Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bonanza Column 181 – Gibbons and the Tea Partiers

While there is a lot you can say about Governor Jim Gibbons, I don't think anyone could accuse him of being: smart, low-profile, or rational.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto correctly refused to join an ill-advised lawsuit filed by some states' attorneys general against the anemic health care reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama. You don't need to agree with the bill to support Masto's logic in refusing – in the unlikely event that the other states' suit is successful, the results of that suit would apply nationwide including Nevada, so there is no reason to expend state resources. Gibbons, naturally, attacked Masto for doing her job and vowed to soldier on alone if need be. He has now started a fund to do that and named a Las Vegas attorney as special counsel to pursue the suit.

Gibbons is not, to my knowledge starting any funds to improve education, hire more teachers, prevent furloughs and outright layoffs of state employees, or for any other purpose that might actually benefit the state.

Instead, the Governor is grandstanding as part of his campaign for re-election. After all, even if the other states' suits were to win, how can he claim any credit for it or curry favor with the tea party crowd if he didn't visibly take action – never mind what's good for the state or where else he might spend his time on business that is actually needed. No, Gibbons, along with Sue Lowden, the massively unqualified candidate for Harry Reid's seat, is out there working the tea party circuit.

There is very little possibility that the Tea Party "movement" will be a major factor in any of this year's elections. A recent study by the Winston Group, a conservative-leaning polling and strategy firm run by the former director of planning for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, found that the portion of the public that identifies with the Tea Parties is around 17%. 65% of Tea Partiers self-identify as "conservative" as compared with 33% of the electorate at large. 81% of Tea Party respondents expressed very little approval of Barack Obama's job as president, which exceeded disapproval levels held even by Republicans (77%) and conservatives (79%).

All this suggests that the Tea Party crowd is comprised predominantly of ultra-conservatives, and that despite their insistence that they are the "real Americans" who will "take their country back," they are in fact a fringe movement whose views are not shared wholeheartedly even by others who are with them on the right side of center. One has to question, then, the wisdom of Gibbons' aligning himself with the movement and with Lowden, whose record in business is already being exposed as at odds with her stated positions as a candidate.

The Tea Partiers, though, are right about one thing – it's time for a change. Gibbons and his GOP crowd have failed to lead in Nevada – we remain at the bottom of the heap in education, we have record unemployment levels, and are failing to attract new business to the state. Rory Reid, the leading Democratic candidate for Governor, is young and largely untested, but if you listen to what he has to say, there is at least the possibility of something different. His father, Harry Reid, is, of course also up for re-election to the Senate, and has done more for Nevada from Washington than Gibbons (and for that matter the ethically-challenged John Ensign) have come close to doing. Reid's seat is one area where we don't need, and can't afford change.

But as for Gibbons, remember the old saying – if we don't change our direction, we're liable to get where we're headed – and on almost any measure you can hold the Governor accountable for, where we're headed ain't pretty.

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