Well, it’s finally upon us – once again, THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIMES!!! Until the next one, that is. Here are a few thoughts before the enlightened among us go cast our votes on Tuesday.
I am a poor political prognosticator, and I find I am happier when I don’t try to predict the future anyway. The things you can’t control, and all that. That doesn’t mean I’m not fascinated by The Editor’s early voting blog, along with several amateur efforts on social media.
Still, I wonder whether we err in publicly publishing early voter data prior to Election Day. Does doing so run the risk of affecting voters who vote later, especially if some race is essentially “called” way before November 6th? I’m thinking of how networks calling Florida for Al Gore before the polls closed may have discouraged some GOP voters from turning out, but it could go the other way – did the rising “red wave” in 2014 depress Democratic voters on Election Day?
Many judges are on the ballot this year, and the constant questions I and other lawyers get from otherwise smart, informed voters is (further) proof that electing judges is dumb. In case you need even more reason to agree with me, look no further than Washoe County Family Court Judge David Humke, who is facing additional disciplinary action (after a previous suspension) for what can only be described as cartoonish dereliction of his judicial duties. Humke would never have been seriously considered in our appointment process, but has name recognition because of years in other political offices. That was enough to squeeze out a win (by less than a percentage point) when he ran against a vastly higher quality opponent in 2014. In spite of Humke being publicly disciplined, I will be surprised if he doesn’t retain the seat in 2020 (if allowed to remain on the bench) — again due to name recognition alone.
Even for an attorney, the choices can be difficult, especially in statewide races. If I haven’t personally appeared in front of or worked with a judicial candidate, had occasion to read his or her orders or opinions (or discussed them with trusted colleagues who have), I vote for “None of the above.” Any other measure of a judicial candidate, including perceived party affiliation or policy stances, is at best irrelevant and at worst misleading.
Based on those criteria, I’ll be voting for Justice Lidia Stiglich and Judge Jerry Tao for the Supreme Court, and here in Washoe County, for Judge Dixie Grossman for Family Court. (Disclosure: I donated this year to Judge Grossman, and in a previous race for then-Judge Stiglich, for the same reasons I plan to cast my vote for them on Tuesday.)
I have a strange fascination with the political signs littering the landscape every two years. People perennially complain about them, but I love ‘em. It’s amazing how much of a candidate’s personality is reflected in the design and placement of those signs, and how much fancier they’ve gotten just in the last decade. And is there a better monument to the raucous glory of free men and women choosing our own government — and of the First Amendment in action — than a bunch of political signs, well, everywhere?
This year has been odd, though, in the signs I don’t see. We have two important, top-ticket races, but you wouldn’t know it by driving around Northern Nevada. I see plenty of Laxalt signs, but very few Sisolak ones. Dean Heller has a surprisingly small smattering, and Jacky Rosen? I can only think of two that I’ve seen around town at all.
Democrats are over-performing their historical numbers in Washoe County this year, and so the sign “metric” probably doesn’t count for anything other than a curiosity. But with at least one study suggesting that political lawn signs can have a small but non-negligible effect in tight elections, I have to wonder whether it might signal some small bit of advantage for Republicans here, especially among independents.
I think breaking up government protected energy monopolies is a good thing in theory. I also think that we should ensure that victims of crime are heard in the criminal justice system. But as I’ve said before, making day-to-day policy via constitutional amendment is foolish and often counter-productive.
Question 1 is an easy “no.” At best, it will have no impact (we already protect crime victims in both our statutes and in our Constitution). At worst, it will divert money away from productive crime fighting or victim-protecting in favor of additional bureaucracy, as happened in South Dakota. And frankly, I really resent alleged drug traffickers coming to our state and lecturing us on how our criminal justice system ought to be run. I recommend Dayvid Figler’s pieces on this issue, even if he is tragically misguided about other topics…
Question 3 is harder, but the fact that energy policy can be so challenging to understand (and the effects of those policies so difficult to predict) tells us why such a policy change is inappropriate for a constitutional amendment or popular referendum.
Governor Sandoval approaches the twilight of his political career as a tremendous success – his state is prosperous and growing, and he’s well-liked and respected across political boundaries. And so it is striking and disappointing that the race to succeed him is so devoid of his influence.
Although the impacts of his policies and leadership will persist, those impacts will endure less because he did not spend enough time or effort cultivating a successor — or a deep bench of future candidates who shared both his policy views and temperament. No matter who wins that race on Tuesday, the next governor will do well to study and emulate Sandoval’s time as the chief executive. And maybe call and ask him a question or three.
Elections are important, and voting matters. This goes without saying, and given the high quality of The Indy’s readership, I’d be shocked if anyone disagrees. I certainly never miss a chance to vote if I can possibly help it.
But we are lucky, here in this Republic (not democracy) of ours, that our votes will have limited impact. For most of us, the identity of the president and members of Congress will not have tremendous influences in our daily lives. We’ll continue to work, to love our kids, to generally be upwardly mobile, speak our minds without fear of arrest, to have opportunities in life we may or may not take advantage of. People will still start businesses if they are motivated to do so.
We do not live in some fascist hellscape, nor are we on the precipice of doing so, and anyone asserting such nonsense is either a con artist trying to scare money out of your wallet or so ignorant of history as to warrant going back to elementary school, Billy Madison style. “The world keeps not ending,” as Kevin Williamson said so well recently in National Review.
State and local officials may have more of an impact (even though we foolishly pay less attention to those races), but even so – most of us do not and cannot track our personal successes and failure by which politician of whatever political flavor goes to Washington or Carson City.
This is a good thing, if we can keep it. (Keeping it is why educated voting matters so much, of course.) The less power we give government, the less the clowns and jokers who inevitably get elected (along with plenty of earnest, well-meaning folks who just make their fair share of human mistakes) can screw with the individual liberty which has created the most ridiculously wealthy and prosperous society this planet has ever known. And just as importantly, the less politics invades every aspect of our lives, the less we feel the need to constantly be at each other’s throats over our political differences – and our culture will be so much healthier for it.
Orrin Johnson has been writing and commenting on Nevada and national politics since 2007. He started with an independent blog, First Principles, and was a regular columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal from 2015-2016. By day, he is a deputy district attorney for Carson City. His opinions here are his own. Follow him on Twitter @orrinjohnson, or contact him at email@example.com.