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Political stalemate, gridlock responsible for special session

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus
Sen. Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas) conducts a conference committee in the Legislature during the final day of the 82nd legislative session in Carson City on June 5, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent).

Nevadans deserve better of their government, considering just how “purple” we are as an electorate.  

Late Monday, it became clear the legislature would be headed into a special session as many Republican policy priorities remained neglected by Democratic leadership in Carson City. And while it’s yet to be decided what, exactly, the end result of “round two” in the Capitol building is going to look like, it’s safe to assume partisan divides aren’t going to be magically healed even if a deal is struck fairly quickly. 

Welcome to the world of divided government in an era when compromise is viewed as a dirty word by many. 

Political stalemate is, of course, not unique to Nevada — we see similar partisan battles being played out across the nation and in Congress on a daily basis. However, given Nevada’s decidedly complex ideological leanings, the gridlock we’ve seen between the two parties in recent weeks highlights the way our electeds seemingly forget divided government is something more than a mere inconvenience — it’s a manifestation of our state’s mixed political preferences. 

After all, lawmakers are expected to represent their constituents — constituents who clearly aren’t that concerned with party affiliation. As recently as May, for example, voters held a relatively high opinion of the Democratic legislature and the Republican governor, despite the seemingly insurmountable opposition both parties have to the other’s legislative priorities.

As it turns out, whether there is an R or a D next to someone’s name seems to matter a great deal more to our electeds than it does to the voters who put them in office. 

One doesn’t have to look too far to see hard evidence of how unrepresentative both parties have become in our deeply purple corner of the American West as a result. After all, nonaffiliated voters are very nearly the largest bloc of voters in the Silver State — despite demographic trends that would have otherwise suggested a more Democratic-friendly landscape. Both parties have been bleeding voter share in recent years as an ever-larger share of voters don’t feel at home in either ideological camp. 

Or, to put it another way, Nevada is not exactly ready to be a “one party” state, much to the dismay of the Democratic majority and the Republicans who would like to replace it. 

And yet, like much of the political chasm between the two parties on the national level, partisan politics get in the way of the sort of representative government independently minded voters seek. Note, for example, the overwhelming support abortion rights, educational choice policies and even Voter ID have among average Nevadans — and how little partisan crossover there seems to be on such issues in the Legislature. 

Clearly, the partisan battles we see playing out on local and national levels aren’t in sync with the views of the very people our electeds are supposed to represent. Of course, that’s hardly surprising, given the way extreme (unrepresentative) partisan factions have commandeered much of the political process.

Indeed, both parties have seemingly abandoned the sort of “big tent politicking” that used to dominate American politics — with Republicans recently producing candidates so unrepresentative of the broader public, the long-awaited “red wave” of 2022 turned out to be little more than a ripple. In Nevada, Democrats too have had trouble (although, not as much) steering their party away from the ideological fringe, with Democratic socialists recently disrupting the political machinery of Team Blue. 

Given the incentives at play for politicians who depend on their party’s base for re-election — even when that base doesn’t represent the views of the broader public — it’s unsurprising that they would acquiesce to partisan obstinance over truly representative compromise with the opposing party.

It’s for this reason we knew from the beginning that gridlock would be a central component of this year’s legislative session. 

Even though it’s going to take a special session to do so, some deal will be made between our Republican governor and Democratic lawmakers to wrap up legislative business for the year. After all, even the most die-hard partisans in Carson City will want to go home soon, regardless of what policies might die as a result. 

However, the stalemate we witnessed in the past couple weeks illustrates just how difficult it has become to indulge the policy priorities of our two main political tribes at the same time — even when voters have demonstrated an apparent willingness to do so.

Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at or on Twitter at @schausmichael.


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