Nevada went red. That sucks.
If only the Democrats had recruited a top-tier candidate for governor.
If only Question 2 had been on the ballot in 2012 instead of 2014.
If only working people had shown up at the polls and voted their interests.
As I walked into Hunter Lake Elementary School to vote last week, I was as apathetic about my choices as I’ve ever been. I left five races blank and voted for “none of these candidates” where I could, not willing to cross over to any Republican candidate this year. I wasn’t surprised when I woke up the next day to the tsunami of Republican wins, but I felt sick as I surveyed the damage.
We lost some of the best progressives in elected office. Steven Horsford, well on his way to becoming one of the best members of Congress Nevada has ever had, lost to a Cliven Bundy supporter who will set Nevada’s image back a century or two in the nation’s capital. Horsford lost because Democrats in North Las Vegas didn’t vote, and Republicans in rural Nevada did.
The state Assembly flipped to the Republicans for the first time since 1986, and we lost some of our best people and future leaders. Skip Daly, Jason Frierson, Andy Eisen, Steve Yeager, James Healey were defeated. The state Senate went Republican, too, as did every single constitutional office. All red.
One of the biggest disappointments of the election was the defeat of Question 2, the constitutional amendment to remove the special tax protections of the mining industry. The measure had bi-partisan support but failed when urban voters didn’t show up to vote while rural voters made a point of it.
Elections have consequences, and Nevada will suffer or benefit from these results. We’ll know soon enough.
As Democrats in the Legislature move into painfully smaller offices and grapple with losing all their committee chairmanships, maybe they’ll decide to become an opposition party instead of a Sandoval cheering section. Hopefully, they’ll listen more to their progressive base and stop blindly following their professional consultants down the losing path of complacency and lobbyist cash.
As Republicans giddily start exercising their power, they’ll try to push through all the proposals they insist have been stymied by the Democrats for years—eliminating prevailing wage, construction defects reforms, voter ID. They’ll work to promote vouchers and charter schools and do all they can to weaken collective bargaining and the state pension system.
There will be scant excuse for failure since they now control both houses of the Legislature and have the governor in their corner. Sandoval made an election season promise to reform Nevada’s antiquated tax system and better fund education, but it’s hard to see how that will happen unless he plans to further tax citizens while letting corporations continue to have a free ride.
Republicans will discover it’s hard work to effectively govern, especially if the Democrats drop their “pat each other on the back/we all get along so well,” demeanor and engage in real political debate again.
There’s plenty of potential for the Republicans to disintegrate into a public intra-party feud as the Tea Party faction becomes vocal and demanding. Leadership understands they won by successfully hiding their more radical versions of themselves and will want a more practical approach to governing for the long term.
The surprising small spark of Democratic success last week came in the Reno City Council elections where Democrats now hold a majority of four seats and a solid voting bloc when aligned with non-partisan Hillary Schieve who won the mayor’s race.
Maybe growing the party’s elected officials from the ground up and establishing a progressive track record at the local level is the best approach to 2016.
It might be the only one.