If you've been following this blog for a while, you may have noticed... there's been nothing to follow for a while. Mostly that's because politics, the favored topic of discussion around here, has been so damn depressing of late. But with early voting now started in Nevada, I do feel compelled to write about an important issue -- the Senate race between Democratic incumbent Harry Reid, and Republican challenger Sharron Angle.
If you live in this fine state, you've almost certainly received a ton of direct mail pieces from both candidates (or their allies). Unless you've been living under a rock, you've been unable to avoid the deluge of attack ads on TV. In more than 20 years of actively following politics, I can't personally recall an election cycle that involved more mud being slung than this one.
For those Nevadans who have not yet decided how to vote, and especially for those who may have decided to cast their votes for Nevada's unique "None of these candidates" option in protest, I would like to offer a few thoughts for your consideration.
First, please consider this political reality: either Sharron Angle or Harry Reid will be elected this year. There is no other viable candidate, period. No matter whom you may throw your support behind, nor even if you register a protest with "None of these candidates", there are only two possible outcomes. Given that reality, it behooves one to consider which outcome is most desirable. Or, perhaps, least undesirable. And, once that determination is made, give consideration to whether your vote will make your preferred outcome more or less likely to occur.
As the incumbent, Harry Reid's re-election is the default outcome of the election (not, of course, as a matter of law, but as a practical matter it is his election to lose). The only thing that can prevent Reid from being re-elected is if Angle is elected instead. So the question really boils down to a simple one:
If you want to see Harry Reid re-elected, vote for anyone at all except Sharron Angle. If you do NOT want to see Harry Reid re-elected, then you MUST vote for Sharron Angle.
Many people in this state are unhappy with Harry Reid, and do not wish to vote for him, but also do not wish to associate with Mrs. Angle. I understand this position. I really do. I find Sharron Angle to be a distasteful candidate, and I actually agree with many of her positions which her opponent has attacked repeatedly (while those positions I agree with can easily be reached through principled critical thought processes, I am not at all confident that Mrs. Angle has done so, alas).
Mr. Reid portrays his opponent as "too extreme for Nevada" -- his entire defense rests on instilling fear of Mrs. Angle in the electorate. He knows that many people are unhappy with him, so he is relying on making his opponent out to be far worse (downright scary, actually) in the hopes that if you won't vote for him, you at least won't vote for her either.
Even if you do think that Mrs. Angle's positions are "too extreme", however, please consider this. Harry Reid is not merely the incumbent Democrat for Nevada. He is senate majority leader, the TOP Democrat in that body, part of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate responsible for driving their party's agenda at the federal level. He is presumably in no danger of losing his leadership position if re-elected. So, if you like what the Democrats have done so far, his re-election will certainly help to bring more of it in the future. But then, if you like what the Democrats have done so far, you're probably going to vote for Harry Reid anyway.
On the other hand, should Sharron Angle be elected, she would be one of the most junior members of the senate (from either party). It appears increasingly likely that the Republicans will be unable to achieve a majority in the senate this year, so she would be one of the most junior members of the minority party -- let alone, one who reportedly does not get along well with party leadership in Washington -- and so her positions, no matter how "extreme" they may be, would have virtually no impact on the agenda in Washington.
Put another way: Harry Reid has the power and influence to get what he wants in Washington. If you want what he wants, then his election would be a good thing for you. Sharron Angle would have very little power and even less influence in Washington. If you don't want what Harry Reid wants, Sharron Angle is still a "mostly harmless" alternative even if you find her positions scary.
So, why not just vote for "None of these candidates", if you don't like either of your options?
Simply this: a vote "against" Harry Reid only really counts if it takes the form of a vote for Sharron Angle.
Voting for anyone else may deny Mr. Reid a majority of the votes, but he doesn't need a majority to win.
He just needs to get more votes than Mrs. Angle.
So a vote for anyone other than Reid or Angle is effectively a vote to let other people decide the outcome. I wish that weren't true, because this country desperately needs an alternative to the Democrat/Republican duopoly on political power. But unfortunately that is the reality of the situation.
One other "big picture" pitch for you -- if, like me, you're unhappy with the agendas of both parties, then the most dangerous situation we can have in government is one-party control, which we've seen over the past two years as the Democrats have been running the whole show. The safest form of government is divided government, where the built-in system of checks and balances that is the genius of our constitution can provide protection not just against the encroachment of one branch of government upon the power of another, but against one ideology reigning unfettered across the land. Since the White House is under the control of Democrats for at least the next 2 years, Congress must for the good of the country go to the Republicans during that time. As I said, I don't think the senate will actually change hands this year, but any erosion in the Democratic majority in that chamber will be helpful in restoring balance, which is reason enough (regardless of the individual candidates involved) to vote Republican in this election.
Thanks for reading (if you made it this far...) Topical, thoughtful comments are always welcome.