Category Archives: Nevada politics

Ira Hansen Becomes a National Embarrassment

Ira Hansen

Oh my, merely a few hours after his selection as the Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly Ira Hansen (R-NVA32) made national headlines – mostly for all those “interesting”  columns he wrote between 1994 and 2010. [Wonkette]  Mr. Hansen has gathered attention to himself from Think Progress, and The Huffington Post, and the Atlantic, and Talking Points Memo, and Media-ite.   Mr. Hansen, who won his Assembly seat with  71.96% of the vote in the 2014 election, [NVSoS] offered a formulaic apology:

“I am deeply sorry that comments I have made in the past have offended many Nevadans. It is unfortunate that these comments, made almost 20 years ago as a newspaper columnist and talk radio host, have been taken out of context and are being portrayed as intentionally hurtful and disrespectful. These comments were meant to be purposely provocative in various political, cultural and religious views. I have the utmost respect for all people without regard to race, gender, religious or political beliefs.” [RGJ]

This statement is almost pure Limbaugh.  “I’m sorry IF you were offended.” Of course people were offended – his comments were intrinsically, blatantly, offensive.

The comments were made long ago,”  And, what have you said or done since, say,  last Wednesday to demonstrate you’ve cleaned up your act since?

And, “they were taken out of context…” In what context would these have been appropriate comments in the 21st century – or the 19th for that matter? Doesn’t that “taken out of context” refrain ever get old and hirsute?

And, “the comments were purposefully provocative,” PLEASE! Of course, and Limbaugh was only kidding?  Just trying to get a rise out of your audience?  Those right wing hate speech, hate radio, pack of bigots, racists, and fringe wingers, who call in to shows that re-enforce their own bigotry, racism, and homophobia?

And, Mr. Hansen, if you’d had any respect for non-white people, members of the LBGT community, members of the Hispanic/Latino community, you’d not have made the comments in the first place.

And, he ends his non-apology apology on the common hackneyed note:

“I am committed to showing that actions are much louder than words and my office will always have an open door to all backgrounds and political viewpoints. This will not distract us from finding solutions to building a brighter and more prosperous Nevada.” [RGJ]

Right,  the door’s open.  We’re supposed to believe that the Tea Party Darling who bested a Party Regular (no raving moderate himself, Pat Hickey) for the Speakership doesn’t believe in the privatization of any public activity in which someone can make a buck, and maintains overtly racist, bigoted, beliefs, is going to lead us to the Promised Land of whatever…

However, this isn’t Grandpa’s Republican Party anymore.  This is the Party of Cliven Bundy, [Reuters] of Jim “I’d vote for slavery if my constituents wanted it” Wheeler, [LVSun] of Cresent “The BLM doesn’t have the right to enforce federal laws on federal land” Hardy. [LVRJ]  This is the Republican Party in Nevada which adopted a Tea Party Platform at its 2014 convention. [RenoNewsR

There’s one Nevada Republican who’s embarrassed – our Striving For A Centrist Image Senator Dean Heller:

“Assemblyman Hansen’s past comments and positions on race, religion, and gender that have recently been reported give me great concern. These comments were insensitive, wrong, and extremely offensive and insulting. Statements like these do not have a place in public discourse.” [EDFP]

Yes, Senator Heller is concerned – however, where was Senator Heller’s concern when his state party adopted the Tea Party platform, promoted the election of Wheeler, and the election of Hardy?  The “moderates” were noticeably silent before the 2014 elections, and before the selection of the Assembly Speaker – and now that the cat has slipped the bag they are “concerned,” nay “greatly concerned.”

In the immortal words of Meryl Streep’s character in the 1992 comedy “Death Becomes Her,” “Now a Warning?”

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Amodei and Heck Do It Again!

Pollution air In case you missed it –  amidst all the publicity about the pipeline vote – the House of Representatives has again demonstrated its proclivity to promote the interests of corporate  exploiters and polluters (read — Koch Brothers):

“The House voted 229-191 to pass H.R. 1422, which would change the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group that gives scientific advice to the EPA Administrator. Also called the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, the bill would make it easier for scientists with financial ties to corporations to serve on the SAB, prohibit independent scientists from talking about their own research on the board, and make it more difficult for scientists who have applied for grants from the EPA to join the board.” [TP]

How nice for the Koch Brothers and the multi-national corporations which are annoyed by having to discuss such matters as global climate change, air pollution, and other topics related to whether or not our grandchildren will inherit a viable planet.

So, what did Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) do for the grandchildren?  He voted in favor of the Ignore The Science Bill.  Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei voted in favor of the bill on Roll Call 525.   Representatives Horsford (D-NV4) and Titus (D-NV1) thought enough of the kidlets to vote against this sop to multinational corporations. But wait! There’s more.

The House also passed H.R. 4795 – yet another pro-pollution bill:

“The Clean Air Act requires major new or expanding sources of air pollution to obtain permits with pollution limits before the facilities start construction.  These preconstruction permits ensure that a new or expanded facility will not increase local air pollution to levels that violate national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets for six principal air pollutants.  When EPA updates each air quality standard to reflect the latest science, permit applicants have to meet the new, more protective standard and show their emissions will not harm public health.

H.R. 4795, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), creates a loophole in this process.  The bill establishes imprecise procedural requirements for EPA to follow after setting a new air quality standard.  If EPA does not meet those requirements, then a new or expanding facility can apply for a preconstruction permit based on the old air quality standard, which is not adequate to protect public health.  In effect, this bill could give new sources of pollution “amnesty” from new science-based air quality standards.”  [DEC]

Got that?  If Spew & Blow Corp. doesn’t like the new air quality standards, it can use the Scalise Loophole to get around them.  How convenient.  And what did our Representatives do?  The two Republicans (Heck and Amodei) voted for the “Promoting New Manufacturing Act” – the title should really have been the “Promoting More Pollution Act of 2014.”   Horsford and Titus both voted against this travesty of a bill.

Could we have any better demonstration of how closely Congressional Republicans, including our Congressional Republicans, are tied to the Koch Brothers?

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Filed under Amodei, ecology, Nevada politics, pollution

President Rides the Fourth Rail

obama The President of the United States will give a major speech tonight about immigration policy which may make some conservative Republican heads explode – which they were probably going to do anyway.  The House of Representatives has been sitting on a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill (S. 744) since June 27, 2013; a bill passage which provided a photo-op for Senators McCain and Schumer cheering the bipartisan effort. [Politico] The widely touted bill went to the Republican controlled House in which politics took precedence over policy.  The GOP objected, and the leadership said it wanted to take up the measures in a piece-meal fashion, but none of the 19 related bills emerged from House committees. [Congress] Finally, it became relatively obvious to all, except those who would not see, that the Congress had no intention of voting on any immigration policy reform bill during this session of Congress.  So, what’s so dodgy about the issue?

One problem for the Republican majority leadership in the House came from an ideological split in their own membership – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out forcefully in favor of S. 744.  The radio broadcasts from the right wing screamed “amnesty!”  House Speaker John Boehner was caught between two wings of the GOP, in its internecine conflict between commercial and financial interests and the Tea Party ultra-nationalists. He never brought the bill to the floor – or any of the others.

The failure to act on S. 744 offered cover for Representatives such as Joe Heck (R-NV3) who was free to say almost anything on immigration policy without having to adopt the provisions of a Republican bill, drafting a bill of his own, or taking a specific stance against the Senate version.  The failure also allowed the ultra-right wing Tea Party members to ‘valiantly’ oppose ‘amnesty,’ in its current meaning – any reform of the immigration policy which allows a pathway to U.S. citizenship.  Why does this create such a clamor from the right wing?

The Toxic Mix

It’s easy to spot the cornerstone of opposition from Tea Party types to any form of immigration policy reform, and the rock-like intransigence is made of up that usual conglomeration of bigotry, racism, and fear.  At a purely political level it’s simply a chant “They (Democrats) want amnesty just to get votes.”   This is an interesting charge because there isn’t a political party which ever existed for more than three minutes anywhere that wasn’t interested in increasing its base. Using this frame of reference how might we logically characterize vote suppression tactics and strategies from the Republicans which diminish the voting of ethnic minorities?  “They just want to have just their own people voting?”

Reverting to the right wing scare machine for a moment, the commentators and pundits of Hate Radio have been pounding their message since Reagan offered amnesty to family members in 1986. [BusInsider]  (Pre-emptive arguments, such as those offered by pundit David Frum,  appear to know exactly what the President wants before he says it, and to assume that because the Simpson-Mazzoli Act didn’t solve the all problems in perpetuity, therefore any other attempt at reform won’t either.)  The right wing has been lambasted with talking points ALL of which have long been debunked. “Immigrants don’t pay taxes.”  No, they are paying taxes for services they will never receive. “Immigrants come here to get on welfare!” No, the ratio between taxes paid and services used in this country never favors the immigrant population.  “They send all their money home!”  No, not when they’re contributing about $162 billion in tax revenues to federal, state, and local governments, and not when they are paying for housing, food, clothing and other essentials.

They take American jobs!”  No, again.  That myth has been long debunked. (See also: Boston Globe)   “They don’t speak English, and don’t want to!”  Now we’re gravitating into Nativist Territory.  Within ten years of immigration most speak English well enough to sustain employment and other activities in their communities.  [IPOrg] At the anecdotal level some who claim not to have a racist bone in their entire skeleton lament the advent of Spanish language broadcast programming, and Spanish language options on the telephone – retailers and other commercial interests figured out long ago that Spanish speaking immigrants aren’t “sending all their money home,” and want to make it as easy as possible for the immigrant families to part with some into the coffers of the marketers.  None of this anti-immigrant rhetoric explains why we have more demand for English Language classes than the supply will fulfill.

When all else fails, the descendants of immigrants from the great wave of the early 20th century will passionately announce that these immigrants are “different.”  Really, perhaps in that no immigrant from Honduras is going to see a “NINA” sign (No Irish Need Apply) but the discrimination remains the same.   How conveniently we forget the anti-German rhetoric of World War I, the anti-Polish “jokes” that still have a place in the lexicon of some not-very-funny people?  Just as the Irish, the Poles, the Russians, the Jews, the Chinese, and other previous immigrants experienced discrimination and derision – the Spanish speaking immigrants from Central and South America are now getting a taste of it.   They are – different, and therefore suspect.

Are they so suspect that we must pile up the ramparts, and protect ourselves from the ‘scourge’ of un-American immigrants?  We can look at our own state.

Nevada by the numbers: According to the last Census estimate (2013) there are 2,790,136 people living in the state of Nevada, or about 24.6 people per square mile of our acres and acres of acres and acres.  9% of the population is African American, 1.6% are Native American, 8.1% are of Asian descent , 27.5% are of Hispanic or Latino descent, and 52.2% report being white “alone” (not of Hispanic or Latino descent).  19.2% of Nevada residents are foreign born.  Of those who are foreign born, as of 2010, 57.2% were from Latin America, 29.8% from Asia, 8.5% from Europe, 1.7% from Canada, 2.3% from Africa, and 0.5% from Oceania.  [UNLV pdf]   When the Census Bureau ran the numbers and published information about naturalized citizens and non-citizens in 2003, there were 2,207,575 residents of Nevada, of whom 379,885 were foreign born, or about 17%.  129,330 were naturalized citizens, and 250,555 were non-citizens, or about 11%.  [Census download]

The following chart shows the percentage of residents of Hispanic or Latino descent by county, and the percentage of county residents (who might be of any ethnic classification) who are foreign born.  [Census]

County Hispanic Foreign Born
Carson City 22.7% 11.9%
Churchill 13.2% 5.7%
Douglas 11.8% 6.0%
Elko 23.7% 9.8%
Esmeralda 18% 16%
Humboldt 25.2% 13.6%
Lander 23.5% 13.6%
Lincoln 7.2% 2.1%
Lyon 15.7% 7.4%
Mineral 10.6% 3.3%
Nye 14.1% 8.3%
Pershing 22.5% 12.6%
Storey 7.5% 4.1%
White Pine 14.8% 2.3%
Washoe 23.3% 15.1%
Clark 30.0% 21.9%

 

One of the more interesting features of this chart is the obvious fact that in NO county are all the residents of Hispanic or Latino descent foreign born; for example in Carson City, it’s impossible to have an Hispanic/Latino population of 22.7% who are all non-citizens – a subgroup constituting only 11.9% of the total population.  In Humboldt County, 25.2% of the total population is of Hispanic/Latino descent, but only 13.6% of the total county population is foreign born.  Maybe “THEY” aren’t so different after all, their children are in school – probably participating in the athletic programs; they are shopping at the supermarket; and, the odds are that they were born here.

So, if they are paying taxes, using few public services, spending money in local businesses, taking jobs few others want to perform, and learning to speak English as fast as they can … what’s the problem?  Just once I’d like to hear a right wing radio personality be absolutely completely honest — “they” are different because they aren’t white.   So, whatever the President says this evening, it will be as the wits say “A black man advocating for brown people” and this will cause the White-Wing politicians to launch their diatribes and epithets, and excuses for continuing to do nothing.

We know what people say about those who are good at making excuses? They usually aren’t very good at doing anything else.

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Filed under Immigration, Nativism, Nevada, Nevada politics

News and Notes

Jig Saw Puzzle It’s been some time since there’s been a good old fashioned aggregation post and today seems as good a time as any.  So, here goes –

In the MUST Read Department, there’s “Nevada’s Bundy Caucus” over at Crooks and Liars.  Nothing so brightens a Wednesday morning like being reminded that a soul-mate of the nefarious Cliven Bundy has been elected to the Congress of the United States.  Whack-a-doodle Doo!  To make life even more interesting – Bundy-Lovin’ Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, the Gun Totin’ Moll of the Tea Party, wants to be the Majority Leader, according to the very credible Jon Ralston.

Also in the MUST Department, The Center for American Progress has an excellent statistical piece about Veterans in America.  Did you know that there are 22 million veterans in America, and that 2.6 million are from the post 9/11 Era?  Or, that 49,933 of them are homeless?  Read On! There’s more from the Ramirez Group on homeless veterans.  One out of every three homeless men is a Vet. Unconscionable.

Take a look at Steve Sebelius’s Fun with Numbers, concerning the 2014 election in Nevada.   Notice: Nevada Progressive is shutting shop and moving to Let’s Talk Nevada. There’s a very informative post about the campaigns and elections therein.  NRDC posts an article from Common Dreams concerning the interesting voting pattern in which progressive initiatives tended to pass while progressive/Democratic candidates tended to fail.

If you’re following the debate on comprehensive immigration reform legislation, then “GOP already in lame excuse mode,” is highly recommended reading.  Wondering what happened to the bill from the Senate?  AZCentral provides a timeline, including the fact that the Senate passed the bill on June 27, 2013 – and Speaker John Boehner has not brought the bill, or any House version thereof, to the floor since.

Even if the Republicans won’t admit it, gun violence in this country is a public health issue.   However, that doesn’t mean that the GOP will stop blocking the nomination for Surgeon General, a man who believes that bullets do serious damage to human bodies – after all the Ebola ‘crisis’ was over as soon as the election returns came in from Hawaii on November 4th. If we could see the violence issue in public health terms we’d remember that on average 32 people are killed by guns every day, and another 140 are treated in the ER for gunshot wounds.  So, if the averages hold,  approximately 1,376 people have died from gunshots since October 1, 2014. From Ebola infections? 1.

Yes, the Supreme Court will take up a conservative challenge to the Affordable Care Act.  Think Progress provides a succinct summation of the challenge.   There’s obviously some more work to be done to convince the public that (1) Obamacare isn’t a Thing, it’s a collection of reforms to the way health insurance corporations do business, and (2) repealing it means serious hardships to middle income Americans, the elderly, and continued struggles of 215,000 veterans who would be greatly assisted by the expansion of Medicaid.  Someone really should pose the question to the newly elected Congressional Representatives: Do you support the troops or the health insurance corporations?  The second question ought to be: Do you want to cost those corporations all the new customers they got under the ACA provisions?

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Local Politics by the Numbers

Number Lottery Balls This is a local post, so for those who read DB for national news or analysis – or to follow the rants on the favorite house topic (economics/politics) – please hold on for a second while I play with some numbers.

Consider the information in the following table:

County Democrats Republicans Turnout %
Carson 8310 11562 60.7
Churchill 2651 6895 61.1
Douglas 4650 15491 61.9
Elko 3137 10558 55.6
Esmeralda 60 313 65.9
Eureka 98 617 74.9
Humboldt 1092 3446 69.02
Lander 378 1431 82.6
Lincoln 309 1496 60.4
Lyon 5247 14223 47.4
Mineral 367 1075 52.07
Nye 4056 10573 51.4
Pershing 442 1087 70.36
Storey 425 1137 78.3
White Pine 743 1998 63.5
Total 31965 81902  

* the registration numbers are active voters as of October 2014, turnout percentages are from the Secretary of States’ office including early, absentee, mail-in, and election day totals

The total number of active registered voters in Nevada as of the end of October 2014 was 1,213,193; the election day turnout was 20.36%; the Early Voting turnout was 21.96%; and absentee ballots made up 3.9% of the total. The total turnout was 552,380 or 45.51%. [SoSNV]

All of the rural counties showed turnout rates significantly higher than the statewide returns.  This is probably obvious, since those of us in the outback attend high school athletic events and amateur theatricals; we’re so Off Broadway they wouldn’t even know we were here.  Voting is at least a nice social event, and in General Elections there are usually some “hot” local non-partisan races.  Either things were very dull or extremely interesting in Eureka and Lander counties, their election turnout could demonstrate both.  However, there doesn’t seem to have been as much enthusiasm in Elko, Lyon, Mineral, and Nye counties. 

County Population Voting Age Registered  
Carson 54080 42723 25158 17565
Churchill 24877 18907 12240 6667
Douglas 47118 38401 29257 9144
Elko 52384 37664 18456 17362
Esmeralda 832 699 545 154
Eureka 2076 1599 880 719
Humboldt 17363 12571 6333 6238
Lander 6032 4421 2427 1994
Lincoln 5245 4075 2693 1383
Mineral 4614 3737 2738 999
Nye 42297 34387 23808 10579
Pershing 6877 5563 2292 3271
Storey 3942 3370 2433 937
White Pine 10057 7844 4431 3414

 

If we take the population, subtract the number of those the Census Bureau counts as under 18 years of age, and subtract again for foreign born persons residing in the county, we can roughly estimate the voting age population in each of the rural or suburban counties. There’s obviously some wiggle in the count because, of course, not all foreign born persons are necessarily non-citizens. However, to keep things on the low ball side of estimations, the assumption is made that all foreign born are possibly not eligible to vote.

When the voting age population is aligned with the actual number of registered active voters the difference shown in the last column are those who are of voting age, probably eligible to vote, and who have not registered to do so. The total number of people in the counties listed above who are of voting age and have not registered comes to about 63,000 souls.

Numbers are lovely. However, these don’t tell us all that much about the outcomes of elections in any predictive way – the number which might be instructive is that during the Primary Election in Nevada (2014) the turnout was 222,240 voters or approximately 19.27% of the total number of active voters statewide.  No one was particularly “energized” and they stayed that way.

What we can see from the second table is that all of the political parties in Nevada have left a significant number of “votes on the table,” and many of these are in the suburban or rural counties.

The problem for any political party is essentially to (1) pull votes from the faithful; (2) get votes off the sidelines (register voters); and (3) get voters to turn out – early, absentee, mail-in, or in person.   The 2014 general election showed that the Democrats didn’t do a particularly good job in these three essential segments.   For that matter, the low statewide turnout showed the Republicans, while successful by all accounts, didn’t really do a much better job either.

However, my interest is in the Democratic Party so here come the fractious observations.

For all the time and effort expended by a few Solid Citizens who have obviously given their all for party efforts – the structure of the Democratic Party State Central Committee indicates some valid weaknesses in the process.  It’s my understanding that each county is guaranteed at least one seat, and that a county gets 1 seat for every thousand registered party members.   Churchill County has 2651 registered Democrats and 1 seat – they couldn’t find another person?  The same question applies to Elko County, with 3589 registered Democrats and only 1 seat?  Lyon has 7823 registered Democrats and 2 seats filled…. and so it goes.

If the Democratic Party in Nevada wants to be considered a Statewide operation then it surely should provide more support for the local leadership and leadership training efforts.  And, if the state leadership is to allocate personnel and resources for rural party development then at least a significant amount of national attention should reward these efforts. To have a handful of people trying to carry the load in multiple counties is not only unconscionable it’s obviously not the best way to carry on.

Electricity is a Wonderful Thing

What the rurals DO have is an excellent base for electronic communications.  The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus has an excellent blog site.  Humboldt County Democrats maintain an updated site.  Heaven only knows what’s happened with the State Party Blog? Nor does it link directly with the NRDC or HCD sites from the Blog Page.  The Carson City Democratic Party link takes you back to the state site.  The Douglas County site links to the NRDC, and covers local events and items of interest.  Lyon County maintains a web presence, advertizes local events, but doesn’t link directly with other rural communications – clicking on the blog roll takes you nowhere.  The Nye County party has a web site, and links to the State site, the National Site, the NRDC, Blue Nevadan, Democracy for America, Nevada Stonewall Democrats, and two independent blogs, Turbokitty, and The ObamaCrat.   Here’s a thought –

What might happen if the Nevada State Democratic Party put together an updated blog roll of (1) Local Party Websites, and (2) an up to date list of Democratic, progressive, and liberal bloggers in the state?

What might happen if the Nevada State Democratic Party sent a list of updated and current Local Party websites, and a list of current independent blog sites with links which the parties and the bloggers could insert in their sidebars?  Instead of, say, relying on the parties and bloggers to try to find each other on their own?  What might happen if the NSDP looked for even more and newer means of electronic “social media” use?

What might happen if the State Democratic Party took an interest in having a web presence for every county in the state?

Avoiding Sclerotics

Allow me to take a wild flying guess that one of the issues in some rural counties  concerns the aging process; some Democrats are getting Older—and Older—and Older. And more tired, and more tired … Granted in any organization it’s nearly always 10% of the people who do 90% of the work. However, in the words of the very old business bard/mentor – if you aren’t growing you’re dying.   Another notion, which the Republicans are probably going to have to deal with sooner rather than later, is that a Party is not a monolithic creation. No one is ever going to be completely satisfied with everything.  Nothing will so advance the sclerosis of an organization quite as well as having the direction of the glacier moving toward ideological purity, of any stripe.  Avoiding the Purity Trap and the Sclerotic Trap requires getting some new hands on the deck.

From this perch in the outback, it looks as though the State Democratic Party might do well to (1) put some major resources into leadership training and (2) create an atmosphere such that the Party is perceived not merely as the delivery vehicle for election purposes but also as a coalition of those interested in democratic issues and values.  Where to find these people?

If you want to keep a person engaged give them something to do.  It’s a good business practice to give new hires increasingly larger roles in the operations; and the same is true of most political organizations.  There’s nothing wrong with starting small.  For example, what might happen if a county party leader gave a younger individual the task of going through the voter registration list or a precinct listing and creating a phone tree or contact list?  What might happen if the State Party helped with the costs involved in creating the “Can We Count On Your Vote?” contact lists? One of the more beneficial bits of advice from the Leader is “Can you find a friend to help you?”  Now, you’ve got two people for the price of one task.

The numbers in the charts above indicate some voters who aren’t registered.  Another small chore might be to have someone to conduct a “little voter registration” drive-let.”  “Can you find us three more eligible voters to register?  “Can you compile a list of people in the county who run blog sites?  Calendar sites? Special events sites?”  “Could you attend (fill in some local event) and report back to us for our web page?” 

On a heftier scale, what issues are important in the area?  Are there groups interested in improving a local airport? Are there issues revolving around school building maintenance problems and funding?  [PVT]  Land use planning issues?  No one will notice you if you aren’t there.  Engaging in reasonable and civil discourse while working on projects in which there are several layers and levels of interest may not be a route to recruitment but can mitigate “image” problems, which in turn makes recruitment an easier matter.  Does the communication structure (system) of the local party include postings on topical local issues?

All this rambling leads to some central questions.  Is the State Party sufficiently interested in, or fiscally capable of, strengthening and encouraging the development of rural and suburban party elements? Is the State Party in a position to and interested in assisting in the coordination of the Democratic Party message on a statewide basis? 

In the end, “All politics is local.”

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Who Are We?

Sorrow So, we have the usual post mid-term election gnashing of teeth and rending of fabrics, and while I’ve assiduously avoided the Pundits, there are some ordinary types who  have some insights which deserve a mention and more.

Messages and Media

For example, there’s this excerpt from the comments section of the previous post:

“It isn’t so hard to realize what we need to do — but I’ve been saying this for five years straight. We need to run against REPUBLICANS, not the one Republican that is our opponent. We need to put Republicans on the defensive, instead of letting them define the situations so we are too bust defending ourselves.”

There are two kernels of useful insight illustrated here. First, that Democrats have to define their agenda more clearly and succinctly for public consumption.  The first element leads to the second: Democrats need to adopt the time honored rule of election campaigning – define your opponent before he or she defines you.

What ARE we for?

Economically speaking we’re FOR increasing the prosperity of the 99% of the citizens in this nation; those who are not members of the exclusive set of 1%’ers  whose income is primarily obtained by investment.  Or, in a shorter version – we’re the party for Middle Class Americans.

Socially speaking we’re FOR liberty and opportunity for all. We respect the rights of every single citizen in this nation – white, black, young, old, male and female, gay and straight.

Politically speaking we embrace diversity.  There are fiscally conservative Democrats who are socially liberal.  Socially liberal Democrats who are economically more conservative,  and we want every one of them to believe that the right to vote is essential for one and all.

We can distill this down even more finely: We are the party for the vast majority of Americans, and those who want everyone to participate in our democracy.

Who ARE they?

The Republicans are the party of the 1%, a party which embraces the interests of Wall Street and the financial sector.  They oppose increasing the minimum wage; they oppose equal pay for equal work; they oppose any proposition to make health insurance more affordable, and any plan to allow students to refinance student loans at more affordable rates.  They oppose any regulation of the financial sector, in the face of the Enrons, World Coms, Lehman Brothers and similar debacles.  Ye shall know them by their works.

The Republicans are the party of exclusion.  “Some people” ought not to be included in ‘their America;’  while they speak of divisive politics in sneering tones,  it was their idea to peddle the notion that both white and black Americans receiving social services were ‘stealing from the pockets’ of hard working people.  While they speak of the politics of division, it is their adherence to the idea that America is a Christian Nation – in spite of large numbers of non-believers, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and non-evangelicals among us.    The only way their Politics of Complaint works is via the ideological buttress that they are a Persecuted Majority – a more illogical concept is difficult to imagine.

The Republicans are the party of Big Daddy Government.   Hey, African American citizen or Hispanic American citizen – know your place, and it’s not at the precinct polling station.   Hallo, Little Lady – Father knows best. You should have that transvaginal ultrasound procedure, whether you want it or not.  Your employer will decide if you can get affordable contraceptive prescriptions.  Hello, little man – we’ll tell you all those things of which you should be afraid.  Don’t fret, while you’re worried about your job being off-shored to some Asian manufacturing base, Big Daddy will protect you from ISIS, Ebola, the IRS, the Homosexual Agenda (whatever that might be?) and Big Government.

We’ve seen Big Daddy on the silver screen, he was Burl Ives in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.  He’s white, he’s rich, he’s large. He’s a fetishist of the first water.  He will have what he wants when he wants it.  He’s Entitled to what he wants when he wants it.  Not a very appealing character – but he was never meant to be; he’s beyond caring about being acceptable, he’d rather simply be obeyed.

Media and Messages

Forget about seeing the corporate media independently reveal the elitism, or the exclusionism, or the innate authoritarianism of the Right.  Corporations are people, with shareholder value to consider, ratings to gain and advertising to sell.   Witness the disdain with which the chatterati observed the Occupy Movement.   Witness the decline in the popularity of broadcast and print media as sources of news.  It’s in the interstitial  spaces where opportunity lies.

There’s room in the use of one of the oldest axioms of political life: All politics is local.   However, in this world there are two kinds of local: Your neighbors, friends, and physical community; and your social media friends and followers.   Thus far both parties seem to be clutching  a rather old fashioned view of social media – both my e-mail inbox, and the inbox of a Republican friend were overflowing with Send Money Messages (attached to precious little substance) during the last campaign – who’s going to be the first to fully capitalize on the power of social media to DEFINE the opposing party? The opposing party’s candidates?

There are spaces in and among interest groups.  During the recent election I received three glossy mailers opposing a tax increase to support the Nevada Distributive School Fund – all three contained massive misinformation, and all three came from the same source – a combine of Real Estate Interests.  There was precious little tie-in between candidates and the tax issue on display in this little segment of the world.  There should have been. Who should have told me that a combination of corporate interests and Republican allies were opposing more money for schools?

Big Money groups, a product of the highly unfortunate but ultimately predictable decision in Citizens United,  can only drive a message so far. And their range can be constrained by defining them as antithetical to local interests.  For example, a pro-NRA candidate won the Arkansas election for Senator, BUT Washington state voters overwhelmingly passed I-594, an initiative requiring background checks for firearm sales. [MMA]

“[Washington voters] showed that while the gun lobby can intimidate politicians in Washington, it’s a lot harder to intimidate America’s voters,” former US Representative Gabby Giffords said in a statement last night. “This victory for responsibility in Washington State sends a clear message to the other Washington that if Congress is not ready to act to reduce gun violence, voters in states around the country can and will take the matter into their own hands.” [The Nation, 11/5/14]

There’s a message here.  The Big Money NRA took a position antithetical to local interests.

There’s also another space into which the message can be inserted: All politics is national.   There are some newly elected Republicans who could come to symbolize the state of the party. Do your friends and neighbors, physical and social media, relate to this comment from Joni Ernst (R-IA)

“I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”  [HuffPo]

Then there’s newly elected Representative Crescent Hardy (R-NV4) opining on the situation with the standoff between Federal officials and the ‘sovereign citizen’ domestic terrorists on the Bundy Ranch:

“But Hardy also claimed that the BLM and federal park rangers had no right to enforce laws on the property in question. Asked about that odd statement, Hardy cited the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, which he said were ‘part of the Constitution,’ although he acknowledged he couldn’t immediately identify a passage to support his contention.”  [LVRJ]

And who could forget Senator Ted Cruz and his government shutdown, except that he’d very much like to have everyone forget he was for it before he was against it. Remember the headline, “House Republicans Credit Ted Cruz As Government Shutdown Looms?”   He’d very much like for us to forget this, unfortunately for Cruz and the Republicans – it’s still out there.  Who would like to be associated with these three? Some will, and the rock bottom base of the GOP will cling to these characters like quagga on a row boat – the great American middle?  Perhaps not so much, especially if Democrats are capable of defining their opponents before the opponents define them.

A modest example: What might happen if some party activists, or some interest group, or just a small group of independent citizens, put together a Top Ten List of Great Republican Quotes periodically, and sent them to everyone on their “mailing” list – to be forwarded to everyone on the recipient’s “mailing” lists… Or how about a nice Viral Video?  These activities are relatively cheap and depend more on relationships than money – things could get interesting? If a single person shipped off a Famous GOP Quote to everyone on their e-mail list even if it’s a modest five person collection and each recipient forwarded the message to another five … it doesn’t take long to get to some 625 people, 3125 people….

Here’s hoping the Democratic Party in Nevada, and elsewhere, is not depending on the Big Draw of  a Presidential election to create an atmosphere conducive to the Democratic agenda for 2016.  I hope that the candidate recruitment process is going on NOW. That the messaging process is being calculated NOW. And that the penultimate strategy is we have nothing to fear from Republican candidates other than fear itself.

Democrats have a party the leadership of which: Produced 63 consecutive months of economic growth; we have 54 straight months of increased private sector employment; the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1% in October 2009 to 5.9%; the federal deficit has been reduced by 66% since October 2009; the rate of federal spending increases is the lowest (1.4%) since the Eisenhower administration; 95% of Americans pay lower taxes than at any time in the last fifty years; 7 million Americans have health insurance they could not have afforded before the ACA; and the rate of health care spending increases has been less (1.3%) than any year since 1965. [pdf]

Cutting through the Crap from the Noise Machine

No regular viewer of the Faux News Machine is going to believe anything in the previous paragraph.  There is a non-productive tendency to want to answer everything tossed out by the Noise Machine when in fact it may better serve Democrats to let them indulge in their regular tantrums and merely enjoy the ludicrous irrationality.

Perhaps we’d be better served by a narrative about fear – as in we’re tired of being afraid.  When did this nation become such a country filled with shrinking violets that we can become frightened of ONE case of Ebola infection in our entire territory?

When did this nation become so afraid of our own neighbors that we must arm ourselves to the gunwales and tremble before the prospect – highly unlikely – of a home invasion?  (the rate is about 0.42%)  When did we become such a troupe of Wet Pants Dancers that we, all 319,000,000 of us,  don’t think we can stand up to 33,000 wacky terrorists in Iraq and Syria?

When did we become so afraid of “debt” that we can’t even consider improving our physical infrastructure, building schools and libraries, expanding our parks, employing more high school counselors, increasing the capacity of our community colleges and technical schools, improving medical and social services for veterans, investing in medical and scientific research….   There are issues here. Positive, practical issues.  We could use some new voices – voices that aren’t afraid – voices telling us we are the strongest, most productive, richest, and most vibrant nation on the face of this planet – and it’s high time we acted like it.

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The Big Fizzle: How many things can we enjoy watching for the next two years?

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There’s one number that says it all about the mid-term elections in this state (Nevada) and I’d guess it would be comparable to other states as well: 45.51% – that’s the turnout percentage. [SoS]   Voter turnout in 2012 was a nice 80.77%. [SoS]  However, it could have been worse – in the 2010 election the statewide turnout was a miserable 30.12% of active voters. [SoS] Perverse as I am when it comes items in the humor category, there are some things I will find amusing in the next two years as a result of the Big Fizzle.  Here they are in no particular order:

Senator Mitch McConnell may very well want to share more Kentucky bourbon with Representative John Boehner.   Merely because some newly elected senator shares the same party label doesn’t necessarily mean he or she loves you.   Now, who might such hide-bound ideologues like Colorado’s Cory Gardner or the Iowa Pig Snipper Joni Ernst love more? McConnell or Cruz?    As Representative Boehner discovered to his periodic humiliation after 2010, one party can have a majority and still not be able to function like a well ordered caucus.   The Republicans may have figured out how to make the Tea Party candidates more presentable, but they’ve yet to calculate how to make them useful.   I could enjoy watching this scene play out.

Age and craft will be hard pressed to dampen youth and enthusiasm.  There are some wonderfully symbolic things the Tea Party GOP members would like to do – like “repeal Obamacare” however doing so would toss millions of Americans out of the health insurance market, and this won’t be very popular even with the insurance corporations which are now making money off the new customers.   Youth and Enthusiasm will at least want to allow employers to refuse to offer contraception coverage in group plans – enacting this legislation will alienate yet more female voters, especially those of child bearing age – and the husbands who agree with their wives about family planning.

Should McConnell and Boehner retain their leadership positions, they’ll have to face members of their own caucuses who want to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act, defund or dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, disassemble the Department of Education, allow the government to shut down, and impeach the President – for something, anything.  Since for many Republicans history only begins in November 2008 they’ll not remember what happened in the wake of the impeachment debacle of Bill (now wildly popular) Clinton, and perhaps not even remember how unpopular their own shut down was not too long ago.

Kids say the darndest things.   If the nation learned to love Michelle “Loony Bin” Bachmann from Minnesota, they’re going to be equally enamored of “Granny Get Your Gun” Ernst from Iowa, or Cresent “Bundy Boy” Hardy from Nevada.  Politicians don’t get elected without talking, and the more the likes of these two talk the more 24 Carat Comedy Gold will be mined from the veins of Republican politics.

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” spoken by Zara in Act III, Scene VIII The Mourning Bride by William Congreve (1697)   Want to get better turnout in the 2016 elections, especially among women voters?  Keep opposing equal pay for equal work, and opposing insurance coverage for contraceptive prescriptions, and opposing abortion services for women with life threatening pregnancies, and opposing affordable student loans for the women’s children, and opposing increases in the national minimum wage …. that should do it.   And, while we’re being poetic –

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”  Robert Browning (Andrea Del Sarto)  The aforementioned activities like government shut-downs and impeachments are difficult to stop once the Beltway Bovines start moving as a herd.  A free, headlong rush of cattle/Congressmen in a mass impulsive action, makes for great television. The networks will be only too delighted to broadcast these events.  But then there was the Gallup polling which reported the following on December 24, 1998:

“Despite the fact that he is only the second President in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives, President Bill Clinton received a 73% job approval rating from the American public this past weekend, the highest rating of his administration, and one of the higher job approval ratings given any president since the mid-1960s.”

I’m sure the President would like to see a 73% approval rating.  Then there was that 9%-11% Congressional approval rating after the government shut down of 2013.  That would be a drop from the current 14% rating. How low can they go?

Be careful what you wish for,” or was that the title of a Jeffrey Archer novel?   Okay, the Senate will be controlled by the Republican(t) caucus.  Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell has already offered some timely advice under this heading to the Republicans in Congress:

“I think the Republicans, be careful what you wish for, because if they win the Senate, they better do something, they better send the president some responsible pieces of legislation or they’ll get crushed in 2016,” the former Democratic governor said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

And what might that “responsible” legislation be? If we assume the newly elected Representatives and Senators want to stay in office?  69% of American voters want an increase in the minimum wage. [HuffPoGallup did a bit of polling of working women and found the #1 issue among them was equal pay for equal work, none of the other items in the open ended poll came close to the 42%.  We’ve known since last July that 92% of gun owners support universal background checks. [TheHill]  One could ignore these, or one could “get crushed in 2016?”

Get the popcorn buttered.

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