A mixed bag

The 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature is behind us. We learned some lessons this time around. Probably everyone did, and they're certainly not the lessons we usually learn and forget by the time the next election rolls around.

One of the first things we learned is that there are people on the ground, closer to the action and the strategizing than the press is, and that what is happening behind the public scenes is at least as important as what happens in the halls.

Think that sudden change at the end of the session to the law regarding prevailing wage on school wasn’t planned months in advance to get recalcitrant Democrats in line to pass the governor’s budget? Many Democrats in the state are as conservative as Republicans, and they all had to be in line to get the two-thirds majority required.

Not to get in the business of predictions, but this session showed like no session before it the danger of candidates making promises to constituents. The only promise that should legitimately be made is, “I will consider all circumstances that arise at the time I vote before I say how I will vote on a particular issue.”

It’s far better to run on integrity than to run on a dogmatic position—like “no new taxes”—because then, changing circumstances that are beyond an individual’s control don’t box a candidate into a no-win position of either giving up dogma or the appearance of giving up his or her integrity. This is quite literally the reason voters place all politicians into one big bucket labeled “liars.”

Some Assembly Republicans are going to have a tough time running on their integrity as Republicans committed to smaller, more efficient government. Nevertheless, as Nevadans, we have to appreciate their service to the state. They’ve certainly made their own lives harder in the future, particularly if they had hopes for advancement in the political realm.

Again, a mixed bag: Weep in one hand and put our gratitude in the other and see which one fills quicker.

On the other hand, the Republicans who voted with their dogma by and large relegated themselves to the second team, unable to negotiate for the best possible outcome for their constituents because their line in the sand was drawn too far to the right—and too far in advance. While their efforts to undermine the entire governing process may have been admirable from an “integrity” standpoint—and we say that without irony—their dogma forced them into positions where they were only representing themselves, unable to compromise, and creating a committed opposition with their histrionics.

We’re mainly talking about Michele Fiore’s behavior in favor of guns on campus, but Ira Hansen often exhibited a similar self-deprecation, with, for example, his last-minute pouting press conference in which he complained about how the Republican assemblymembers who weren’t expected to vote his way were unavailable for bullying.

We’re already gearing up for the presidential election. It’ll be interesting to see how this dogma-versus-integrity quandary plays out on a national level this year.