Remember the golden rule
The publishing deadline prevents me from writing about Tuesday’s election results, but there are already some obvious and painful lessons to be learned from the 2014 cycle.
The endless money unleashed by the Citizens United court decision that gave corporations a person’s right to free speech has overwhelmed our election process, reducing it to an obscene advertising blitz funded by shadowy billionaires. Candidates are now more prone to do the bidding of the moneyed class lest they be denied critical funding or worse, face an opponent with the resources to bankroll relentless attacks. This dynamic has produced an even more apathetic and cynical electorate than we ever thought possible. Even inveterate voters are disgusted.
A compounding problem is that many natural leaders now refuse to run for public office, not able to stomach what must be done in order to compete. Look no further than the Nevada governor’s race for proof where the absence of a credible Democrat at the top of the ticket was a powerful disincentive to vote.
Democrats in the Legislature didn’t help the situation by embracing Gov. Sandoval and his policies so completely. It’s one thing to legislate in a bipartisan manner. It’s another to offer no alternative vision.
If there’s no articulated difference between the parties, why vote? There’s a pervasive attitude this year that it doesn’t really matter who wins the election since “they” are all the same.
Legislative Democrats had many opportunities to present an agenda for the working person. They could have campaigned as economic populists by supporting Questions 2 and 3, making corporations pay their fair share and promising a reduction of the tax burden on working Nevadans. They could have run against corruption in government by banning gifts from lobbyists and demanding real-time campaign finance reporting. They could have offered a serious plan for reforming Nevada’s revenue structure to strengthen education from pre-K to college.
Instead, campaign mailers were filled with platitudes and the same empty promises to “fight for you in Carson City” that hasn’t produced much of anything in the last few years. It’s no surprise young people saw little reason to rally. Minority voters, still mad about the national stalemate on immigration, voting rights, and the minimum wage weren’t willing to engage. Voters, tired of gerrymandered districts that limit their candidate pool, stayed home. Not such a mystery, really.
Tuning out tired campaign themes and messages is increasingly easy. Watch taped television and fast-forward through the commercials. Don’t answer your phone if you can’t ID the caller. Filter out the mailers with the other junk mail that goes straight to the recycle bin. Don’t answer the door.
And ask any candidate about the voter forums where there are more candidates than people in the audience.
Meanwhile Republicans dumped, or hid, their Tea Party inclinations and effectively muzzled their most extreme members. They also turned out their more reliable base in early voting, with devastating precision. But they’re sure to overreach in the months to come, and hopefully voters will react in time for the 2016 elections when presidential and U.S. Senate races in Nevada will provide the contrast needed to motivate progressives to vote.
But it still is mostly about the money.
In the week before the election, former President Bill Clinton came to Las Vegas to try and inspire Democrats to take the trouble to vote. He had just one thing wrong when he told the crowd at the rally a week before the election, “What’s really on the ballot is whether we go back to a trickle-down economy and whether only the rich get the benefits or whether we have shared opportunity and shared responsibility and the same rules apply to one another.”
There’s no going back. We’re already there.