There are 40 days left in the Nevada Legislative Session. Not that the initial leadership struggles in the Assembly weren’t entertaining, but the decorum on the set appears to be degenerating into sniping sessions worthy of an agitated flock of mockingbirds. There’s something about a gun-packin’ right wing Mama telling a fellow member to “Sit your A___ down” which doesn’t quite fit into the image of Legislative debate. Granted, most of what passes for debate in many sessions is essentially soporific and would cure the most intractable insomnia, but Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-NRA) has perhaps ventured a step too far into the realm of the theatrical. But then we could muse that most of what passes for Issues in this session is just that – political theater.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Political Theater, when used to good effect we get The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the Nixon Checkers Speech, and the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It’s when the theatrical elements are endowed with more significance than the policy discussions that we get into difficulties.
At the point where posture becomes more important than policy we are treated to things like the offering of 11 gun bills in a single session of the Legislature. Some of these bills were predictably extreme – guns galore and guns everywhere! Posturing becomes problematic when the extreme bills are endowed with Sanctity and aren’t part of a compromise process.
In an age of sound bite politics it’s hard to get a good policy discourse going. If all one side is willing to offer is a parroting of “No new taxes,” then discussions about equitable ways to raise revenue for essential public services is diminished. If 2nd Amendment rights may not have any responsibilities attached thereto, then common sense legislation to control the proliferation of firearms and the attendant loss of life becomes a stalemate.
If one side is wedded to the notion that the only way to deliver public services is by corporate interests then nothing of much value gets accomplished.
Combining ideological posturing with election politics simply adds another layer of difficulty to an already delicate democratic process. The fact that SB 169 – a vote suppression bill if there ever was one – was granted an exemption from the Legislature on March 10, 2015 should send chills down the spines of those who are watching the process in the current Legislative session. It’s companion in the Assembly, AB 253, a photo ID bill which carries with it an unfunded mandate among other baggage, is still percolating through the Assembly.
A restricted electorate plus the sound bite politics of posturing isn’t a recipe for rational legislative decision making.