The presidential election results may have more of an effect on New Mexico than many may think.
The candidates have polarized the major parties this election season, creating gridlock and a divided government, said Lonna Rae Atkeson, director for the Center for the Study of Voting, Elections, and Democracy.
The general population sees this, and any election, as a type of sporting event, she said. People get caught up in the excitement of winning and losing.
Once the competition is over, people typically accept the results, and the president goes into office with higher approval ratings than before, Atkeson said.
This election, though, seems to be different.
“I worry that in this particular electorate there may not be any of that good feeling, given the remarks of the candidates about our election process and rigged elections,” she said. “There could be greater animosity toward governing than there normally is after an election.”
People are more concerned that, if the opposing party wins, their voices will be cast aside, she said. The gaps within parties are greater, and the candidate may or may not be “as good as usual.”
All of the different races mean something to each other, Atkeson said. If there is polarization between Congress and the president, it creates gridlock, making it very difficult to get anything done.
“The president is not a lone ranger; he can only govern through Congress, and through his powers to persuade people that his missions and goals are the right way for the country,” she said.
When asked about how New Mexico state representatives might respond to the election, Atkeson said she is confident that the Democratic Party will work with whomever is elected, but that it’s unlikely that Republican incumbent Steve Pearce will work with a Democratic president.
“Pearce’s voting record has not been favorable towards Obama, and we can expect to see that continue if Clinton were elected,” she said.
The reason is that state interests often outweigh the needs of the nation, she said. This is due to party politics and polarization.
Gov. Susana Martinez has denounced many of Trump’s remarks, and Atkeson said that if he were elected, Martinez would need to repair the rifts between her and Trump in order to benefit New Mexico.
In contrast, if Clinton were to win the election, Martinez would essentially take on the role of “lame duck” as she has in her last term.
The state’s largest source of revenue is from the federal government, and the election could either help or hurt New Mexico in terms of receiving federal money.
According to a WalletHub survey, New Mexico is the second-most dependent on the federal government, behind only Mississippi.
The survey goes on to say that New Mexico receives more federal contracts and grants than any of the 50 states.
New Mexico received $7.6 billion in contracts in 2014, according to the National Priorities Project. The Department of Energy provided the most money, overseeing 70 percent of the state’s federal contract funds.
“That means that federal politics matter a lot to our economy, particularly legislative and executive fights surrounding the federal budget,” said UNM political science professor Michael S. Rocca.
New Mexico will be indirectly affected by these federal departments given the outcome of the election, Rocca said. Defense and energy are important revenue sources for our state economy.
“Given an already tough economic climate, any small change in federal funding could have nontrivial effects on the New Mexico economy and, in turn, on UNM,” he said.
Both candidates see national defense as a priority, Rocca said. New Mexico would benefit if the new commander-in-chief kept defense funding at its current level, or even increased it. Although, if political tides turn toward balancing the federal budget, New Mexico will likely see a hit in decreased federal funding.
Both major party candidates have stated in their platforms that they will combat national defense concerns with increased military activity. Trump has said he will grow the number of ground troops and Clinton has promised to strategically use the air force, working with our allies and improving public services at home, such as law enforcement.
Federal funds are important to the success of the state’s infrastructure, according to the National Priorities website. They are used for public services such as roads, schools, clean air programs and public assistance.
No matter who wins the election, it is hard to predict in concrete terms what outcomes it will have on the state, Atkeson said.
Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @nmckibben92.