Governing relies more on experience than charisma

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By Sherry Robinson

Friends tell us, with a mixture of surprise and parental pride, that a social media site recruited their oldest son. The guy was employed here and didn’t really want to leave New Mexico, but the company threw money and perks at him until he relented. He had the skills they needed.
That’s the way it usually works in private industry. If a company was running the Obamacare website, it would have recruited some people away from Amazon, eBay or another high-traffic website. Government is normally stuck with the low bidder, and investigation has made it clear that the contractors didn’t have a lot of experience with the type of website needed.
In my work, I’m in and out of many websites every day. Most of them work, some better than others. Some of them don’t work. The technology we depend on doesn’t always meet our expectations.
Not that this gets the president off the hook. Low bidder or not, it’s reasonable to expect a project of this magnitude to be better executed. But then the nation’s CEO didn’t have that much experience in this type of thing either.
One thing the president and the governor share, in abundance, is their inexperience. Both rode into office on their charisma, and we’ve learned that charisma only goes so far; it doesn’t make up for experience. They’re both intelligent people, but I’ve thought many times that they would have been far better chief executives with more miles on their personal odometers. Instead, we’ve seen that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on President Obama’s face, and listened as Gov. Susana Martinez cut loose with ignorant pronouncements that had to be undone later.
Governing for both has been an exercise in on-the-job training.
In the last couple of months, I thought I could see a change. The governor proposed legislation to certify community health workers, fund more water projects, create new family medicine resident and nurse practitioner training positions at UNM, offer new telemedicine services, and recruit new college faculty, scientists and researchers.
It’s all admirable, but if Martinez had served a term or two in the Legislature instead of going straight from local district attorney to governor, she would have a perspective on statewide issues, and we might have seen these bills a lot sooner. On the other hand, this passel of proposed legislation represents a turning of the corner, an emergence from the thicket of political posing to a broad concern for the state’s well being.
Or so I thought.
Then she announced another round in the fight over driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, coupled with a pitch with donations “to help make sure we go into the session prepared to fight” against “organized and well financed” opponents. That would be immigrants’ rights activists, who must be amused that anybody thinks they’re well funded.
Ignoring for a moment that other states have joined New Mexico in passing such a law, our driver’s license statute could use some tightening. Compromise (none of it coming from the Governor’s office) has failed in the last three sessions, and the debate has wasted many hours of precious time needed for more pressing issues. There’s no reason to expect different results in the next session.
And maybe that’s the point. The governor’s handler, Jay McCleskey, told the Albuquerque Journal the driver’s license pitch is actually to raise money for the re-election campaign. When the bill fails again, the campaign can argue that New Mexico needs Martinez all the more. And it diverts attention from the fact that the governor has accomplished almost nothing.
In the magic show we call politics, illusion matters more than legacy.