False equivalence rears its head

Reno’s Christmas week earthquakes gave the city a good shake, perhaps adding a needed jolt of energy to kickstart the 2016 political season.

We can hope the New Year will bring more nuanced and thorough reporting of the most important political race next year, the presidential contest, featuring a narcissistic unqualified blowhard on the Republican side and an experienced stateswoman with a concrete agenda for the Democrats.

We could certainly use fewer articles like the one from Factcheck.org which recently ran in the Reno Gazette-Journal, detailing the “whoppers” from Trump and Clinton as if they were of the same caliber. The Clinton whoppers involved the tired manufactured controversy over her private email account, the never-ending Benghazi investigation that has produced nothing more than a rehash of long-term systemic failures leading up to the tragedy, and a weakly worded criticism of a Clinton statement about charter schools not taking the hardest-to-teach children.

The Trump whoppers were portrayed as the counterpoint to Clinton’s, yet they featured multiple obvious and repeated careless lies from a man who tosses off ridiculous claims with no hint of the necessary filter that elected office demands. Trump’s favorite tactic is to say he “heard” something and present it as fact, even in the face of direct evidence that the statement is false. He makes up his own facts and persists in telling lies to cover up his ignorance and unsuitability for elected office of any kind.

Voters deserve better than this style of “balanced” reporting, which creates a false narrative of equality. Clinton’s political past deserves careful scrutiny but it doesn’t deserve to be compared with Trump’s lies.

Closer to home, we have the spectacle of Republican legislative leaders who should know better conjuring up new attempts to make an unconstitutional bill and illegal regulations meet muster. If they put half as much energy into solving the pressing problems of growth fueled by their tax-giveaways to corporate billionaires as they do in trying to rewrite history to fix their unconstitutional school voucher bill, Nevada would be leading the nation in every positive indicator.

The latest maneuvers include an embarrassing, non-binding resolution passed in last month’s special session. It is intended to rewrite legislative history, belatedly extending school vouchers immediately to kindergartners and children of military families, elements that were never discussed during the law’s original development. Then last week they forced through similar regulations as if that vote could make up for their phantom work product during the session. It might be amusing if the intent to undermine public education weren’t so diabolical.

Surely the Republican leadership was advised by legislative lawyers that the resolution and regulations based on false history won’t convince a court to doctor the law, already constitutionally questionable. This sort of pandering to wealthy, conservative patrons cheapens the legislative institution, and adds to a general cynicism of politics our state and nation can ill afford.

Finally, the clock is busily counting down the days towards March 7, the beginning of filing for Reno City Council seats. Thanks to a recent inevitable court ruling that the scheme to avoid ward voting in Reno general elections violates the Voting Rights Act, the City must change its charter or face an equally inevitable court challenge of the 2016 election results. The ensuing chaos when election results are thrown out by a court and the resulting cost of a new election should be incentive enough to find a quick solution.

Since Governor Sandoval refused to allow the Legislature to take up the issue in last month’s special session, perhaps a state court will provide a judicial remedy. Otherwise, get prepared for a political earthquake to shake things up in a way the power structure may soon regret.