The weeks leading up to Independence Day this year have brought highs and lows on the national unity front. Juneteenth celebrations nationwide took hold as an established Federal holiday and Pride Month seemed bigger and more widespread than ever on a global scale.

Simultaneously, half the American population saw their health care rights of the last five decades challenged with the overturn of Roe V. Wade, and the January 6 hearings have brought into the public light testimony showing that a President felt he was greater than the Constitution.

The Vanderbilt University Project on Unity and American Democracy has initiated a statistical measure of national unity: The Vanderbilt Unity Index (VUI). The VUI measures five factors to build its index, measured quarterly: national Presidential approval, ideological extremism, social trust, Congressional polarization, and protests and civil unrest.

The trends over the last 40 years are fascinating. The 80s were a comparatively unified decade. The 10s were not. The general trend from 1994-2022 is downward. The most noticeable downward slide and lowest quarterly scores occur between 2016-2021. Anyone who has been alive since 1981 should not be surprised by these trends.

It's key to note that "unified" does not mean "unanimous." The VUI measures both sides of the aisle, so to speak, and considers the Bernie Sanders Effect along with the MAGA movement. If you read the easily-accessible-online report, the Congressional polarization measure is one of the most stark graphically.

The 1994 (Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, i.e., "we are fighting every point from here on out") and 2010 Congressional sessions (GOP retakes the House in midterm elections during the President Obama's first term) show sharp upticks in polarization, which the VUI measures by comparing the median Democrat in the House with the median Republican, vote by vote.

With 100 being a measure equal to complete polarization, that is, no agreement on any vote, the latest polarization measure is 86%. In 1981 it was 63%, meaning the House of Representatives could vote together across the aisle at least one third of the time.

Why does this matter in New Mexico? Because we see this play out in our primaries, election cycle after election cycle. More and more New Mexicans are leaving the major parties every year. This implies dissatisfaction with the ideological extremism both parties have embraced.

When the moderates leave the major parties, it creates a vicious cycle. With more ideological extremists voting in party primaries, candidates naturally campaign on fringe issues. It's that simple. It results in candidates being further distanced from the middle of the electorate, and growing distrust across the voter base.

Perfect unity has never been part of our history. The founders of the United States crafted our government with that in mind. So far, we have withstood a number of tests over nearly two and half centuries.

Since 1981, the VUI has averaged 62%. Our lowest measure was in late 2017 at 35%. The latest measure is 57% and we are on an upward trend.

My hope is that this trend manifests itself in conversations. We don't have to agree but we do have to have discussions around the issues confronting us most immediately: inflation; crime; national security; women's health; fuel security; cybersecurity and many others.

Honest conversations are what we need from our elected leaders. We can start by setting an example. I thank all my readers who write in and tell me what you think! Our email conversations are a high point of my week, even when we are debating a point. I appreciate you more than you know.

Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and former Navy officer. She appears regularly as a panelist on NM PBS and is a frequent guest on News Radio KKOB. A Republican, she lives amicably with her Democratic husband north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option above this to the right, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a cheaper and shorter option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. The former software failed us, so it's just a category now, with prices posted. Send your information to and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

It has come to this editor's attention that people are sending information to the Grant County Beat Facebook page. Please be aware that the editor does not regularly monitor the page. If you have items you want to send to the editor, please send them to Thanks!

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—

Feel free to notify if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised.