A Democratic landslide, but not in Nevada
Special to the Nevada Appeal
Last Tuesday’s mid-term election may have been a Democratic landslide elsewhere in the country, but not here in Nevada. Nevertheless, President Bush and his Republican allies have only themselves to blame for their devastating losses on Tuesday.
Two main issues – Iraq and congressional scandals – sent Bush and the Republicans to a crashing electoral debacle as Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, elevating Nevada’s own Sen. Harry Reid to the powerful position of Senate Majority Leader. In all, Democrats gained nearly 30 seats in the House of Representatives and won the Senate 51-49 when Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), once a GOP presidential hopeful, lost to anti-war Democrat Jim Webb by the narrowest of margins.
The voters spoke loudly and clearly: They want President Bush to find an honorable way out of the Iraqi quagmire and they want Congress to clean up its act. Last Tuesday’s election could have been subtitled “Republicans behaving badly” in the wake of sordid political scandals involving former House Majority Leader Tom Delay and ex-congressmen Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney and Mark Foley, among others.
Here in Nevada, however, Republicans bucked the Democratic landslide by winning four of the state’s top elective offices: Governor, U.S. Senator and two of our three congressional seats. Rep. Jim Gibbons of Reno – fighting last-minute charges involving a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, an illegal immigrant nanny and a big campaign contributor – defeated Democratic challenger Dina Titus of Las Vegas in the governor’s race, proving that Nevada is still a red state. GOP Sen. John Ensign easily defeated Democratic carpetbagger Jack Carter while Republican Dean Heller of Carson City outpolled Democrat Jill Derby to win the Northern Nevada congressional seat being vacated by Gibbons; however, Ms. Derby ran a strong race in a heavily Republican district. Republican Jon Porter and Democrat Shelley Berkley retained their Southern Nevada congressional seats.
On the other hand, Democrats won four statewide offices – Secretary of State, Treasurer, Controller and Attorney General – to break a GOP stranglehold on state government. I was happy with those results except for Secretary of State, where Ross Miller defeated Danny Tarkanian, who advocated strict voter ID requirements.
After their electoral sweep, national Democratic leaders Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, of San Francisco, sounded conciliatory notes. Ms. Pelosi promised to be “Speaker of the House, not speaker of the Democrats,” and said that possible impeachment of the president is “off the table.” For his part, although he said that “Americans … are tired of the failures of the last six years,” Sen. Reid vowed to work with Bush and Republican colleagues to solve the nation’s problems.
Bush took responsibility for the Republican wipeout and even made some bipartisan noises in a post-election news conference. And more importantly, he recognized the failure of his Iraq policy by firing (at long last) the main architect of that policy, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, and replacing him with former CIA Director Bob Gates, a much less ideological Washington insider. “I recognize that many Americans voted … to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made there (in Iraq),” the president acknowledged. Gates is also a member of former Secretary of State James Baker’s Iraq study group, which will soon make recommendations for a new course of action in that war-torn country. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise as our troops remain trapped in the midst of a bloody civil war between rival religious factions.
Many leading Republicans, including former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, called for some soul-searching. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Armey recalled the GOP “Contract With America” revolution of 1994, which sought to “return money and power back to the American people.” Eventually, he wrote, “policy innovators” were replaced by “political bureaucrats” whose question became, “How do we hold on to power?” And that led to a collapse of fiscal discipline as the GOP became the party of Big Government.
I think Armey is right as too many Republicans have abandoned the core principles that brought them to power in ’94. This is a positive development, however, because both major parties must now seek bipartisan solutions to Iraq, illegal immigration, health care and other pressing national problems. I wish them well.
I was generally pleased with Nevada voters’ decisions on ballot initiatives because I favored an increase in the minimum wage and a statewide smoking ban in places that serve food, and strongly opposed a marijuana legalization measure, which failed on a decisive 56-44 vote. Although the potheads have vowed to return for a third try at making Nevada the first state in the nation to legalize a dangerous drug, I urge them to go home and leave us alone. But I do want to thank them again for spending millions of dollars in our state on their failed initiative. We Nevada taxpayers are grateful.
• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City. He was an election worker last Tuesday.