Doubling down on the big, seditious lie

by Diana Tittle | February 17, 2021
7 min read

Yesterday, at their regular February meeting, the Sierra County Commission unanimously approved a resolution expressing their “strong support” for U.S. Representative Yvette Herrell, who was elected in November to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District.

Previous resolutions passed by Republican commissioners made official their personal opposition to New Mexico’s gray wolf recovery program, designation of the Gila River as a scenic byway and “red flag” gun measures and their support of “right to work” laws. Each time, constituents who held differing views were reminded of the quaintness of their expectation that the commissioners should endeavor to represent the interests of all Sierra Countians.

Yesterday’s resolution went beyond a statement of conservative policy preferences. It gave aid and comfort to the seditious actions of CD2’s freshman congresswoman, who in her short time in office joined the ranks of those who sought to disenfranchise millions of Americans who voted for Biden over Trump. In backing Herrell, Commissioners Jim Paxon, Travis Day and Hank Hopkins called into question their own fitness to serve. They raised serious doubts about their respect for the truth, their acquaintance with the rule of law and their allegiance to democratic values.

Resolution 109-063 vainly tried to give Herrell cover by applauding her commitment to “fulfilling her Constitutional and federal statutory obligation, and by promoting a dialogue that would restore Americans’ faith in the fairness of our elections and the legitimacy of our institutions.”

The facts show—and history will judge—that this is gaslighting of the rankest sort.

Three days after taking their oaths of office to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Herrell and a majority of House Republicans twice voted to instead defend the indefensible—the big lie that the presidential election had been stolen from Donald J. Trump. Her twin nays signaled her refusal to certify Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes and acknowledge Joseph R. Biden’s rightful installation as our 46th president.

In perpetuating the big lie mere hours after the Capitol was overrun and she and her colleagues had to flee for their lives, Herrell sided with the insurrectionists. Inflamed by Trump’s repeated false claims that election fraud had cost him the presidency, the mob sought to achieve through violence the same outcome desired by Herrell: to overturn the will of the people and install an illegitimate pretender in the White House.

Herrell attempted to justify her own assault on constitutional order by proclaiming on the floor of the House during the early-morning certification count that, as the Sierra County Commission’s resolution put it, “state executives took last minute, unilateral actions without the approval of their state legislatures to change voting procedures” and that “such changes either by executive fiat or judicial edict” are “undemocratic and potentially unconstitutional.”

But Herrell and her Sierra County Commission sympathizers know full well that there was no truth to her claims or legal justification for her refusal to certify Electoral College votes.

“Executive fiat” and “judicial edict” allude to the language of a Texas lawsuit contesting 2020 presidential election results in four battleground states. It was summarily dismissed for lack of standing by the U.S. Supreme Court. All told, 62 lawsuits were filed by Trump and his allies in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results on the basis of undocumented charges of voting irregularities and fraud in states Trump lost. All but one suit failed, proving conclusively that the presidential election was conducted fairly.

The Doña Ana County Commission and the Grant County Commission subsequently passed resolutions “condemning Yvette Herrell for questioning the election,” Jim Paxon, the chairperson of the Sierra County Commission, reported yesterday. The Grant County resolution had indeed stated that “Representative Herrell’s votes contribute to the delegitimization of the lawful processes for resolving election disputes, which is deeply damaging to the democratic values and domestic tranquility of our country.”

Sierra County Commission Chairperson Paxon acknowledged that it was he who had asked the county’s administrative staff to draft a counter resolution, to which county attorney David Pato also contributed his thoughts. Paxon took this liberty because he was “appalled that a representative in the halls of Congress, acting under the elements of the Constitution that are laid out plain, pure and simple, is castigated.”

Paxon’s lengthy elaboration on the resolution’s rationale betrayed its origins in his feelings of personal grievance and victimhood—an ironic attitude given the power he consistently wields to bend and twist Sierra County into conformity with his world view.

“I share some of the same questions that our congresswoman Yvette Herrell has, even in New Mexico,” Paxon stated. “I think there are some problems that need to be addressed with who votes and how they vote and how those numbers are tallied. And I think we can go back to the [2018] election of Ms. [Xochitl] Torres-Small [as CD2’s congressional representative], when Yvette Herrell had a seemingly insurmountable lead until a bunch of [legitimately cast but still-uncounted absentee] ballots were found in a warehouse. That calls into question the validity and the integrity of [that] election. “

Tribalism also played a role in Resolution’s 109-063’s formulation.

“And I think that Yvette Herrell is doing exactly what we sent her to Washington to do,” Paxon continued. “She’s standing up for so much more, protecting our border, the production of oil and gas, the help with our folks in New Mexico with our poverty situation, with our COVID concerns. So much more that reaches into what this community in Sierra County stands for. I feel like those who stood and contested the election were doing so as provided by law, but they did that at risk. I think that when we are not able to voice an opinion due to feared retribution, we’re in trouble as a community, as a county, as a state and as a nation, and this cannot be. I just hope that my two fellow commissioners will agree and we’ll pass this resolution.”

Paxon then invited comments from his colleagues.

Commissioner Day responded that he had none.

Commissioner Hopkins said: “I agree—very well stated.”

The trio then approved the shameless and shameful rewriting of history. Never-no-mind the fact that even U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has now decried the “growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.  . . .[T]he entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe.  . . .The increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was somehow being stolen.”

Before the Grant County Commission passed its “Resolution in Support of American Democracy,” by a vote of four to one on Jan. 14, a draft of the resolution, written by Commissioner Harry Browne, had been circulating throughout Grant County and beyond for nearly a month. Almost 100 comments on the resolution, submitted in writing by the public, were read into the record during the commission meeting. These proceedings took an hour and a half, according to a next-day story in the Silver City Daily Press. “[W]ith near-unanimity, public input strongly supported passage of the resolution condemning Herrell’s actions,” the Press reported.

In Sierra County yesterday, County Manager Bruce Swingle read aloud the single public comment the commission had received—from a resident of Las Cruces. She had read about the resolution on a new Facebook page titled “Remove Yvette Herrell” and wanted the commissioners to know that “Herrell does not represent me or the mainstream New Mexicans.”

Persons attending yesterday’s meeting via a livestream on Facebook made three real-time comments, all of which opposed the resolution.

Typically, the county gave no public notice about the impending consideration of Resolution 109-063 other than posting online the Feb. 16 agenda, which included the title of the resolution, and the meeting packet, in which the text of the resolution could be found near the end of more than 300 pages of background materials. Residents, as usual, were given only three business days to submit public comments.

County government’s lack of transparency goes only so far in explaining the community’s relative silence.

There is no excuse for the commissioners’ complicit doubling down on Herrell’s attack on the sanctity of free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power. But you have to wonder: Do the Sierra County Commissioners treat their constituents like sheeple because that’s how we have been trained by their disregard for our opinions to act?

Additional reporting by Debora Nicoll and Kathleen Sloan

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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

6 thoughts on “Doubling down on the big, seditious lie”

  1. Susan Abare-Gritter

    Thank you for shedding light on this heinous resolution. The three county commissioners not only don’t represent me and my views, but show their blatant disregard for all of us who hold that the election was legitimate, as proven substantively by the courts, and what Trump proclaimed falsely, ultimately supported by many including Herrell, was appalling. I am disheartened that our local county commissioners have perpetuated these lies.

    There is always room to question the election process to assure that as little fraud as possible plays into the results. But we also need to back up in the process even further and be certain that the various districts have not gerrymandered the voting population to assure certain outcomes for certain political parties. Herrell’s subsequent win in the last election was a direct result of the Republican gerrymandering in this district. Concern also needs to be given to all the ways the various political parties legislate to keep folks from voting. Voter suppression is a real thing.

  2. I’m stunned….

    To condone the actions that took place and to question an election after numerous unfounded allegations is troublesome enough, but to double down and have three Sierra County Commissioners in effect condone the storming of our nation’s Capitol Building and the attempt to interfere with the election process by supporting the comments of Yvette Herrell shows a blatant lack of touch with all the residents they represent. Come on, saying nothing would have been better.

  3. This is pathetic. This is BEYOND pathetic! We moved here three years ago from Carrizozo because we saw a quirky community of artists and health-oriented people, plus the nearest hospital to Carrizozo was 65 miles away in Ruidoso and we were getting older. We left friends cultivated over nearly two decades. We left a vibrant, involved Hispanic community, a growing artist community and one that valued character and honesty over posturing politics. A community primarily Catholic and Christian that elected the only gay man in town because they believed I would do a good job on the city council.

    So, now if find I have moved to a community that loudly supports and elects conspiracy theorists, queer haters, cowboys with AR-15’s, white supremacists, just plain incompetents, plus the nearest actual hospital is now 70 miles away, and the sales tax is a full percent higher. What was I thinking?

  4. To take action, research sections of the code providing for recall. It’s not particularly onerous compared to the present circumstance.

  5. I was dismayed when Yvette Herrell won and the only thing that makes me feel a wee bit better is that I’m not alone. I am definitely not feeling represented by the local government here, and I just hope we can change that sooner rather than later.

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