
LFC Appears to Have Heard You, but…
As always, the devil is in the details, but here is what we know about tomorrow’s Legislative Finance Committee hearing: As of Monday morning we were told no webcast, no public comment for the LFC hearing on hydrogen production. Then activist groups, Retake among them, called for action, and the LFC was flooded with emails, insisting there be public comment and at least a webcast.
Voila, this morning (Tuesday), I received an email from the LFC secretary indicating that there would be “limited public comment” from those present and that the hearing would be webcast. One two-hour Zoom meeting later, there is a plan for an array of speakers offering public comment, with the press being notified that the LFC meeting is going to be interesting. I’d encourage anyone with time to make the trip to Prewitt to support activists in their public comment and to demonstrate that opposition to hydrogen is widespread.
Plan to arrive by 8:45 a.m. Hearing begins at 9 a.m. Location is about 1 hr. 45 mins. west of Albuquerque via I-40:
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Facility
(Retired Escalante Generating Station)
297 County Road 19
Prewitt, NM 87045
If you can’t make it in person, you can click here to get to NM Legislative Webcasts. Nothing is posted in webcasts now, but tomorrow at 9am, the LFC hearing should be available to view. The webcast is important because we want to hear the misinformation used to justify hydrogen production so we can better craft our opposing language.
Advocacy Huddle on Gun Violence Prevention & a Plan for the Legislature
Weds, July 13, 6pm-7:30
We are working with Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, and representatives of Indivisible and the Santa Fe and ABQ school districts to organize this Zoom huddle. We will conduct a deep discussion of what we want from the legislature in 2023 and the advocacy strategies to achieve it. This will be an important learning opportunity to become informed and engaged in this work. You will leave with a clear idea of the goal, the strategy, and what you can do now. Join us. If you want a preview, this Saturday, June 18 at 8:30 a.m., Miranda will be my guest on Retake on the Radio on KSFR 101.1 FM or streaming live from KSFR.org. She is always a compelling guest.
Register here to attend the July 13 Huddle. You must register to attend.
Update on Public Bank Donations
Retake donors contributed $1,500 to AFLEP (Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity) in support of their $25K match campaign for education and advocacy advancing the effort to pass a bill to create a state Public Bank. Retake had agreed to match up to $1,000 of those donations, but we are gonna match it dollar for dollar and send along a check for $1,500 from Retake. With the match from AFLEP leadership your $1,500 + Retake’s $1,500=$3000, that will be matched again by AFLEP leadership, meaning our little effort has resulted in $6,000 in donations, a substantial start on their campaign goal. Thanks to all who contributed. Go Public Bank!
In Case You Missed It
A new feature in Retake posts: we will provide links to the past radio interview and recent posts you may have missed or to a sequence of related posts that would best be read together. First radio.
6/11/22: Gary Coffin, VP, Indivisible ABQ
Gary is on staff of the BernCo District Attorney’s Office, so he knows Democratic nominee for Attorney General, Raul Torrez. He spoke with some authority and enthusiasm. In the interview, he outlined what Torrez will attempt to do as our next Attorney General. Gary is also VP of Indivisible ABQ, which is filing an Amicus brief in opposition to the proposed PNM-Avangrid merger that was rejected by the PRC. PNM-Avangrid are appealing to the NM Supreme Court, and Gary speaks about that appeal and the Amicus brief being developed.
Posts You May Have Missed!
A State Public Bank has immense potential to accelerate and expand NM’s just transition, the revitalization of rural economies, and the construction of robust infrastructure. The North Dakota Public Bank has provided immense benefit to that state, where during the last recession, ND experienced the lowest foreclosure rate in the nation, and after the devastation of the Red River flood, ND communities recovered within 18 months, while neighboring Minnesota communities impacted by the flood continued to struggle 15 years after the flood. Yet, disingenuous opposition, largely funded by Wall St. banks and fueled by misinformation, offers significant impediments to achieving a NM State Public Bank. Fortunately, the Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity has a plan to counter this misinformation and you can help.
June 5, 2022. A New Economic Reality for NM? With Your Help, Yes!
This post focuses on the utter failure of the federal government to address the urgent needs of our local communities, whether in relation to our personal safety and protection from gun violence, the consequences of climate change, or the greed of corporate America. We’ll explore how our efforts to create change can best occur at the local and state levels and how you can play an important role in advancing these local efforts. We need to do more than vote, march, and sign petitions.
In this post we discuss the primary results and their implications for the 2023 legislative session. We also build on our May 26 post, “Gun Rampages Must be Stopped. Our Inaction Allows this to Continue,” to discuss what might be possible in NM. We close with a powerful video by Matthew McConaughey, the actor who was born in Uvalde and who went to Uvalde to meet with families, and then came to Washington to share what he heard and to lobby for meaningful gun violence prevention legislation.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Local-State Government & Legislation