A letter to the future
As I visited my one-year-old grandson in Washington D.C. recently, just as Mueller’s arrests began to dominate the national news, I wondered how we will explain these dark and treacherous times to him a few decades down the road. I’ll tell him it was a year when every one of us had to make a choice about speaking up and taking action to resist the racist, sexist and immoral policies of a major party on the brink of destruction. I’ll describe the moments of individual and collective conscience which separated those willing to stand up for the values of our democracy from those who hoped their silence would shield their power and position.
I’ll tell grandson Jack about Republicans like Senators Flake and Corker who denounced a President whose lies and incompetence became more than they could bear, although in choosing not to battle for re-election they essentially conceded defeat. Some called them cowards for giving up, while others lauded their courage in speaking the truth to a polarized nation. At the very least, I’ll tell him they deserved credit for recognizing that silence in these turbulent times is complicity, even if their actions in resistance to Trump were less courageous than their words.
Since Jack comes from a pioneering Nevada family who immigrated from Europe many generations ago, and a Latino family from El Paso with strong bi-national ties along the Mexican border, I know he’ll be interested in Nevada’s Republican leaders who decided the 2018 elections would best be manipulated by putting a bogus “sanctuary city” question on the ballot, hoping to draw xenophobic voters to the polls.
But I’ll also tell Jack, whose family on both sides is deeply Democratic, how Nevada had a few Republicans, like Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who were willing to speak up against the cynical and disgraceful tactics of their own party in an effort to overturn the voters’ decisions through baseless recalls that further undermined the public’s trust in the political process. I’ll relate the story of Gov. Sandoval, who much like a previous Republican Governor, Kenny Guinn, became more and more moderate the longer he was in office. Sandoval denounced the recalls as “dangerous” and decried the “mean-spiritedness politics” of fellow Republicans Clark County Sen. Michael Roberson and Lt. Governor Mark Hutchinson, who traded their integrity for fleeting power. I’ll draw Jack’s attention to our Washoe County Sens. Heidi Gansert, Ben Kieckhefer and Don Gustavson, who endorsed these tactics through their silence.
It won’t make me proud to talk to Jack about the unprecedented attacks on the free press in our country as Republicans ranted about “fake news” whenever a reporter wrote something they didn’t like. In Nevada, in the richest of ironies, Roberson became Trump’s mini-me by attacking his own favored tactic of demonizing political opponents, issuing a press release in the midst of the madness he created, proclaiming “Politically-motivated slander is gutter politics, it drags everyone down and shows the true character of an individual.” Indeed.
Finally, I’ll tell Jack what Nevadans—hopefully—did to take back their democracy. Republicans left their party or actively engaged in the internal battle to restore its soul. Donors shut down the campaign money train for Roberson and his Senate Republican colleagues in response to the recalls and the racist sanctuary city measure. Citizens set aside their disillusionment and voted Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei out of office, heeding Gloria Steinem’s sage advice:
“We must not only vote but fight to vote. The voting booth really is the one place on Earth where the least powerful equal the most powerful.”
2018 must be a year of political courage and action in Nevada and in the United States. Jack and all of us have everything to lose.