“Once you consent to some concession,
you can never cancel it and put things back the way they were.”
Nevadans with a sense of history may remember that once the eccentric billionaire decided to de-Mob Las Vegas and make the Strip a safe bet for legitimate businesses, there was no turning back. Once the crime families conceded their turf to corporate investors and honest mid-level management, their days of doing business the old way were numbered. It was in with the new — and out with the profit-skimming Cosa Nostra-style thugs.
A parallel may one day be drawn in Nevada’s political annals to yesterday’s concession by ultra-conservative activist Chuck Muth who yesterday finally admitted that his efforts aren’t succeeding. His tactics of getting potential “Tax Pledge” signers to swear allegiance to that holy document anointed by “Boss” Grover Norquist and then holding their feet to the proverbial fire at the first sign of thoughtful individual consideration are simply not working anymore.
(One reason the Pledge has lost its bite is that Muth, once called the Godfather of the Tax Pledge in Nevada, delights in publicly ridiculing lawmakers including name-calling and spreading idle gossip, even on issues that have nothing to do with the Pledge. As a result, the document and what it stands for has become tarnished. As Muth’s credibility has diminished, so has the credibility of the Pledge, by association.)
And so it is that in his regular “Muth’s Truths” missive (4/27/15), the sometimes-Republican and always libertarian activist acknowledged that Governor Sandoval and a majority of Republicans in the Nevada Assembly will join together to pass Governor Sandoval’s budget, including some mix of new business-generated tax revenues. Muth’s concession was followed by his usual clarion call to mount primary campaigns against anyone who votes in favor of Sandoval’s service-preserving, education-reforming spending proposals.
It is an empty threat.
Muth’s recall efforts are faring poorly against conservative Speaker John Hambrick and other Republicans who blocked his attempted de facto takeover of the Caucus. There is a dwindling amount of Muth-enforced muscle in his beloved game of “Mob-style” political intimidation.
Being a conservative is something to be proud of, and voting one’s conscience is a hallmark of good Republicans everywhere. Muth’s beloved Ronald Reagan and Sandoval’s mentor Paul Laxalt were GOP leaders who often advocated for fiscally conservative restraints — but they also both supported tax increases as governors of their respective states (California and Nevada) when they believed the circumstances called for it.
Signing a “pledge” or a conceptual promise to never under any circumstance vote a certain way flies in the face of the American spirit of individualism and self-determination. Those who stick to their political guns ought to do so out of conviction. When they do, they may not always find agreement but they will usually find they have earned the respect of their colleagues and voters alike.
The vote of a conservative should be informed by a thoughtful consideration of the facts at hand and not because someone shouts out in a Caucus meeting room, “That’s a violation of the Tax Pledge!” The lawmakers who deserve the most respect are those who push the red or green button for their own reasons — and who don’t allow themselves to be manipulated by those who benefit financially from their “no” vote, as Chuck Muth does (via his non-profit organization, Citizen Outreach, which no doubt receives a generous donation from Grover Norquist’s non-profit each year).
I know of what I speak.
In my first legislative session in 1997, I was the lone vote against the final budget. I voted nay out of conscience and in a moment of considerable angst on the Floor of the Assembly. I hadn’t signed a piece of paper pledging to do anything specific, and I wasn’t looking over my shoulder to see whether some loud-mouthed activist was watching, ready to mount a primary against me because I was some sort of ideological infidel. I did what I believed to be right at the time, and I slept well that night.
Nevada is the Battle Born State, and budget battles once again lie before us. Nevada’s future will be better — and the journey far more honorable — if each legislator keeps the courage of his/her own convictions as he/she works through the deliberations and pushes his/her own button.