ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s election season in New Mexico, and if you’ve been on social media, you might have noticed a trend. Attacking everyone from both Republican and Democratic candidates in the governor’s race, to candidates vying for congressional seats, is a meme that claims candidates are “bad for New Mexico.”
In this case, the “memes” are easily copied or imitated pictures and videos with humorous punchlines, usually meant to poke fun at a candidate. To learn what’s behind the trend, KRQE News 13 took a look at the memes and spoke with political analyst Gabe Sanchez. Here’s what you need to know.
‘Bad for New Mexico’ memes
The basic format for the political meme goes like this: Pick a candidate you don’t like, pick something that seems to go against the general culture of New Mexico, and tie the two together, even if factually inaccurate. So, for example, one Twitter user wrote: [sic.] “Mark Ronchetti prays for rain during balloon fiesta. Bad for balloon fiesta. Bad for New Mexico.” And another user wrote: “MLG. Bad for Selena. Bad for New Mexico . . .” before pointing out that Selena spoke out against abortion.
And as often happens on the internet, countless variations have arisen. Some have seemingly dropped the New Mexico culture connection, such as one user who wrote: “Michelle Lujan Grisham prefers The Hobbit movie trilogy over the book. Bad for fantasy literature. Bad for New Mexico.”
While some of the memes focus on actual political issues, others poke fun. For example, one user uses the format to claim that Ronchetti “doesn’t say ‘oooh! a roadrunner!’ when he sees a roadrunner.”
So where did the format come from? As early as August 26, the phrase “bad for New Mexico” has been used in political tweets, but the current format seemed to show up on Twitter by late September. It’s since spread to various other social networks like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
On Twitter, some of the memes are even getting meta, or self-referential. One user wrote: [sic.] “i’ve never been more proud of living in new mexico until the mark ronchetti bad for nm memes. might be last in education but we’re first in memes.”
Does anyone win the meme battle?
On Twitter, the seeming majority of “Bad for New Mexico” memes have been attacking Ronchetti. But, there are anti-Lujan Grisham memes using the format as well.
KRQE News 13 asked both the Lujan Grisham campaign and the Ronchetti campaign whether or not they condone the use of political memes. Delaney Corcoran, a spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s campaign, said they had no comment. KRQE News 13 did not hear back from the Ronchetti campaign.
Campaign spokespersons for both Lujan Grisham and Ronchetti have retweeted versions of the meme. Corcoran, with Grisham’s campaign, retweeted several posts using the meme format, and Ryan Sabel, Communications Director with the Ronchetti campaign, has retweeted the format as well.
While many of the memes are relatively harmless, others are crass, and some are outright lewd. Ultimately, this means there’s a risk for misinformation to spread, according to KRQE News 13 Political Analyst Gabe Sanchez.
“The danger of course here is that we know misinformation is more likely to come through social media,” Sanchez says. And because many younger voters are those engaged in social media, “it makes younger voters more vulnerable.”
In New Mexico, the Secretary of State’s Office has worked to combat election misinformation. Alex Curtas, the director of communications for the Secretary of State, says most memes don’t rise to the level of misinformation they’re working to combat, but they’re on the lookout for social media posts that do.
“I have not seen any, at least in at least in this instance, memes repeating misinformation about our election machines or ‘rigged’ elections and things like that,” Curtas says. But “we are on the lookout for any form of misinformation about our voting and elections, no matter what form it takes. And it certainly could take the form of memes.”
Sanchez predicts that the memes will ultimately have a limited impact on actual election results. But he says they exemplify “how political campaigns can become more about entertainment than informing the public.”