Nevada Democrats should be pleased with themselves. Barack Obama ended up cruising. They gained an Assembly seat and held onto the state Senate. With Steven Horsford’s victory over Danny Tarkanian, they won a House race that pollsters—well, the Las Vegas Review-Journal pollster, who is different from the 2010 pollster but still doesn’t quite get it—thought might go Republican. And they showed that their organization—or “ground game” in the fashionable parlance—is superb.
Nonetheless, the Democrats need solutions to two major problems:
Problem 1: Clark County voted Democratic, but it didn’t really think Democratic. “Clark County faces a rough road ahead as taxpayers refuse to pay for educational infrastructure,” says Dahn Shaulis, a sociologist who earned his Ph.D. at UNLV. “This has been a long-term trend, as anti-intellectual Southern Nevadans choose to invest more in the symptoms (jails, prisons and police) than in the causes (inequality, gambling, a regressive tax structure and a poorly funded educational system).” This was painfully apparent in the election results: The school bond and Henderson library initiatives both lost. If a supposedly Democratic county won’t repair schools there’s a problem.
Further, Clark is the only county Shelley Berkley won in her race against Sen. Dean Heller—and she ran 50,000 votes behind Obama, whose vote paralleled the number of registered Democrats. (Meanwhile, Mitt Romney had about 25,000 votes more than the county’s Republican registration.) If those voting for Obama here had stuck by Berkley, she would be a senator.
Next, consider that Democrat John Oceguera lost to Republican Joe Heck, as predicted, but Heck, too, did better than the GOP registration in his district. It’s easy enough to recite Oceguera’s problems, but it’s this simple: Some who voted for Obama also voted for the gridlock he has been fighting and against improving educational facilities. Which is illogical in the extreme.
Problem 2: The real story in this election isn’t so much the big money as the big lies—and while Democrats stretched the truth, Republicans snapped the elastic. Consider the number of significant lies that Republicans told about the president, our first two-term Muslim Socialist from Kenya who plans to take away our guns, not to mention the money Sheldon Adelson poured into misleading ads about Obama’s Israel policies. Then consider the way in which Romney nearly etch-a-sketched himself out of existence and was generally applauded for it.
At the local level, Heller approved messages about Berkley that were outright lies. Bringing up the ethics investigation and her record was fair game, but she didn’t stick the federal government with a $55,000 bill for a trip to Italy. Meanwhile, Marcus Conklin, who was expected to be speaker, lost his re-election bid, in part from a dishonest hit piece against him.
This kind of thing has been done since the snake campaigned against Adam and Eve. But in the social media-fueled, post-Citizens United world, the old line attributed to Mark Twain is now an understatement: A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. It’s easy to say Obama’s re-election against such forces as Adelson, the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove proves such lies don’t work. But Romney got 48 percent of the popular vote, the aforementioned attack victims lost, and a lot of people sincerely believe such silliness.