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Speak Your Piece: Indian Country’s Election

[imgbelt img=wenonaatleuppfarm1.jpeg]The 2012 election runs straight through Indian County. Native voters will be key in Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

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But in this election cycle that is not the case because the Republican Party has moved so far to the right. There are code words for termination hidden in the details of Republican budgets. There is no room for tribal self-determination or even a way to build a native economic community when the defining philosophy is anti-government. The current Republican premise is incompatible with Indian Country.

Can we win the day? Only if Indian Country gets engaged. The Native Vote 2012 (a project of the National Congress of American Indians) identifies 13 states where  American Indians and Alaska Natives could be decisive. Any list would start with Alaska were the native vote was decisive in re-electing Sen. Lisa Murkowski after she had lost her primary in 2010. 

The presidential campaign this time around will be different than the last one. In 2008, for example, one of the accomplishments of the Obama campaign was a 50-state strategy. This time around Obama is more likely to focus on what it will take to win 270 electoral votes.

In that scenario: Indian Country’s influence will be key in six states, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The Center for American Progress in a report, “The Path to 270: Demographics versus Economics in the 2012 Presidential Election,” says these states (I added Arizona to center’s list of states in play) are all “marked by fast growth and by relatively high and growing percentages of minority voters …” as well as an advantage for Obama among white college graduates. This could result in an effective election coalition. 

In Arizona and Michigan you also have American Indians running for Congress and that could increase both enthusiasm and turnout. The recall election in Wisconsin is also generating a campaign infrastructure that could win there.

Nearly four years ago there was tremendous excitement in Indian Country because of the election of Barack Obama. But along the way we forget that it takes elections — not an election — to make hope and change so.

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Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

 

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