MAYHILL, MELROSE AND POINTS IN BETWEEN — I headed east from Alamogordo with the loose plan of stopping in very small towns — even rural spots between towns — and asking southeastern New Mexico voters a simple question: “What’s on your mind?”
Early in the morning, it was still cool and shimmering up in the green Peñasco River Valley east of Mayhill, and Adam Romero was selling apples from a fine perch on the side of road.
What was on his mind?
“I vote according to the Bible,” he told me. “My top issue is Obama, that he’s taken God out of the picture.” He told me we need a Christian in the White House.
“President Obama isn’t a Christian?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “Obama is a Muslim.”
Romero was saved in 1988, and he attends the Narrow Way church in Roswell. Obama was a member of a United Church of Christ congregation when he lived in Chicago and now worships at the nondenominational Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, as President George W. Bush and his family did. That’s not enough evidence for Romero, who disagrees with Obama on same-sex marriage and abortion in addition to other social issues.
“People are not Christian because they go to a church,” Romero said. “If you’re in a garage,” he asked me, “does that make you a car?”
My hunch was that people outside the Albuquerque area or some of our smaller cities would have different concerns than urbanites. And I knew southeastern New Mexico was one of the state’s more conservative corners. My car radio later in the morning carried a discussion of the importance of “voting Team Jesus.”
That hunch was confirmed when I ran into a woman from Hagerman who, in her late 50s, was going to vote for the first time. She said she would be voting for Obama because of his Affordable Care Act. When I asked her for her name, she refused. She said she couldn’t possibly let her family and business associates know she was voting for a Democrat.
Tom Benedict , a retired rancher in Dexter just next door to Hagerman, had socialism on his mind when I approached him to chat. He is worried that government programs are taking away Americans’ initiative and drive. “Government’s too big and too powerful and too many people are depending on it for a paycheck,” he said. “If we stay on the track we’re on now, it spells disaster. Socialism hasn’t worked yet. It’s degrading and irresponsible.”
In Melrose, Ben Horry , a 24-year-old welding student at nearby Clovis Community College, told me he’s not too enthusiastic about government in general and Congress in specific.
He voted for Republican John McCain four years ago, and he said he knows he wants Obama gone. Horry told me he doesn’t like that Obama opposed Arizona’s immigration law, and he thinks it’s suspect that the president didn’t respond immediately to questions about whether he was born in the United States.
“Why hesitate?” he said. “It makes me suspicious — whether it’s true or not.”
I sat on a front porch in Elida (population 204) with Roberta Crosby Burkstaller, the 91-year-old daughter of famous rodeo cowboy Bob Crosby, and got an earful when I asked her what was on her mind.
She put down the romance novel she was reading and said, “We’d impeach Obama if I had my way.”
“I’m so sick of hearing speeches by President Obama that I could just cry,” she went on. “The young people don’t know anything about history and that he’s a Muslim.”
I told her I believed the president was Christian.
“He just does all that to show the Americans that he wants to be president, that’s all,” she said. “He lies all the time. Don’t listen to him. He acts so sweet on the TV to the young people, but he’s really a communist, honey. He wants to get rid of all of us.”
Get rid of us?
“He wants to cut the initiative away from people so they can’t get jobs. He wants to destroy the middle class ’cause they’re the workers,” she said. “He wants to get rid of all the Anglos and bring all the Muslims over here. He spends all of his time destroying us, doing things that keep us from working.”
Over in Floyd (population 136), in the heart of farm and ranch country, Nelson Rector had something nice to say about the incumbent president.
“The Obamas are a really, really attractive young couple and they’re really intelligent,” he said. But that doesn’t mean he likes the job the president has done.
Rector, who is 79, a retired rancher and a former member of the school board, said he’s worried about the economy, morality and the nation’s place in the world.
“I used to worry about what might happen to my children and grandchildren,” he said, but now he’s wondering if it will actually be his generation that lives to see the country come undone.
“If you read history,” he told me, “every nation that has rose to real prominence, they have gotten morally corrupt and they have fallen. And it may be about the time that the Lord’s ready to teach us a little.”
A friend of his asked him if a qualified atheist was running for office, would he consider voting for him? Rector’s answer was no. “I think we’re wading in water way over our head if we do something like that.”
This led back to what was becoming the surprising theme of my day, the religious affiliation of our current president. “He’s Muslim,” Rector said. “He claims to be Christian.”
“At least that’s what I hear,” Rector said with a smile. “But I only talk to rednecks.”
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In this two-week tour, I’ve gone into all four quadrants of the state and approached people at random to ask them about their ideas on national politics, the coming election and the state of our nation. I obviously can’t go everywhere and talk to everyone, but this exercise has been fun and fascinating, and I’d like to hear from more of you. Call me or drop me an email and tell me what’s on your mind as we near Election Day and I’ll put your views in a follow-up column.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Leslie at 823-3914 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal