This story's methodology was simple. SFR asked people in the Santa Fe community the following two-part question:
"What event or issue stands out to you the most from the last four years of the Trump presidency, and what is your strongest hope for the coming four years?"
For the first part of the question, racial justice, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic emerged as some of the most pressing issues. But beyond specific issues, people also expressed concerns, remorse and, in many cases, outrage and frustration at the general loss of civil discourse and respect for this country's democratic institutions. As for their hopes as voters head to the polls Nov. 3: restoring all that's been lost, in a nutshell.
Our respondents—students, artists, politicians, social activists—had plenty to say. On the front end, we asked folks to keep it short. As the weeks went on, we let people say their piece. Nonetheless, some of the answers have been edited for concision and space.
Observant readers may have noted this paper's lack of presidential endorsement for the Nov. 3 general election. Consider this a roundabout way of urging you to vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. We could, ourselves, list many reasons why another four years of Donald Trump would be an unmitigated disaster, but your community has articulated it from many angles, and we could not agree more.
Santa Fe County’s Early Voting locations remain open through Oct. 31:
- Abedon Lopez Community Center, 155A Camino De Quintana, Santa Cruz
- Christian Life Church, 121 Siringo Road
- Town of Edgewood Administrative Office, 171A State Road 344, Edgewood
- Max Coll Corridor Community Center, 16 Avenida Torreon, Eldorado
- Pojoaque Satellite Office, 5 W. Gutierrez, Pojoaque Pueblo Plaza
- Santa Fe County Fair Building, 3229 Rodeo Road, Santa Fe
- Southside Library, 6599 Jaguar Drive, Santa Fe
Voting Convenience Centers are open from 7 am to 7 pm for the Nov. 3 general election. A complete list can be found at: santafecountynm.gov/clerk/vccs
Brandon Brown, vet tech and grad school student
"I've had a lot of conversations in the last few weeks with friends and co-workers about how they felt the day after he got elected and, almost universally, the way they describe it is they were shell shocked, which I think is a common anecdote among people who don't support [Trump]. But over the four years, that feeling never really faded; it's always been sitting in the back of my head. And he has done horrendous and callous things almost daily over the last four years, and each of them is another hammer strike against the nail into this thing I already knew: …the man doesn't care about anyone except himself and it just happens to benefit him greatly to not care about people of color, immigrants, women—it's an overwhelming disregard for humanity. I certainly hope Biden wins, which is not something I thought I would ever say, but it is where we're at…I would like the next four years and hopefully longer than that to be hopefully something a little more kind and compassionate."
Jade Begay, Diné/Tesuque Pueblo, NDN Collective creative director
"I think the issues that really stick out for me—and it's because my work and my career is oriented around these two particular issues—are climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty issues, both of which have been extremely harmed and had gross setbacks…with the Trump administration. I spent six months of my life back in 2016 working on the Standing Rock issue and I was working on the ground as a communications and digital strategist for that movement and it took quite some time [to achieve] what we wanted but, eventually with the Obama administration, we met a goal and the pipeline was stopped. One of Trump's first actions in the White House was writing an executive order to push that pipeline through. I was on the ground in February when that took place and it really set forth…an entire raid of the camp and kind of quite literally set that entire movement up in flames…it was a huge stab to our morale and to our work. That movement was so powerful to tribes across the world, across the continent, and to have that be one of his first actions—it set the tone for what was coming. Since then we saw the rescinding of [The Bears Ears National Monument in Utah], which to me was a shock of presidential action, him basically violating the Antiquities Act. It wasn't surprising that it happened, but it was also again shocking to have those things happen one after the other; [it] just set the tone for the kinds of attacks that we were to see and feel over the course of his term, from pulling out from the Paris agreement to now, with creating plans to open up the Arctic Refuge for oil and drilling.
When it comes to the climate, the communities that are going to be the first and worst impacted are Indigenous communities. In Alaska, there are communities that have already been relocated, their entire lifeways have changed because they can't live where they have been for time immemorial. It's a miner's canary type of situation, where this is going to happen, not just in the north, but we're seeing it happen in places like Louisiana, where some of the tribes have been the first to receive climate relocation funding. In the next four years—it's obvious where my loyalties stand and where my vote will go—but I can only hope if we are able to remove Trump from office, then a new administration will be able to get back into the Paris agreement, we'll be able to move forward with progressive policies on climate, like the Green New Deal. At this point… we're already past the breaking point when it comes to how the climate is warming the planet and we just need to be doing the preventative care as much as possible."
Ray Sandoval, Zozobra chair
"I think what's stood out to me is division. I've never seen a president divide an American people the way this president has. My hope for the next four years is unity. In order for the country to tackle the issues we're facing, it's going to take all of us together—from climate change to equal justice under law—all of these things are going to take all of us together."
Beth Gutelius, Santa Fe resident and an associate director of the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago
"I don't think there's a single event or issue. Honestly, it's the new precedents the Trump administration has set on so many different issues that I've found so disturbing. There's no rock bottom on any given issue, from separating children from their parents at the border to reducing the ability of workers to access their rights. My strongest hope is that we won't have four more years of Trump but, beyond that, that we're able to unify ourselves around a vision for the future that looks like a slide toward justice instead of a descent into worsening injustices and inequality."
Todd Lovato, Santa Fe Community College executive director of marketing and public relations
"One of the things that's really troubled me about the last four years has been the outright attempt by the Trump administration to marginalize immigrants and people of color and those of lower economic backgrounds And I feel like in Santa Fe, we like to think we're immune from a lot of that stuff—that we're in this nice liberal bubble or whatever—but if the last four years and COVID have taught us anything, it's that Santa Fe very much has to confront many of the same issues that are facing the nation right now. My big hope is that we can get along and start to have a more intelligent and compassionate discourse about the issues that we're passionate about as a country; healing. We're so damaged right now. I feel so bad for what's happening, so my hope is that we can come together in a real way, not some peacenik-boomer-kumbaya thing."
Joanne LeFrak, SITE Santa Fe Ring director of education & curator of public practice
"I think there's been so many issues, but I think the biggest issue is the increase in polarization with the people who are our family and friends and people in our own country; we need to be able to have a civilized conversation when we disagree—that has just gotten worse on both sides. My hope is that somehow we can learn to be able to have thoughtful conversations with each other and we can be less divided as people so we can actually get things accomplished and be thoughtful about it."
Jean Paul Granillo, artist, activist, community coordinator
"I think my biggest issue with him is his lack of self-control and his ability to follow through with a lot of the things he's saying…and his blatant disrespect for individuals. Imagine an individual knowing he has that much power to help the people instead of dividing us. He divided families, he divided communities, he divided races and then he used force to separate. His forceful push created this chaos or this inability to be one again. That's why the people voted for him in the first place, they thought, 'hey he's not a politician.' My hopes are we get a candidate that's willing to push our people together and create community."
Sandra Weschler, political consultant and parent
"I think that it's just like the chaos and division. Things that strike a chord with me are Donald Trump endorsing white supremacy and taking babies away from their parents. The other thing is just how much despair it's caused in local communities because it's coming from the top, and you just realize how a lack of leadership can dissolve institutions and friendships. It really starts from the top. Remarkably, I have a lot of hope. The things that give me hope are the rise of so many women and especially women of color running for office and the change of face for who's going to be in charge, from school board hopefully up to the presidency. Young people give me a lot of hope: The issues they care about are going to change the trajectory of this country."
James Reich, author of The Song My Enemies My Sing
"I'm looking forward to the end of mendacity and the return of competence. The problem is that what we call 'Trumpism' won't vanish with Trump, if he loses. 'Trumpism' is only the most recent label for complexes that have always dogged the American psyche, breaking out in fits of ruthless stupidity, fear and posturing. He's not the first, nor will he be the last figurehead of the grotesque in the United States."
Kate Noble, Santa Fe School Board President and Zach’s mom
"I think the thing that stands out for me from the Trump presidency is the fragility of our institutions. I didn't think so much could be undermined so easily. The biggest issue is how much depends on the norms of decency and cooperation and collaboration. I am struck by how much the Trump administration has undermined—and how quickly—by being willing to throw out all the values that we've held dear as a nation. And so, under that includes: You don't put kids in cages; you let people vote; you let democracy work and you don't try and just consolidate power for the powerful. My strongest hope for the coming four years is that we are truly able to renew our vows to our democracy and our collective good as a country."
Daniel Werwath, New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing executive director
"Honestly, one of the things I saw was the quiet removal of fair housing resources from [the US Department of Housing and Urban Development] websites shortly after the president's election—those were particular guidance from the previous administration…website pages designed to help people gain access to information about fair housing being removed from public view from websites. The Obama administration had made rulings you can't discriminate, particularly in homeless shelters, they were quietly removed. [For my hopes]: not having a sand and Mohawk-based economy; if we could just maintain the normal monetary economy and not open civil war in the streets. As long as we don't become Mad Max, I'll be fairly happy."
Emily Kaltenbach, Drug Policy Alliance senior director of resident states and New Mexico and parent
"What stands out to me is the complete disregard for science and public health: putting politics over science, compassion and human rights. Above all, I'm hoping for a level of humanity at a presidential level and I think, based on my previous answer, that we will go back to embracing science. In regard to specific issues and topics, I think climate is our biggest threat and addressing the egregious rollbacks to specific regulations under the Trump administration. I hope to see real criminal justice reform that's centered in equity and racial justice. We need to reimagine and reinvest in what public safety looks like, so I hope that will be part of the conversation and I hope to see a solid plan on how to truly and quickly respond to the next pandemic."
Raashan Ahmad, father
"My initial thought was more blatant racism. Racism has always been here, but just the empowerment of white supremacy just in the open, being OK to be that. I'm hoping that society somehow learns from this and moves in a different direction. I'm hoping this is rock bottom and now we can be our new whole selves, that's what I'm hoping for. You can't be helped until we've hit rock bottom."
Camilla Bustamante, dean of Trades, Technology, Sustainability and Professional Studies and of Business and Education at Santa Fe Community College
"I would have to say the issue of respect for integrity, the integrity of science, respect for people and the respect for the environment. [Hope]: That we can actually treat people with respect and dignity, all people."
Alan Webber, Santa Fe mayor
"It's so painful. I would say it's like a bad movie that starts with him riding down the escalator and calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, continues with the pronouncement that there were good people on both sides at the fatal demonstration in Virginia, continues to the separation of children at the border from their parents and is punctuated throughout by his obnoxious Twitter feed and a torrent of lies. I am fervently praying for a Biden/Harris administration that restores competence, confidence and civility to federal government and the White House and brings real problem-solving skills to the country, and additionally begins to heal the toxic divide this White House has so much advanced."
Andy Primm, musician/video producer
"I was just reflecting on it and being so amazed that so much that is completely abnormal is presented as normal. And then having someone tear everything down and say, 'look, it's all torn down and broken,' and 'hey, look, both sides are for it,' and 'hey, politics is just ugly.' All this negative messaging is so disappointing to me; it's obviously this administration that's creating all this division—that's what has stood out to me and it's frustrating. Enough already. Make it stop: the lying and two-facedness and the divisiveness, the normalization of crime. I just wish, somehow, we could make it stop."
Jamie Blosser, Santa Fe Art Institute executive director
"It's impossible to pinpoint any one thing because there's so many terrible egregious things. Really what I find most disturbing and surprising is that I did not realize how brittle our democracy was in the US and how quickly things could erode, how much could change how quickly and how much actually the executive branch does have control over. I feel incredibly naïve that we've been able to depend on some goodness of character in most of our presidents—at least they respect we are a democracy. Even Andrew Jackson, who was a terrible human being, actually for the most part respected [the presidency] as one branch of government. It's shocking to me how quickly this sense that we have a robust democracy has completely eroded and how fearful we are about having a fair election and how none of us really are certain the White Supremacist in Chief will not give the green light for people to start attacking one another on Election Day if he doesn't like the results.
I am hoping obviously for Biden to win and a peaceful transfer of power and we all come back to what our democracy means and we can all have some sense that our leadership cares about all of us, not just the people that are 'his base,' and we can all come together under a democracy as citizens to really tackle the large crises, like the pandemic and the divisiveness and treating people with dignity and respect so we can provide the services people need to survive and thrive. Really, I do think that as not inspiring as Biden is to some people, I'm actually hugely relieved he's not a very polarizing force right now because I don't think I could take another four years of something other than calm and respect and dignity in the office. I think all of us on the far left need to push him and make sure all of this stuff, like police reform is on the table, but just having a sense there's an and adult in charge would be wonderful again."
Glenn Schiffbauer, Santa Fe Green Commerce executive director
"Obviously, in my world, where I am active—which is in the sustainability and environmental world—what's stood out is blatant disregard for everything we all worked for in the previous administration: getting the methane rule signed by Obama, Chaco Canyon, public lands and everything else…it's just been under attack for four years. I'm hoping to get back to somebody who recognizes that climate change is the most serious thing we have long-term and short-term besides COVID as a threat, and to start taking care of those things. Fossil fuels had an expiration date; we're heading that way both from a market standpoint and environmental standpoint. At the worst-case scenario, we don't have unlimited fossil fuel, despite all of the dirtiness that they dropped into our world."
Carol Romero-Wirth, Santa Fe city councilor
"There are so many things that it's hard to isolate. I think we're all tired, overstimulated, numb and I would have to say some broad things, like his lack of empathy for people who are not like him, his inability to stand up for our values: things like respecting each other, having tolerance for each other, setting an example as the elder of the country. I think about broad things, disrespect for our democratic norms. There is so much to do because there's so much that's been damaged and it's been a hard year for New Mexicans, but I have high hopes for the future—I think we have to. I'm hopeful that with competent democratic leadership at the national level, we can get this virus under control and have practices that are informed by science and medical professionals. We're going to need to rebuild our economy and the jobs that give us all security…because there's been no respect of our democratic norms. I think we need to stand up our democratic system and institutions and most importantly repair our relationships with each other and with the world. There's a lot of work to be done there and I'm hopeful we can start down the road in that direction, on that path."
Joseph Kunkle, director of MASS Design Group’s Sustainable Native Communities Design Lab based in Santa Fe and a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation
"It's really been very much like a lack of true leadership and understanding what civil society really looks like or what civil society could be. And what I'm looking forward to in the next four years is understanding what a civil society can be and aspires to be and how can leadership at the highest level can lead us to a place where we can…be thinking about some of the aspirations of this experiment we call the United States: What can we truly aspire to and what can civil society contribute to that? Something as a collective we've forgotten. How do we ensure those who are most marginalized have a seat at the table and have a voice and are actually working toward a society that includes all and not just the privileged?"
Amy Christian, citizen, Wise Fool co-founder
"I guess the bigger picture of it all comes down to human dignity…and that plays out in all the ways, from defunding police to what's happening at our borders to detention centers, abolition of prisons and, deeply for me, climate justice as all one giant umbrella. I think during the last four years: just seeing atrocities on all fronts, attacking the human dignity to live. One thing that really struck me in a conversation I had with someone right around the time all the climate justice actions were happening in the Fall, [when] we were working with YUCCA [Youth United for Climate Crisis Action] and this one person said to me, 'I really believe it's too late for us to stop what's happening in terms of the climate; I just want humans to go out with the most dignity possible.' I just want to bring that level of grace with everything we're doing. My hope for the coming four years…I hope that we can get Trump to relinquish power. I'm not so sure that no matter what happens in the election that we aren't going to end up having to fight for any form of democracy going forward. I think my hope is to move the conversation, to move where the center is."
Zane Fischer, CEO of Extraordinary Structures and co-founder and board chair at Make Santa Fe
"I guess what has been most sort of striking to me is the way that special interests—namely the Trump campaign—have been able to capitalize on our lack of media literacy and basic civics to foment uncertainty about what is reliable information, and the general disregard for government institutions. My great hope is that we have a change in presidential administration and that change is able to restore some of the premise on which we conduct dialogue. And my hope also would be the progressive left finds the space to go to work on things that are important, like creating actual viable paths for third-party candidates, like instant run off and approval voting and working on state and local levels, as opposed to coming out of the woodwork every four years to sabotage the presidential election."
Fatima Van Hattum, NewMexicoWomen.org program co-director
"This presidency has just been an assault on most parts of our identity. On the personal front…the Muslim ban had a real effect on my family and community in terms of access, getting stuck places, not being able to attend funerals of loved ones and overall fear and mental health crises because of that. From a perspective as newmexicowomen.org, there are just so many ways in which the last four years and this presidency has impacted self-identifying women and girls nationally and that ranges from Brett Kavanaugh and those hearings…and the hearings we're listening to this week [for Amy Coney Barrett] and just knowing the implications for generations to come…We are firmly rooted in an intersectionality approach, which recognizes our race and our immigration status, our linguistic ability, all of those things impact our gendered experience.
What we've seen in terms of this administration is an actual advocating of violence towards communities of color and it has such an impact on our lives and the lives of women of color. And what we've seen in terms of disrespect toward the transgendered community—it's just across the board. We know there are existing inequalities that predate the Trump administration…but we know this administration has reinforced and emboldened those who perpetuate [them]. Our framework is gender justice and healing and what we've heard from our community partners across the state is we have gender wounds and racial wounds and colonial wounds and that to really heal those wounds requires justice and you can't have justice without healing. We obviously don't have a context in which that's ever been the case, so we're trying to build something we've never lived. So our hope for the coming four years is rooted in the things we've heard from our community partners, which involves investing in the leadership of women and girls, particularly women and girls of color, particularly women of color, investing in women-owned businesses, creating legislation that actually serves our community.
Brian Egolf, state representative and speaker of the House
"I think the thing that stands out to me the most in the last four years of the president is his absolute lack of care or concern for anyone other than himself and the truly disastrous consequences that flow from his complete self-obsession. [My hope is] that president Biden will be able to find issues around which the country can unify and work together with a common purpose to improve the lives of everyone in the country.
Oriana Lee, Wise Fool New Mexico co-executive director of education, outreach and employee relations; founder of Lit Sanctuary; artist with Vital Spaces
"What stands out to me is it's like entertainment, which I think makes a lot of sense given the current president's background. It's felt like a lot of things have been introduced in what I could call that TV format…I feel like what this administration has been able to bank on in is that a lot of the control would come through TV, media, programing types of format. What I'm hoping for in the future is to focus on actual wellness of human beings and, in all honesty, that breaks down into issues around education and arts; women; BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of color], LGBTQ issues, the prison industrial complex—all of those things are some of the main things we need to be pointing out, but they all point to the human condition. The biggest thing I hold space for is we can talk more of the human approach. Racism is a social construct and it's based on us being divided. If there's a way, [my hope is] for us to come together on a humanist level and have a president that rallies around all of us."
Felix Cordova, aka Your Boy Reflex:
"Just all the stuff of ridiculousness, all the racism…the El Paso shooting, all those people that were motivated by Trump. It was mostly that and the fact that there's nobody to keep him in check; you can surround yourself by yes men and there's nobody to keep the president in check. It's pretty much turning into a dictatorship, which is what alarms me the most. My strongest hope is to come back to some normalcy and maybe bring the country back together. I hope Biden can be that umbrella; he's the only choice at this point—it's either that or more division. So, I'm hoping the country can come together. There's a lot of polar issues, there's no meeting in the middle ground and I think if we're all going to get somewhere, we need more cohesiveness as a country and as a people."
Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, writer
"Well, there's lots of events and issues, but…quickly off the top of my head: the rise in hate crimes, his justifications of even the most extreme forms of racist violence, the Proud Boys, neo-Nazis, all these Klan related groups, while at the same time he hides behind trying to delegitimize legitimate protest movements like Black Lives Matter. Just the rise and level of hate. People laugh when they call him the first racist president, which he obviously is not, but other than southern demagogues in the late 20th century, he's one of the most blatantly racist presidents that we've ever had. He doesn't use coded language, like Reagan and Bush did. You could make a case that's just as bad, but I am saying he's the most blatant about his bigotry. What he really shows is, this is the 21st century form of racism, which isn't subtler, it's more aggressive, more in your face…[My hopes]: That's a hard one, when you're at rock bottom…that somehow, with our political system, the will of mass numbers of people, working cooperatively for progressive causes, can have more influence. That's my wish for the next four years: that we'll really have a democracy, universal democratic participation, exactly what Trump has expressly said he does not want."
Tom Udall, United States senator, Democrat
"The two issues I'm going to focus are climate and conservation and our democracy. For the past four years, this administration has done untold damage to our nation; it's time to turn the page: Donald Trump and his administration have wreaked havoc on our environment and on our democracy and they have targeted communities in New Mexico with their border wall, with their attacks on immigrants, with their trampling on Native American rights and with their refusal to act on climate change, which threatens New Mexico's future.
On the climate and conservation front, the destruction of nature is happening at a devastating pace: We're in the middle of a sixth mass extinction…we're also facing a climate crisis of epic proportions, which is inextricably to the nature crisis. The Trump administration has taken a hatchet to every protection we have to halt these accelerating crises. Trump has sold off our public lands for development, gutted ESA, opened the Arctic for drilling…disregarded tribal sovereignty, disregarded climate change and climate science and tried to wipe the record clean from their agencies. The next few years will be critical: We must act swiftly to reverse the terrible danger this administration has done, we can't just reverse the damage of the last four years, that would be like putting a Band-Aid on a life-threatening wound. It's my hope in the next four years we see bold action to tackle climate change and address the nature crisis. On democracy issues, the president has abused his office for gain and the gain of his wealthy donors…this administration has led a coordinated assault on voting rights; foreign adversaries are attempting again to interfere in our elections. Under this president, so-called public servants use their offices to help themselves and their friends instead of the people they are supposed to work for. The good news is we can change all this: We can end the reign of big money, stop political gerrymandering and bring ethical behavior back by passing [the We the People Democracy Reform Act, co-sponsored by Udall]. I'm hopeful we can turn the page from the disasters of the Trump era and get this virus under control and stop the attacks on our health care system."
Jess Clark, Solace Crisis Treatment Center prevention manager
"The worst parts of politics becoming the default setting is the worst piece for me, so much so that it's hard to even notice that they're happening. My biggest hope is that we don't wake up the day after the election and forget what these four years have been like and what brought us here—that we have a collective reckoning with the fact that it wasn't just one man, but it was our culture coming to slowly accept the unacceptable."
Teresa Leger Fernandez, New Mexico Democratic candidate for US House of Representatives, District 3
"I think what we have seen is that Trump and the Republicans have sought to undermine any trust in government and any sense that we can work collectively to address our issues, and that allows them to roll back regulations, to roll back health and safety protections, to roll back protection of environment, to give free rein to the largest corporations and richest individuals and create the most inequitable economic structure since we've seen since the 1920s. What I hope to see in the next four years is that we build back that trust. We know we need government to educate our children, we know we need it to protect our workers, to protect our environment and, as I always say, to create the foundation upon which our communities can thrive and our businesses can thrive. We've seen in their response to COVID what happens when you undermine government and trust in government. This is a moment when leadership in government is so needed and because we haven't had it…we've lost lives, we've lost livelihoods, our economy is—to put it technical terms—a mess. I think the next four years is about rebuilding that trust and recreating the kind of world where we create justice and equity."
Artemisio Romero y Carver, Santa Fe youth poet laureate, activist and first-time voter
"I think the best description of the Trump presidency for me is that it's killed a lot of people. What I've seen is new and unexplored levels of human death through the handling of the pandemic, through expansion of extractive industr[ies] that exacerbates the end of the human population. I see Trump as a white supremacist rallying white supremacists from the highest office, which also leads to death. Locally, we have people shot at by white supremacists, who are being told to stand by, by the president of the United States. The most quantifiable aspect of the Trump presidency is a lot of people have died who wouldn't have died if Trump had not been elected. My hope for the next four years is first that Joe Biden is elected…but more importantly, because a lot of my hopes don't rest on electoral politics, my hopes are the grassroots movement and uprising that we've seen in an unprecedented way in the last three quarters of a year will continue and we'll come together, not just as voters but as people and change the brutal violent issues of our nation at their core. My big hope is in the next four years is we can pass…the Green New Deal and preserve the plan that will preserve our planet for future generations and move toward un-funding and eventual abolition of police."