The Wilbur Rule: When New Mexico goes viral, it’s never flattering.
The headlines are shocking:
Worse than the headlines was the response from the Republican Party of New Mexico, which, even after some helpful nudging, has been…crickets.
But even more embarrassing than the headlines and the cowardly silence from state GOP leadership are the conspiracies Conservatives have spun up in a pathetic attempt to avoid responsibility for aligning themselves with Solomon Pena.
Instead of a quick denunciation of a poor-quality candidate who went postal after getting shellacked in a general election race for state rep, everywhere you turn you see excuses, allegations, innuendos of MK Ultra-like conspiracies–and all of them are so easily debunkable it’s a shame more people on the Right aren’t setting the record straight.
We’ll start easy so you don’t get too defensive. Election denialism has always been a self-defeating campaign platform. Being “MAGA” in a deep blue state is dumb enough, but stupider still is feigning surprise when the people whose votes you said wouldn’t count actually take your word and don’t vote. When they didn’t–Pena ended up garnering a pretty pathetic 26% of the vote–he claimed the election was “rigged.” Which it was–by his own efforts.
RPNM has a vetting problem, and Solomon Pena is just the most obvious example. Being a felon should be an automatic disqualifier, not because Republicans are unforgiving but because of the hypocrisy of running on the party’s “law and order” platform when you spent seven years in prison for multiple smash-and-grabs.
Secondly, “MAGA King”? That’s even worse than Audrey Trujillo calling herself “True Hero” when her only acts of heroism during the campaign were posting thirsty pics of herself online.
RPNM needs to update its bylaws with an insert something along the lines of “RPNM reserves the right to deny candidates from running on the platform when their behavior is a direct affront to the values we claim to represent.”
They’re all over social media, with locals claiming Pena is a plant, that there’s no record prior to running for state rep that he was a Republican, that Democrats orchestrated his candidacy and plotted the shootings of Democrat lawmakers so they could push through gun-grab legislation.
It’s all possible, but it’s unlikely. Here’s why.
Democrats didn’t need Pena to push through gun legislation. Even before Pena ran and lost, Democrat have held near-super-majorities in the state House and Senate, and with these majorities they can do whatever they want.
Gubernatorial candidate Karen Bedonie recently aired a “podcast” where she shared ironclad proof that Pena wasn’t a Republican at all. Her proof? His MAGA sweatshirt was too new–no wrinkles or signs of wear–as if a new hoody means anything.
There’s also claims that the Democrat judge who dismissed a challenge to Pena’s candidacy is in on the hoax.
If you’re conspiracy-minded, it’s easy to see how a Democrat judge would be incentivized to keep an ex-con on the ballot against a Democrat incumbent. More likely, the judge simply followed the law: Pena is a felon, so he can’t vote, but no state law bars felons from running for office.
The faux Libertarian who couldn’t garner enough Republican signatures to run for governor on the GOP ticket tried adding more fuel to the Pena conspiracy pyre by pointing out that the mainstream media seems to have only interviewed people who thought Pena was an asshole.
“NBC News’ headline is ‘Solon (sic) Pena was belligerent to neighbors who opposed his political views,’ so they went and um interviewed his local neighbors and so they’re trying to make it like he’s very aggressive type Trump supporter. This is exactly what red flag I guess consists of.”
Bedonie thinks the mainstream media is in on this “red flag” conspiracy because reporters called Pena’s direct neighbors instead of her.
“Guess what? CNN isn’t calling me! No, they aren’t emailing. No one’s bothering me!”
She allegedly lives in a Farmington, but never mind that.
I’ve argued in the past that voters should hold their nose for the lesser of two evils in executive races–because the power of the governor’s office is immediate and widespread, effecting the lives of everyday New Mexicans–but that when it comes to electing members of a legislative body, principled Conservatives should force candidates to come to them, to demonstrate their values, and to prove they’re not running to be part of the party’s rubber stamp on unprincipled legislation.
If Mark Ronchetti, after losing the governor’s race, started shooting up Democrats’ houses, the appropriate response would not be to claim that Ronchetti is some kind of plant put there by the ever-powerful Democrat party to push through unconstitutional legislature. The appropriate response would be to denounce violence on principle, regardless of who the perpetrator allegedly is.
Pena is a perfect example of why blind partisanship is so dangerous. He was not a good candidate. He probably had a great sob story of how he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and fell into crime but then paid his dues and reinvented himself. That’s admirable, in theory, but it turns out not to be true (as evidenced by his immediate return, post-election, to a life of crime). If you got duped by it, that’s unfortunate but not a reflection on your character (necessarily). We’ve all occasionally backed the wrong guy, in politics, in friendships, in business. The Republican Party of Bernalillo County actually elected Pena to be a ward chair just days before his arrest.
But to create conspiracies to justify a poor nominee is a reflection of your character.
Republicans can’t pretend to be the party of integrity if they make excuses for shitty candidates, if they play the “yeah but” card when con-men like George Santos are exposed, or if they lean on baseless conspiracy theories of “party infiltration” when the more likely scenario is that your party sucks at vetting candidates and you’re so blindly partisan that you’d vote for an election-denying felon if he has an R next to his name.
I’d like to think that “we” can be better, but there’s no evidence that that’s the case. Which is why I’m not a member of the Republican party, why I don’t vote for people just because they have an R next to their name, and why so few people have any faith that the state GOP has any hope of gaining influence in New Mexico.
And neither should you.
Author: Nick Wilbur