Campaigns never seem to end. The latest is a push by typists on social media to have Stacey Abrams named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Abrams helped Democratic President-elect Joe Biden carry Georgia, a citadel of the Republican Party for the last 28 years.
Abrams played a part in an impressive turnabout. But her effort didn’t make her the most important newsmaker of 2020, which is what Time’s Person of the Year really is.
Murderous villains such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin have been designated as the magazine’s Person of the Year. The only reason was they made news, most of it bad.
Time’s choice this year for most important newsmaker should be easy and without controversy.
Biden, having received more votes for president than anyone in history, is unchallenged as the most influential figure of 2020. By defeating Republican President Donald Trump, Biden gets the arduous job of rebuilding a country with a worsening pandemic and sagging economy.
Deciding on Santa Fe’s newsmaker of the year is tougher than the international choice. It comes down to whose action — or inaction — changed the city most.
I’m going with police Chief Andrew Padilla. He and his command staff let violent protesters take over the Plaza on Indigenous Peoples Day.
Lawbreakers destroyed the 152-year-old Plaza obelisk on grounds that they found it racist — a tribute to killers of Native Americans. The violent protesters ignored that the obelisk also commemorated soldiers who fought to preserve the union during the Civil War and outlaw slavery.
Padilla said permitting a mob to break the law was a wise decision. His reasoning was doing nothing avoided bloodshed, as though the only choices police had were to crack heads or permit mob rule.
There was another way. A strong presence by Padilla’s police force could have kept the peace. Abandoning the area only emboldened the bubbleheads who wrecked the obelisk.
The message Padilla sent was a dangerous one: Those who claim political correctness is on their side can break the law with the tacit endorsement of city government.
Sure, a handful of people have since been identified as suspects in the destruction of the obelisk and related crimes. But this amounts to damage control by Padilla and Mayor Alan Webber.
Had Padilla done his job well in the first place, any protests would have been peaceful, the obelisk would still be standing and lawbreakers wouldn’t get to decide how history should be told.
A day after the obelisk fell, Padilla and Webber participated in one of the great farces of the year.
Webber didn’t take spontaneous questions from reporters about the violence that occurred while his police department did nothing. Instead, the mayor asked Padilla leading questions, all of them designed to commend their collective wisdom in allowing certain people to break the law.
Webber contributed to Padilla’s failure with a poor plan of his own. In summertime, the mayor decided the city at least temporarily should remove a statue and two obelisks that some people found objectionable. Webber claimed he wanted a community discussion rather than violent confrontations over monuments.
Like his police department, Webber did nothing. This emboldened the mob that received an opening to destroy the obelisk while rampaging through a National Historic Landmark.
The second obelisk Webber targeted highlights frontiersman Kit Carson. It’s in front of the federal courthouse, a space the mayor cannot control.
Starting a campaign to remove the Carson obelisk was another example of Webber trying to tell everyone what’s best without regard to historical context.
Webber’s failures give a bit of cover to Padilla. But Padilla did something I’d never seen any police chief do: He surrendered city property to an ugly mob.
A conscientious chief never would have taken that course. Padilla never would have ceded the Plaza to Klansmen or Proud Boys. But lawbreakers operating under the guise of political correctness were off limits, supposedly for fear of violence.
If Padilla had rocked the boat by doing his job, Webber might have thrown him over the side.
Padilla still would have been Santa Fe’s newsmaker of the year. And had he done his best to keep the peace, he could have worn the title as one of honor.