Assemblyman Pat Hickey, a moderate Republican from Reno, learned more than he needed or wanted to know about “gotcha” politics late last month when he made a factual statement about minority voting patterns in Nevada.
“A lot of minorities ... won’t turn out in a non-presidential (election year),” he told a Reno talk radio host. Leading Democrats immediately accused Hickey of attempting to suppress the minority vote, which is absurd.
As a recent Appeal editorial stated, “Presidential election years do bring out more minority and young voters, and that does help Democrats,” also true, but that didn’t stop Democrats from attacking Hickey. “Republicans will do whatever they can to suppress the (minority) vote next year,” said Democratic spokesman Zach Hudson.
Fellow Republicans Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Dean Heller rebuked Hickey. That’s when Hickey compounded his public relations problem by apologizing and noting that he has a “yellow” (Korean-American) wife and “olive-skinned” children. Who is Hickey’s chief PR adviser, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada’s most powerful Democrat?
This is just another small example of the polarized politics that prevail these days. Consider that Hickey is someone Assembly Democrats can work with, a politician who has come under fire from more conservative Republicans and tea partiers such as Appeal columnist Chuck Muth. Like my late friend and fellow columnist Bob Thomas, Muth believes that “compromise” is a dirty word. Both subscribe, or subscribed, to the “I don’t win unless you lose” school of politics.
As a retired diplomat, I have a different definition of winning. If you can achieve 70 percent to 80 percent of your objectives in face-to-face negotiations, declare victory and go on to the next battle. But that’s not what’s happening in Nevada or in Washington, D.C., where polarized politics resulted in a federal government shutdown. Did you notice?
Tea party Republicans in the House have refused to approve a budget that doesn’t kill the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) or delay it for one year. One good thing the tea partiers did was insist that Congress and the White House live by the same health care rules that apply to everyone else. I’m not in love with Obamacare, but it’s just plain stupid to shut down the government if you don’t get your way.
At the same time, I don’t think the shutdown is the unmitigated disaster President Obama and his allies tell us it is. Wisely, Congress exempted the Defense Department from the shutdown, meaning our troops continue to be paid. Seniors will receive their Social Security checks, FAA air traffic controllers remain on duty, Border Patrol agents continue to interdict illegal immigrants attempting to sneak across our borders, and Obamacare’s controversial health care exchanges — which look like a chaotic bureaucratic nightmare — went into effect Oct. 1, as scheduled.
As for the State Department, the American Foreign Service Association sent out the following guidance just prior to the shutdown: “The Department of State has communicated its intent to operate until funds from various accounts ... are unavailable.” Translation: business as usual. The semi-autonomous U.S. Agency for International Development advised its employees that “USAID bureaus and missions will continue to function for a limited period using multi-year funds.” More business as usual.
Polarized politics prevent our elected representatives from doing the people’s business, and that’s deplorable. They should be ashamed of themselves, and we should withhold their pay until they go back to work.
Guy W. Farmer of Carson City is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.