(Chuck Muth) – The recent election of Assemblyman Pete Goichochea as the GOP’s minority leader continues a 15-year Republican tradition in the lower house of raising the white flag before the first shot is even fired.
I became “radicalized” in politics in 1994.
As most of you know….and some Johnny-come-lately tea partiers may have heard about….that was the year that Newt Gingrich and his fire-breathing lieutenants Dick Armey and Tom Delay led the GOP out of the political wilderness for the first time in 40 years. That is, Republicans gained the majority in the United States House of Representatives.
Republicans in the Nevada state assembly that year enjoyed a slightly similar success. They attained a 21-21 tie in the lower house and ended up splitting the leadership duties with the Democrats. Sophomore Republican Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet, was elected co-speaker for that session and was forced into a bi-partisan power-sharing relationship that Hettrick never seemed to shake over his decade as minority leader.
Under Hettrick, Republicans became comfortable in their minority. Being perceived as nice guys who operated in a “bipartisan” fashion – meaning the D’s got whatever they wanted while the R’s got doodley-squat – was the apparent objective. The Hettrick era reminds me of a scene in Clint Eastwod’s “The Outlaw Josey Wales” where Lone Waite, the Cherokee Indian who ended up riding with Wales, explained what happened to him and his tribe.
“I’m an Indian, all right; but here in the Nation they call us the ‘civilized tribe’. They call us ‘civilized’ because we’re easy to sneak up on. White men have been sneaking up on us for years. They sneaked up on us and they told us we wouldn’t be happy here. They said we would be happier in the Nations. So they took away our land and sent us here.
“I wore this frock coat in Washington. Before the war. We wore them because we belonged to the five civilized tribes. We dressed ourselves up like Abraham Lincoln. We got to see the Secretary of the Interior. And he said, ‘Boy! You boys sure look civilized!’ He congratulated us and he gave us medals for looking so civilized. We told him about how our land had been stolen and our people were dying. When we finished, he shook our hands and said, ‘Endeavor to persevere.’”
OK, substitute “Democrats” for “the white man” and “bipartisan” for “civilized” and you have a pretty good idea of exactly what the GOP in the Nevada state assembly has been all about for the last dozen years. Republicans haven’t been fighting for their principles; they’ve been fighting for praise and attention, like a litter of puppies.
Indeed, under Hettrick – with the noticeable exception of the contentious 2003 session – “bipartisanship” was all the rage. Republicans dressed up like Democrats and voted for higher spending and higher taxes and were congratulated for being so bipartisan. The only thing missing were the medals. And as the Democrats worked tirelessly to wipe them off Nevada’s political map, Republicans were endeavoring to persevere.
That’s what happens when you become comfortable with being a minority party instead of being an OPPOSITION party.
Alas, those years under Lynn Hettrick were the glory days for assembly Republicans. He was succeeded as minority leader by Garn Mabey – an accomplished doctor and helluva nice guy who nevertheless brought new meaning to the phrase “politically clueless.”
The indecisive, wishy-washy “Maybe” Mabey made rolling over for the opposition an art form during the ’07 session. The poor guy was so out of touch and out of his league that he was ousted as minority leader during a post-session caucus meeting he should have chaired but didn’t even attend.
That 2007 coup resulted in Mabey being replaced by Reno Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert as minority leader. To her credit, Gansert was able to raise a significant amount of money for her caucus in the 2008 election cycle. On the other hand, she managed to lose enough seats to relegate Assembly Republicans to not just minority status, but super-minority status.
With just 14 seats going into the 2009 legislative session, Republicans didn’t even have the 1/3 needed to block tax hikes…not that Gansert’s Republicans were united in philosophical opposition to tax hikes. Indeed, Gansert and six of the 14 members of her caucus kicked off the 2009 session by voting for what was, at the time, the third largest tax increase in Nevada’s history – a tax hike on, unbelievably, the very lifeblood of our state’s economy: tourism.
To be honest, Heidi did provide a level of leadership totally absent under the hapless Mabey. Unfortunately, however, she most often led her troops in the wrong direction – again, all in the name of “bipartisanship.”
The bottom line: Democrats were able to increase spending by about a billion dollars right smack dab in the middle of the Great Recession, along with a billion dollars worth of tax hikes to pay for it, with barely a peep of opposition by the supposed opposition party. Indeed, Gansert and her lieutenants were collaborators with the “core group” that plotted those tax and spending increases in secret during the session.
And since Gansert and half of her caucus members voted for those tax and spending hikes last year, GOP candidates running against Democrats this year don’t have those issues to run on. I mean, how can you criticize Democrats for raising taxes and increasing spending when so many Republicans voted to do the exact same thing?
Answer: You can’t. Which is one reason Republicans ended up in a super-minority in the first place….and have every chance to remain there after this November’s elections.
In any event and for whatever reason, Heidi waited until the last minute in March to announce that she wasn’t going to run for re-election this year after all. Two weeks ago she finally relinquished her caucus leadership post. And the gang that couldn’t vote straight, having learned nothing about being an opposition rather than minority party over the last dozen years, turned over the keys to this political clunker of a caucus to….Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea.
These Republicans in the Assembly aren’t just comfortable in their minority; they have a political death wish.
Goichochea continues the tradition of putting nice-guy political ciphers in charge of running the show and coming in last. The book on the new Conciliator-in-Chief:
1.) He’s no movement conservative. He voted for the ginormous budget increase in 2009 and supported that $300 million tax hike to help fund it. And his 2009 conservative rating from Citizen Outreach was a paltry 35 percent – far shy of Ronald Reagan’s 80 percent threshold to qualify as a conservative ally.
2.) He doesn’t have the background or connections to raise anywhere near enough money to finance anywhere near enough winning campaigns.
3.) He’s from rural Nevada and has no understanding of the issues and problems in Clark County where 2/3 of the state’s population lives.
4.) He has no campaign training or experience whatsoever and no known ability in political strategy and tactics.
5.) He has no known connections to or relationships with outside conservative grassroots organizations, especially various new tea party groups.
In other words, we’re screwed.
How bad is it already?
Since his election, the caucus has sent out one press release which was widely ridiculed among political insiders for seeming to indicate that Republicans in the Assembly had finally discovered the Internet! Now THAT’S news. Sadly, in Goichochea’s case, that may have actually been TRUE.
But here’s the worst part:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval has said no tax hikes. Democrat gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid has said no tax hikes. Democrat Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford hasn’t proposed any tax hikes. Democrat Assembly Majority Leader and Lady-in-Waiting John Oceguera isn’t campaigning on a platform of higher taxes. Neither is Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio.
Newly-minted Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea raised the white flag and surrendered last weekend without a tax hike shot being fired by announcing in a Las Vegas Review-Journal story on Saturday that that raising taxes is inevitable.
“If we get a super-minority, then we can negotiate with Democrats on taxes,” Goicoechea explained to capital reporter Ed Vogel. “Some tax increases are probably coming, but if we have a super-minority we will have some leverage.”
The poor guy even has the definition of “super-minority” backwards.
You have a super-majority when you have more than the 2/3 needed to pass tax hikes and override a gubernatorial veto (28 votes). You have a super-minority when you have less than the 1/3 needed (14 votes) to block tax hikes and veto overrides. Republicans hold 14 seats presently and are already in a super-minority. Goicoechea believes that if he picks up one net seat that he’ll have a “super-minority.”
No, he’ll have just a standard, run-of-the-mill, ineffective, powerless, irrelevant minority. There won’t be anything “super” about it whatsoever.
More importantly, why would the GOP minority leader concede the tax issue four months before the elections, let alone eight months before the start or the next legislative session? Thanks to what now constitutes “leadership” in the Republican assembly caucus, we are no longer debating whether or not to raise taxes, but how much we’re going to raise them and on whom.
Lovely. Simply lovely.
Now, other than supporting tax hikes that aren’t “too bad,” can anyone tell us voters exactly what Goicoechea’s and the GOP assembly caucus’ agenda is this year? What issues are they running on which are different from the Democrats? For that matter, what Democrat issues are they running against? Exactly what would Republicans do differently if they were in the majority? What are their legislative priorities? Can they find Carson City on a map? Inquiring voters want to know.
This isn’t, however, entirely Goicoechea’s fault. Actually, it’s the fault of the entire Republican assembly caucus which unanimously elected him as their fearless leader. Another good-natured, bipartisan minority leader who will assure that Republicans remain in the minority this election cycle and get rolled over and over again next legislative cycle.
Ah, our kingdom for a true OPPOSITION leader.