Looking for meaning

Voters in slightly red Washoe County joined populous and blue Clark County in rebuking Trump and his minions last week, decisively rejecting Dean Heller and Adam Laxalt. While rural Nevada predictably voted for the Republicans in huge numbers, the urban counties also voted relentlessly in the mid-terms, motivated, no doubt, by Trump’s white nationalism, misogyny and anti-immigrant hysteria.

We can’t expect insensate Trump to understand that he must change his racist, xenophobic, hateful language. He’s not capable of it. But one of the most troubling aspects of the Trumpian regime is how few Nevada Republicans are willing to denounce him for it. I can’t think of a Republican leader who has done so, unless you count the time Dean Heller “vehemently” opposed him for a moment after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced. By last month, Heller couldn’t stop fawning over Trump, welcoming him to a campaign stop in Elko by proclaiming “Everything you touch turns to gold.” But Trump’s golden touch and rural Nevada couldn’t save Heller from defeat. What a relief.

Since Republican office holders won’t denounce him, it’s not surprising that Trump’s words and actions become normalized. Look no further than the elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, who thought it perfectly appropriate to dress up for Halloween this year as a MAGA border wall. Another group of teachers dressed as stereotyped “Mexicans” in serapes, sombreros, sporting fake mustaches.

Imagine if you were a Latino child or parent who encountered these teachers at school. The district’s superintendent called the costumes “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” and after a national uproar, put the 14 teachers on paid administrative leave. The fact that the teachers thought their costumes were funny and not racist and hurtful is beyond appalling, just like our President.

Despite losing badly to Trump-obsessed voters in rural Nevada, Democrats were elected to all but one statewide office and increased their majorities in the Legislature. Although Nevadans have a strong tradition of voting for the person, not the party, this year, many voted a straight Democratic ticket, sending a message to Republicans to get off the Trump train and stop demonizing immigrants and start protecting our health care.

The Affordable Care Act was a big mid-term winner as the new House of Representatives will surely not entertain any notion of “repeal and replace” or abandon protections of pre-existing conditions. Voters in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah easily overrode their Republican elected officials and agreed to accept Medicaid expansion funding, a clear signal of the depth of the longing for health care stability throughout the nation. Democratic governors will also take over in Kansas, Maine, and Wisconsin and likely work towards expanding Medicaid in those states, too. These electoral wins will result in access to health care for nearly 500,000 Americans and potentially rescue many rural hospitals.

Finally, one under-told story of the election was the focused, difficult work of motivating and broadening the base of underperforming voter groups, such as youth and communities of color conducted by PLAN Action, political arm of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Native populations turned out in record numbers, no doubt aided by new polling places, and by cultural events held on-site and by visits to their homes on and leading up to Election Day.

The work’s not over though. We need to keep the Democratic coalition engaged because it’s not going to be easy to defeat Trump’s Republicans in 2020. They demonstrated they will not stray from their party when they re-elected two Congressman facing federal indictments and, in deeply red rural Nevada, a dead pimp. Nevada can be proud of this year’s overwhelming progressive victory, but we must recommit to building a better future by continuing to elect political leaders who won’t follow Trump down the rabbit hole.