Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Politics of Rocket Ships

This should sound familiar. Out of all the ballots cast, only 270 or so votes separate the election winner from the losing side. But this isn't George W. Bush v. the Democrats. This isn't Red America v. Blue America...or is it? The vote in question has to do with Spaceport America and the tax southern New Mexicans were asked to approve last week. Well, it's several days later and it appears as if the voters have indeed signed on for a galactic future, if only by the narrowest of margins. What this means is that the land pictured will one day be filled with runways and terminals. (As a sidebar, this is what Z and I predicted...sorry girls!)

This story is not only familiar in terms of how closely divided the electorate is. It is also emblematic of some of the divisions that are so common in American politics. Affluent neighborhoods tended to be the strongest pockets of support for the measure. Low-income areas, in contrast, were usually on the opposite side. Many of these poor areas are heavily Spanish speaking and get their news from sources that, for whatever reason, did not cover the issue all that much. Perhaps as a result, turnout was extraordinarily low in some parts of the affected counties. In one precinct, in fact, fewer than one percent of the 2,544 registered voters showed up on election day.

Here are two quotes that, I think, nicely sum up the dream and the discontent surrounding the Spaceport America project and the debate over public funding.

The first is from Richard Branson, the world-famous entrepreneur and adventurer: ''We're about to embark on a wonderful adventure....We're going where no one has gone before. There's no model to follow, nothing to copy.''

And this from Carol Garcia of Las Cruces, New Mexico: ''It's just a rich man's dream that he needs us to help pay for. If it's your dream, build it yourself.''

What say you, Big Brain?



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