The West needs more effective political coverage

Retrospective storytelling captures the nuance of our systems to better inform us as we enter election season.

 

American politics are complicated. And as we head into a new election cycle, there’s more to sort through than ever. That’s why we’ve dedicated a hefty portion of this double issue (more on that in a moment) to politics.

Democratic Party candidate for New Mexico’s 2nd U.S. Congressional District, Xochitl Torres Small (second from left), poses for photographs with supporters following her speech at a campaign event at an A&W restaurant in Belen, New Mexico, last November.
In our main feature, Albuquerque-based writer Will Ford documents the rise of Xochitl Torres Small, a Democratic representative in New Mexico’s Congressional District 2, and the methods by which she was chosen. In 2018, when Torres Small achieved her unlikely victory, she became a darling of the Democratic Party. Here, in a conservative district near the U.S.-Mexico border, was a young woman of color — a careful pragmatist with hopeful politics. The question is: Was she chosen democratically?

After more than two years of reporting, we discovered the uncomfortable story behind Torres Small’s triumph.

Ford illuminates how local players in New Mexican politics tilted the scales in the candidate’s favor. This retrospective offers lessons far deeper than traditional horse-race political coverage — the breathless, live reporting where leaders become losers, losers become leaders, and candidates zip up and down the polls like numbers on the stock exchange.

Torres Small is not the villain here. Rather, she, like all the other primary candidates in the story, is the product of a system. We believe that this full, though troubling, picture is more instructive, revealing in detail how our democratic processes work — who benefits, and who gets burned along the way.

Elsewhere, far from New Mexico, we take a look at Markwayne Mullin, a longtime Oklahoma congressman. Mullin is a conservative Republican, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and a bit of an enigma. Some see him as a much-needed Native voice in Congress; others say he is a mixed bag for Indian Country. In many ways, the duality of Rep. Mullin embodies Cherokee Nation politics. Understanding him helps us understand some of the nuances of political identity that seem to be missing from the national discourse.

Paige Blankenbuehler, associate editor
Brooke Warren/High Country News

We hope you’ll dive right in, and that as the next political season progresses, HCN gives you the tools to more carefully scrutinize each race. Maybe we need a better process, one where the people can choose representatives that fit them, instead of being pigeon-holed by a single party or ideology. The West is far too complicated for that.

Also, a quick note: You are holding a double issue in your hand, the last of the year. High Country News is taking a break after this to put together a brand-new magazine on a brand-new publication schedule for 2020. We have a lot of changes coming your way, including a new look. Our publisher will tell you more. Happy holidays, and we’ll see you in January.

High Country News Classifieds
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
  • DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
    Idaho Walk Bike Alliance seeks a lover of bicycling, walking, and all modes of active transportation who willingly puts the car in the garage and...
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.