Tales of great electioneering

A few years ago we wrote about some of the strange, funny elections of our youth in 1950s New Mexico.

Back then, New Mexico was a one-party state. Even though it had not been a state during the Civil War, there were many residents whose ancestors had favored the South. The prevailing sentiment in the territory of New Mexico had been for the Confederacy.

Thus, the name Abraham Lincoln and his party were despised. Like the Deep South, there were many Yellow Dog Democrats — “druther vote for a yellow dog than a Republican.” That feeling continued well into the middle of the 20th century.

The Democratic Party, therefore, had a relatively easy time maintaining control of the state. Through the mid-1960s, the state had experimented a couple of times with Republican governors and been disappointed each time. As one acquaintance complained about the second such experiment:

“I hate that guy (the GOP governor). Ya’ can’t trust him. He won’t stay bought.”

There were also tried and true ways to get out the vote for your party. The most common was to not only give rides to the polls to voters, but also offer them a shot of whisky and a crisp dollar bill to pull your party’s lever. This showed an absolute trust by the party worker, because even in 1950s New Mexico he couldn’t accompany the voter into the booth.

The practice accomplished two very worthy goals — it enhanced voter turnout and it put a bunch of new dollar bills into the economy.

Today, of course, nobody would stoop to such low tactics. Instead, we have PACs spending millions to influence elections and we, the electorate, are treated to endless attack ads and negative campaigning.

Somehow, a shot of whisky and a dollar seems cleaner.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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