Hand puppets

When our article about Washoe Assemblymember Ira Hansen’s past writings was being researched, we received a bit of advice that we hold the article until next year and then spring it after he was elected speaker.

It was a non-starter of an idea. We believed that both the public and the Assembly Republicans who planned to vote for Hansen were entitled to have the information in advance of the February vote.

As it turned out, we gave the elected Republicans more credit than they deserved. From all evidence, Hansen’s hateful views did nothing to reduce his appeal to them. Their loyalty to him trumped all. Not one of them publicly withdrew his or her support for his candidacy for speaker. Worse, according to news reports that have not been denied, after Hansen announced he would decline the job, half of them didn’t bother to show up at the caucus where his replacement was selected, instead sending their proxies to—him. He then chose his own replacement as well as other Assembly officers, including the unstable, soft-on-crime Michelle Fiore as GOP floor leader. Hansen also appointed himself assistant majority leader.

That the Assembly Republican Caucus let this happen makes plain, as did their reaction to his racist, sexist, gay-bashing writings, that they embrace his viewpoint and agenda, and that he continues behind the scenes to lead the caucus. Assembly Republicans still look to him for leadership.

Hansen has been defiant in defense of his 19th century views on women, Latinos, African-Americans and gays. Oh, he put out statements with the style of apologies but without the substance. Nothing about them was contrite. Only on his statements about Israel, after a trip there funded by a casino owner and donor, has he admitted error. Otherwise, he blamed others for the fix he found himself in as a result of his backward stances and his shoddy language.

In various statements, Hansen suggested his relationships with individuals within groups mitigated his viciousness toward those groups. He expects his one-of-my-best-brothers-is-gay statement to mollify those who legitimately criticize his hate. But the evidence suggests that his ability to get along with individuals does not for a moment palliate his disdain for the larger group. After all, as we reported last week, Hansen once wrote of his gay boyhood friend who died of AIDS, “Nature has checks and balances built into it; cross those lines, and you will pay a price.”

The fact that Hansen learned nothing, that he still is unable to see how his cruel and reckless words can hurt good people is not the real problem. It is that his fellow Republicans have the same infection.

By keeping Hansen in charge, however covertly, the Republicans are supporting his contempt for wide swaths of the population, and are licensing him to continue translating his odious views into public policy in the name of the people of Nevada.