Haven’t bored y’all in a while. Here goes:
The elections have come and gone, and this year’s main course was the grizzled, yet powerful Senator from Searchlight Harry Reid versus Teabagger Sharron Angle of Reno. The only positive aspect of this cage match is that Harry won and Sharron lost. The negatives outweighed the single positive and here’s some thoughts on the long-term damage of this last election.
1. “Vitriol” is defined as “something highly caustic or severe” and “speech, writing, etc, displaying rancour, vituperation, or bitterness.” This year, the vitriol from the Republicans came in the form of political ads using negative Hispanic imagery, notably when discussing illegal immigration. One ad campaign went as far as telling Latino voters not to vote. The Republican candidate told a group of Hispanic students that they looked “Asian” to her.
Impact: Across the country, belittling Hispanics was the GOP’s biggest mistake because their vote will play a significant role in the future of this country. Aside from the fact that Nevada elected its first Latino governor, the San Francisco Chronicle noted this morning that Hispanics now make up the majority of students in the California K-12 system. As time goes by, these kids will register to vote and rightly vote their conscious based on their perceptions, treatment, and upbringing. If the GOP continues to disrespect the legal Latino population and continues to characterize them as gangbangers and thugs, these kids will be a significant voting bloc for the Democrats for years to come.
2. Nevada has four significant newspapers: the Las Vegas Review-Journal (LVRJ), the Las Vegas Sun, the Reno Gazette-Journal, and the Nevada Appeal (serving Carson City). During this last election, the LVRJ publisher Sherman Frederick and news editor Thomas Mitchell made it their personal mission to unseat Harry Reid. They cited questionable polls, demeaned the Democratic Party and its followers, and, for the most part, ignored the verbal and tactical gaffes of the Angle campaign (see above). There’s nothing wrong with this up to a point because newspaper owners can write what they like in the manner of their choosing. That’s called “an opinion piece” most often found on the editorial page. Frederick’s and Mitchell’s mistake was they shaped their news gathering efforts into a “Anyone but Harry” juggernaut and published mainstream LVRJ articles that were, for all intents and purposes, straight from the daily GOP newsletter.
Impact: When Harry won, Frederick and Mitchell lost their jobs. It remains to be seen if the LVRJ moves from the right end of the political spectrum and regains mainstream respectability.
3. Harry was reelected by 40,000 votes of the 683,000 votes cast for him and his opponent. For the most powerful politician in Nevada history, it should never have been that close. The “Harry Haters” focused their energies on his weakness: Nevada scores poorly across the board in most quality of life indicators, including education, unemployment, small business and home foreclosures, and availability of social services to children and the aged. Despite what his proponents claims, these problems predate the Great Recession. Nevada is particularly vulnerable because we have two industries (gaming and mining) with little economic diversification, and the country has longstanding congressional funding formulas that favor much larger states when it comes to doling out federal funds (and jobs). On top of much-hated Health Care Reform Act and the perception that he is President Obama’s most loyal agent in Congress, it’s fairly easy to see why many experts thought this was Harry’s last round-up.
Impact: How will Harry react? Will he take to heart that his election was not a validation of his efforts to date but a combination of luck and hard work by his staff? Will he listen to his constituents who voted for him and against him? Will he make some significant progress on updating the federal funding formulas and redirect some proportional federal dollars in the direction of his home state? Will he break the widespread belief in the Silver State that he works for the President first and for Nevada second? I doubt it.
4. As mentioned, Sharron Angle was a Teabagger candidate and infused her campaign with millions of dollars from the far right. No one observing her campaign would call it a “positive” campaign by any stretch. To be fair, her opponent was no saint, either, painting Angle as an “extremist” bent on unraveling key parts of the federal government (like Social Security).
Impact: Even though she lost, Angle is not done with her time in the limelight (ref: Palin, Sarah). She will continue to serve as a spokesperson for what she believes is the disenfranchised Nevada voter. And even if Angle herself never runs again, the “new normal” for election campaigns will be continuous campaign messages of fear and anger, created not to solve problems, but to drive voters to make irrational decisions at the ballot box. The sad thing is the GOP’s tactics almost worked in Nevada this time and that they might work next time.
(As an aside, I learned the New Normal includes pundits who scream hate at the top of their lungs and skew the truth for no other other reason than to feed their egos. No wonder it’s hard to find decent people to serve in public office.
Even so, I have hope. This is not the first time we as a society have given a microphone to the haters. In time, they will be shouted down, again, perhaps with simple words like these: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”)