Dueling conventions

While Democrats were tossing chairs and hurling insults at party officials at their convention in Las Vegas, Republicans in Reno were busily, although more civilly, approving the dismantling of key parts of federal and state government.

More than 1,000 Republican delegates approved their party platform without any discussion of the various planks, which featured radical measures such as abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and defunding the Affordable Care Act, along with meaningless gestures like declaring English as the official language of the country. They also decided to eliminate the minimum wage and prevailing wage laws, privatize student loans and oppose Common Core curricula, support Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste dump, and implement voter-identification laws. Delegates also strongly opposed Question 1 on November’s ballot, the background check initiative, instead proudly declaring their support for a “God given right to keep and bear arms.”

They also passed a resolution denouncing the governor and every other Republican legislator who voted last year for the Commerce Tax, a small tax on the largest businesses in the state which funded many improvements to education. Naturally, they didn’t list the programs they’d like to eliminate along with the tax.

It’s no wonder Governor Sandoval decided to skip the convention.

But Republicans actually claimed the high road this year since they weren’t throwing chairs at the stage or screaming obscenities at the dais as some of Bernie Sanders’ supporters gleefully disrupted the proceedings at the Democratic convention. The chaos of that event came after a lawsuit from the Sanders campaign over convention rules and procedures was thrown out by a judge, and a loss in the organizing war resulted in fewer Sanders delegates being seated.

Sanders supporters refused to accept their situation and the near-riot resulted in casino security shutting down the convention due to safety concerns, a major embarrassment to the party and the state. But no matter. The Sanders zealots carried their grievances into the next day, defacing the state Democratic Party’s headquarters with graffiti of “Fire Roberta” (referencing party Chair Roberta Lange) and simply, although hardly eloquently, “you are scum.”

And we wonder why the average voter doesn’t want to participate in party politics.

Between the out-of-touch Republican platform and the out-of-control Democrats, the parties continue to effectively push voters away from organized political activity, especially during presidential contest years when people are most interested in politics. The caucus structure doesn’t help either, disenfranchising voters who can’t participate and leaving many party members frustrated and even disgusted with a disorganized process that seems to undermine the sanctity of the private voting booth.

Nevada needs to eliminate the caucus and institute a presidential primary in time for the next election cycle, preferably early enough in the presidential contest to matter.Convention rules should be simplified and the process for selecting national delegates more transparent.

If Sanders wants to have any influence on the Democratic platform or priorities, he should agree to step out of a race he can’t win no matter how large of a temper tantrum his supporters throw. By not denouncing the violence and obscene rhetoric of his followers at the Nevada convention, the trickling of supporters who are starting to abandon him may turn into a torrent of Democrats appalled at the antics of the radical Bernie fans who booed Senator Barbara Boxer, left death threats for the chair of Nevada’s Democratic Party, and behaved like churlish children at the convention.

If the Sanders campaign continues to aid and abet these offensive tactics, in a race that he has all but lost, his ability to shape future policy will continue to wane. Better to step down now while he has a shred of credibility and influence left.