“One of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather who manages to get people to let them do it to them.”

—Douglas Adams

It was posited to me, a few weeks back—and the longer I consider the notion, the more I agree—that the reason Santa Fe is so distinctly cliquish is that it's a place where anyone who comes is allowed to be exactly who they are. There's a vital core of families who have been around (in some cases) longer than most countries in this hemisphere have existed. But if you're a weird hippy who didn't belong in your Midwestern burgh, you're just about as likely to find "your people" here. If you're a rich, retired investment banker or captain of industry, there's plenty for you to buy and lots of room to seclude yourself. If you're immigrating from Mexico, Central America or South America, you will find a community here trying just as hard as you to create a foothold in this new and often hostile place. Whoever you are, Santa Fe has room for you, and probably—if you look hard enough—a handful of people with similar values, plans and fears. It may not quite welcome you, but in that way, it's a perfect microcosm of the American dream. Like on the national level, not all of these groups are created equal, and because of that—perhaps more so than most places—voting matters. Just perhaps not for the reasons you thought it did.

It's apparent that the coming year's elections are going to be pivotal in the future of our country. One need only look at the options for president. On one end of the spectrum, we might elect the first woman to the office or the first socialist Jew. On the other side, we could very well end up with the first literal fascist president or any one of three or four empty suits who would make us pine for the good old days of Bush/Cheney. And who we pick is going to tilt the scales heavily in a number of crucial decisions. There are likely to be four (or more) Supreme Court appointments during the next presidency. According to most of the scientific community, the next two to five years represent a crucial point of no return in terms of taking real action on climate change. The banks and corporations that own most of our political establishment are both more dominant and more threatened than they've ever been, curled up like the dragon, Smaug, in The Hobbit.

These are turbulent times, and our local elections are no less critical than the decisions CNN hasn't stopped babbling about since last summer. You see, in this town, if any one group gains overwhelming control of the political system—like, for instance, the hotel and tourism lobby has, over the last few decades—it will bend that system to suit its vision of what Santa Fe should be. And any "progress" they make will undeniably fly directly in the face of some other demographic's interest.

If any other interest group wrested that kind of political control for its own purposes, they would use it the same way and only tip the balance in the other direction. This is what actually makes everyone's participation essential. If everyone has a say, the argument will go on forever. No one will ever get their "perfect Santa Fe," and that's the only Santa Fe—or America—I'd ever want to live in.

PS. The last day to register to vote in the city election taking place March 1 is Tuesday, Feb. 2.

The point is often the least interesting part of the conversation. Have one with the author: miljen@sfreporter.com