Vote Green for the House

Two years ago, there were those who were taken aback by our endorsement of Dean Heller for the U.S. House of Representatives. A Reno Gazette-Journal blog called it “shocking.” We got complaining letters.

For us, a candidate’s actual record always speaks louder than campaign statements. Heller as a member of the Nevada Assembly avoided the social conservatism that has come to characterize his party, he worked with Democrats on important issues, he did not bash public employees like some Republicans, and his voting record was moderate.

The best that could be said for his opponent, Jill Derby, was that she was erratic. While paying lip service to civil liberties, she joined an effort as a Nevada regent to fire a community college president and his aide without a hearing or without even hearing the charges against them. She ran for Congress as a supporter of the Iraq war but avoided the issue. She seemed, in other words, to be running in the wrong party.

Our hopes for Heller were that, as someone with a record of working with Democrats, he could help break the logjam in Washington in which programs are treated as moral issues, with the result that opponents regard each other not as adversaries but as enemies, compromise is regarded not as tactical but as evil, and so Republicans and Democrats can’t work together.

Instead, Heller went to D.C. and, like so many before, was taken over by it, becoming just another social conservative, limiting his ability to act and making him just another ineffective member of Congress. By choosing to be dogmatic, he gave up being a legislator. Nothing made that clearer than the debate over the corporate bailout. Although sitting on the key committee, Heller was out of the loop and the action. He voted against the bailout on grounds that “I cannot with good conscience put Nevada’s taxpayers on the hook for the foolish excesses of Wall Street,” but offered no hope of regulation, antitrust, or other plans to keep the same thing from happening again.

Meanwhile, Derby has spent the last couple of years as Democratic state chair and in this campaign switched positions on the war to get herself straight with voters. It’s unfortunate that she could not have taken that position from intellect or principle rather than from political necessity, because unnecessary wars are a way of life in Washington. If elected, Derby may well have to vote on the use of force. We are less than confident in her judgment on the issue. And the notion that she can take Democrats for granted while going conservative to win is insulting.

So there it is—an unpalatable choice between two candidates who both rearranged their views to become more electable statewide candidates, neither of whom can point to any unpopular but necessary positions they have ever taken. For the public, it is basically a choice between a conservative Democrat and a conservative Republican. Does it matter who wins?

There is an alternative. Cast a vote against the flawed process of the two parties. Green Party candidate Craig Bergland has dedicated his activism to building up his party and comes closer to being a Democrat than Derby. He talks in specifics about making Nevada the “Solar State,” and unlike his opponents he did not change who he is to run for office. Perhaps he can send a message to Democratic leaders to stop running as Republicans. Democratic voters in New Mexico have used their state’s Green Party for exactly that purpose.

Maybe the two-party system can be taught to offer choices again.