Midterm Election Recap: Playing the Blame Game

Rather than point fingers at others for getting trounced on Election Day, Democratic voters should look in the mirror

Illustration by Jon Estrada

Illustration by Jon Estrada

After Democrats got pummeled at the polls Tuesday in Nevada, many are asking: So who’s to blame? Let’s start with the list of who will be blamed:

President Barack Obama. In October, no less a liberal and frequent critic than Paul Krugman called Obama “one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history” in a little known scholarly journal, Rolling Stone. But when Senate Democrats asked Obama to hold off on issuing major rules changes on immigration because it might hamper their re-election efforts, he went along with them—the latest step in leading many liberal Democrats and interest groups to decide the president was hopeless and to stay home rather than voting. Meanwhile, in Nevada House District 4, one of the congressional districts that has most benefited from Obamacare, voters punished Steven Horsford, who wasn’t in Congress when Obamacare passed but continued to support his constituents receiving the federal help they wanted.

U.S. Senator Harry Reid. He didn’t push for more than token opposition to Governor Brian Sandoval’s slam-dunk reelection, choosing instead to concentrate on protecting his majority leader position in 2014 (and his senator post in 2016 when he’s up for re-election). And how about Reid’s dopey idea of having a Hispanic woman (Lucy Flores) high up on the ticket to attract Hispanics and women? Why would Hispanics want to support a Hispanic? Why would women want to support a woman? How silly of him. When Reid interferes in state and local politics, some Democrats grouse about it. Now they’ll complain that he did too little.

The Culinary Union. Union local head-turned-national leader D. Taylor ripped Obamacare, and his successors decided to teach Democrats a lesson for their actions regarding issues dear to the union—you know, like passing legislation to enable illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s privilege card and send $50 million to school districts to help English language learners. The Culinary also joined the AFL-CIO in selling out the teachers’ union on Question 3, the margin tax/education initiative. Local 226 political director Yvanna Cancela attacked state Democrats for taking $20,000 from Station Casinos; considering the Culinary took a powder until finally embracing Horsford, because he’s “family”—too late, as it turned out—well, gall is more than a kind of bladder.

The Media. The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s political coverage has been a right-wing lovefest for several years. So, now the media are to blame? Reid overcame the R-J’s disgraceful “reporting” in 2010, and Obama easily carried Nevada twice. Apparently, in 2014, Nevadans took the R-J seriously for the first time.

Bad Candidates. Like Jeff Hinton, a teacher of the year and ex-Marine who lost to Cliven Bundy-enabler Michelle Fiore in Assembly District 4. Like Kate Marshall, a solid treasurer who lost the Secretary of State battle to Barbara Cegavske, who will reward the Culinary by pushing for more stringent voter identification laws to reduce the union’s turnout in 2016. Like Ross Miller, who lost the attorney general’s race to his legal and intellectual superior, Adam Laxalt, whose own law firm called him “a train wreck.”

Republicans. They drove more people to the polls, learned from Democratic success with social media and had a message. Democrats can complain all they want that the message from Republicans was that they would prefer national failure to Obama’s success. At least it was a message.

Now, stipulating the Culinary’s suicidal decision, let’s talk about who’s really to blame: Democrats.

In 1998, on the cusp of becoming Senate Democratic whip, Reid almost lost to John Ensign, and the party gave a pass to Republican governor candidate Kenny Guinn until then-Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones entered the race at the last minute. In 2002, Republicans swept the state ticket. In 2006, Democrats who hadn’t supported Dina Titus in the primary and northerners who resented Southern Nevadans decided Titus was too liberal for them to be governor and she lost to Jim Gibbons, who was to Nevada what lava was to Pompeii. In 2010, they let the Tea Party captivate Republicans and independents (who should’ve known better). By doing so nationally, Democrats gave Republicans control of redistricting for the decade—which is why the GOP will control the House until at least 2022.

Were all of those events the fault of Obama or Reid or the media or the Culinary? No. Was it not so much a Democratic failure but a Republican success? To a degree. But Democrats in Nevada have a history of dividing when they need to be united, and staying home when they need to be everywhere else. It’s appropriate that Britney Spears has a residency in Las Vegas because, oops, they did it again.

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