Issueless campaign

Where do they stand?

Democrats at their recent convention took home material designed to attack Dean Heller, as with “REPEAL & REPLACE DEAN HELLER” signs, not to educate the public on where their own candidate—Jacky Rosen—stands.

Democrats at their recent convention took home material designed to attack Dean Heller, as with “REPEAL & REPLACE DEAN HELLER” signs, not to educate the public on where their own candidate—Jacky Rosen—stands.


Thanks to Trump, being a Democrat can be enough to get elected

On Monday of this week, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jacky Rosen sent out a news release to reporters headlined, “Rosen Campaign Announces $3.5 Million Raised in Second Quarter of 2018: Jacky Rosen’s record-breaking fund raising is the most ever raised for the second quarter of an election year in Nevada for a U.S. Senate race.”

That was sent out a few minutes after her latest attack on Republican candidate Dean Heller over health care: “Heller Still Trying to Pass His Radical GOP Health Care Plan: Sen. Dean Heller: ’We’re still having meetings to this day trying to figure out the best way to get that concept passed. … If we have 51 votes, it’ll come back in a heartbeat.’”

And that was the same morning that the Nevada Democratic Party’s Helen Kalla sent out to reporters a Yahoo article by Andrew Romano that, in spite of weasel words (“If Nevada Dems can keep this trend going”), claimed Reid’s operation is still in business and quotes Kalla: “The much-vaunted Nevada Democratic machine that Harry Reid was leading—we like to say it’s still humming.” Romano never mentions that Reid split the party badly by endorsing moneyed Democrat Steve Sisolak over party favorite Chris Giunchigliani in the governor’s race—or that the Senate race is Rosen’s to lose, nevermind what the Reid “machine” does. The article was accompanied by a photo composite showing Rosen and Reid “together.”

What’s interesting about all this is that few Nevadans know where Jacky Rosen stands. She has attacked Heller dozens, perhaps hundreds of times on health care:

“One Year After Heller Lied About Protecting Nevadans’ Health Care, Trump Will Reward Him with a Private Fundraiser.”

“Heller Refuses to Stand Up to Trump as His Administration Argues Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions are ’Unconstitutional.’”

“Governor Sandoval Wants Senator Heller to Support Bipartisan Health Care Deal, Heller Refusing to Listen.”

“Rosen Campaign Launches New 60-Second Digital Ad Blasting Senator Heller’s Health Care Betrayal.”

“Senator Heller Fails Nevada Families by Refusing to Oppose the Republican Health Care Plan.”

“Jacky Rosen Statement on Senator Heller’s Indecision on Advancing GOP’s Health Care Repeal Bill.”

We requested a copy of Rosen’s health care paper or plan, since none has been issued so far. We received nothing.

Her news releases have mentioned issues only in passing, or as part of attacks on Heller. This week, she sent out the text of a KTVN report on a visit she and Democratic attorney general candidate Aaron Ford made to a Reno mental health clinic. Her only statements were generalities: “I really believe it’s going to be a great partner here for not just the people who need the mental health care, need addiction care, but their families, the caregivers. … Those things that we’re doing can only help to elevate the conversation, and they increase the training or funding, whatever’s needed in each community.”

Presumably, Rosen would want changes in the Affordable Care Act, since few if any Democrats in Congress regarded it as an end result. It was what Democrats could get under the de facto-required supermajority needed in the Senate. But Reid himself, who shepherded the bill through the Senate, said it needs changes and is only a step toward a system without insurance companies.

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said. He said the country needed to “work our way past” an insurance-based system.

Does Rosen agree with that? She hasn’t said.

Since the launch of the ACA in 2013, both the country and experts have learned a lot about how it works. If the Democrats gain a majority in one or both houses of Congress, they will be expected to put that information to work.

Rosen sends daily fundraising mailings to her supporters. They deal with issues in the same way. They have not contained issue papers on, say, education or jobs.

Rosen isn’t the only one. Ford, running for attorney general, would be an important part of Nevada’s public lands and Yucca Mountain team. Where does he stand? Sisolak, a former Nevada Regent, has had trouble in early campaign issues disputes with the state Distributive School Fund, seeming not to understand how it works. Where is he on state parks, affordable housing, corporate welfare, water?

Not surprisingly, these statewide candidates would just as soon get elected because they are un-Republicans than get down in the bog of issues and define themselves.

Political scientist Fred Lokken said it is entirely possible that candidates will not tell voters where they stand this year, that the day of position papers and well informed voters may be a thing of the past.

“We may start to see some of the substance by September,” he said, but it may not be all that enlightening, even then. It is likely to be political party boilerplate.

“All candidates seeking national office are following a schematic consistency, including talking points distributed by [campaign committees] from the House and Senate,” he said. “Campaigns used to be a lot more individualized,” he said.

This kind of one-size-fits-all practice does not exactly encourage innovation or independent thinking.

This is in spite of the fact that new technology lets voters have fuller access to campaigns than they once did. They don’t need to phone or drop by the campaign headquarters to pick up a white paper on housing. A couple of clicks and they’re there—but there is no there there, anymore.

While Lokken spoke with us, he brought up Rosen’s campaign website and found references to 11 issues, but they were not blueprints or plans. The one dealing with health care was 125 words long, immigration took only 93. The name of one issue is so vague it needs accompanying verbiage: “Government reform.” A Rosen mailing sent to her supporters this week with the subject line “News on the ACA” contained just 150 words, none of them laying out how Rosen would improve the law.

It’s entirely possible that in a year of resounding Republican/Trump unpopularity, being known as a Democrat is in and of itself enough to get elected.

Lokken said there is one thing voters can do in the absence of commitments on paper. They should look at, “What has she done?”

However, in Rosen’s case that is not as helpful as it would be in many cases, since she has served just one term. When we made our request, however, that is how she responded—by providing a list of seven health care-related measures she signed onto as co-sponsor and a letter she signed onto asking the Trump administration to probe rising prescription drug costs.

Lokken said that Heller has complicated his own problems. “He was with [Gov. Brian] Sandoval for a while last year, then he went over to Trump. He has the problem of having changed horses in midstream.”