One of the reasons I'd been keen to see the Southwest is that it was one of the great battlegrounds of the election, but it was always too far away to justify the time it would have taken for a work trip. So it's been interesting to note the political winds buffeting these snowy hills. The route we have taken has traced a great swathe of America from Nevada, through Colorado and New Mexico, that flipped Democrat in November. (Note the Obama sticker on the barn on the right of our photo from Arroyo Secco, NM.)
This seems like a surprising shift at first glance. After all, the West is surely all about the rugged individualism of the Right. George Bush had the whole president-as-cowboy thing and John McCain is from Arizona. This is a part of the world where one radio station we listened to paused at noon to remind listeners that they are living in the "greatest country on earth" before the daily rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Why would anyone around here vote for a lefty Chicago law professor for president?
Some things I've noticed in the last few days that may explain how the West was won for the Democrats. Firstly, the environment. Living in these spectacular natural surroundings, people seem much keener on cycling, recycling and the like here than elsewhere in America and the Republican record on the environment is abysmal. Second, this area is a real melting pot and has been that way for centuries. I've been surprised at how bilingual the place is and until coming here I had no idea how much Native American culture survives and thrives. Bush failed in his efforts to make the Republican Party convincingly multicultural.
Lastly, I'm guessing Obama's anti-war message played well here. One park ranger in Colorado told us how he had served in "the First War" and how much he had resented the new war in Iraq. A sign in the main square in Taos listed the soldiers recently returned from Iraq and underlined that while the justification for spilling American blood in Iraq seems difficult enough to comprehend in Washington or New York, it seems impossibly obscure in New Mexico.