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Lefty blogger’s death creates a void that won’t be easy to fill

Heath Haussamen

Democracy for New Mexico’s Barb Wold exemplified something significant I recently wrote about – the use of the Internet to organize and usher in a new era of democracy

Barb Wold and I disagreed often. She was a true-blue activist who called me a right-winger at least once. To be honest, there were many times I wasn’t happy with her.

All of that aside, Barb exemplified something significant I recently wrote about – the use of the Internet to organize and usher in a new era of democracy.

Put simply, Barb built from scratch an online space for activism that influenced the words and actions of many left-leaning politicians. That website, Democracy for New Mexico, has been, without question, the most effective of the state’s left-leaning blogs at promoting its agenda.

Barb lost a tough battle with cancer on Sunday, dying at the age of 64 and leaving behind her life partner, MaryEllen Broderick. Barb’s passing creates a void on the left that won’t be easy to fill.

A true believer

Barb was a true believer who was passionate about her work. She was still posting on the site hours before her death.

I thought Barb was at her best when she was criticizing Democrats she viewed as straying from the values of party. She was bold, indignant and blunt. In one of her more personal postings, she slammed a pair of Democratic state senators who helped kill a domestic partnership bill earlier this year, labeling Pete Campos and Carlos Cisneros “the Catholic sons of virtue and truth.”


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“These two have been pretending to be on the fence every time a domestic partnership bill is introduced in the legislature. They’ve learned they get a lot of attention this way. And they like attention. It makes them feel, you know, POWERFUL, in a cocky sort of way. In the end, however, they always seem to limply vote against the bill, claiming they are oh so troubled by the decision.

“They’re not bigots, you see, or acting out some political revenge on the Governor or anything. No, they’re just faced with a matter of conscience so deep they must consult and obey Allen Sanchez, the lobbyist for the New Mexico Conference of Bishops, who just happens to be against domestic partnerships because they might, any minute now, turn into MARRIAGE. Heaven forbid!”

In 2010, Barb wrote a blistering post about the long-windedness and ego of Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Jennings after he pledged to oppose all tax increases. She wrote that Jennings was joining Republicans to “kiss up to tea party demands” and apparently “feels at home hanging out with those who are fighting almost everything the Democratic Party stands for.”

Earlier this year, Barb criticized Jennings and fellow Democrat George Muñoz, D-Gallup – who she sarcastically labeled as “Dems,” with the quotation marks – for helping kill a bill that would expand public financing of elections.

Democracy for New Mexico has been a success

In one of her final posts, Barb wrote about Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson running for president under a new political party as a left-wing alternative to President Barack Obama. In the post, Barb had this criticism of Obama:

“And Lastly has Obama gone too far with the indefinite detention? Is this the last straw? Will they come get me for writing this piece? Who determines what is terrorism? Slippery slope. Imagine if Bush did this.”

Democratic and Republican blogger-activists like Barb are having an impact with their efforts to influence their parties. They’ve been successful at using the Internet to empower other activists and influence recent elections.

I believe the challenge that comes with the new level of democracy made possible by the Internet is to get past partisan division and work together (as I wrote in my recent column on the subject), but I still must acknowledge the success true believers on the left and right have in harnessing the power of the Internet to promote their beliefs. Such activism is critical in any democratic society.

Though she was frustrated by the battles she didn’t win – such as the fight for domestic partner benefits – Barb’s experiment with Democracy for New Mexico can only be called a success.

‘The activist we all aspire to be’

There’s been an outpouring of love and respect for Barb on the Internet since her death, which MaryEllen announced Sunday evening on Facebook.

State Rep. Al Park posted on Facebook that Barb was “an incredible advocate for our community and values.” Rep. Mimi Stewart tweeted that Barb was “such a sweet soul, an activist to the end.”

U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich wrote that Barb’s “spirit and fierce commitment to making our community better will be sorely missed.” Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairman Javier Gonzales sent out a news release calling Barb “the activist we all aspire to be.”

The respect didn’t come only from the left. Aaron Henry Diaz, a Republican activist and longtime political blogger, tweeted this:

“New Mexico lost a fellow blogger & activist today, Barb Wold. I never agreed with her but she was sharp as a whip.”

As for me: I didn’t have to always agree with Barb or like what she said about me to respect her. I admired her passion and marveled at what she built in Democracy for New Mexico.

Barb, you will be missed.

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1 Comment

  1. I can’t begin to express my sorrow at this loss to our state of New Mexico.  Barb’s Democracy for New Mexico has been a daily perusal in my life for many years and I have serious doubts that the void she leaves can be filled for the state or for me.  I feel this loss on a personal level although I was never allowed to meet Barb.  I have commented on her blog since it’s beginning and it will ever be my favorite site in which to express my opinions.
    My deepest sympathy and prayers go to her loving life partner, Ellen.  I feel regret and frustration that this devoted couple were never allowed to marry and only hope that the world will be kind to Ellen and her beautiful little birds. 
    I miss Barb with all my heart. 

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