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August 1, 2015

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Sun Editorial:

Who are these guys?

Republican rhetoric doesn’t reflect the reality of where they’ve been

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After two years of no-new-tax pledges and acrimonious just-say-no positions, the Republicans have started to moderate their tone. GOP candidates up and down the ticket are taking softer stances on a variety of issues in an election-year makeover.

As David McGrath Schwartz reported last week, Nevada Republicans recruited candidates in five key state Senate districts who had not signed tax pledges, which were all the rage in the conservative crowd last cycle.

The conservative firebrand in the Senate last session, Sen. Michael Roberson of Henderson, said a year ago that he was opposed to extending taxes that are set to expire. Now Roberson, who is expected to lead his caucus next year, is for extending the taxes.

He told Schwartz that he didn’t think he had changed, saying, “You can be pragmatic and reasonable and a conservative.”

We don’t disagree, but “pragmatic and reasonable” are not words that have characterized the Republican Party in recent years.

State Sen. Mo Denis of Las Vegas, who is expected to lead the Democrats next session, said, “I almost don’t know who these guys are.”

He isn’t the only one, and it’s not just in Nevada. People around the nation have seen Republicans try to shed their rigid ideology for a pragmatic and moderate skin. And frankly, it all sounds a little disingenuous.

Look at the presidential race. Despite all the praise Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney garnered from his most recent debate performance, what was truly notable was how he used his campaign Etch A Sketch to erase the “severely conservative” Romney of the primaries and redraw himself as a Massachusetts moderate.

And although his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, won congratulations for his style in Thursday’s vice presidential debate, Ryan rewrote history in the process, making his party out to be moderate.

Ryan even had the audacity to say that he and Romney wanted to “do big bipartisan agreements” and chided Vice President Joe Biden, saying, “I understand you guys aren’t used to doing bipartisan deals.”

It’s true that Biden isn’t used to doing bipartisan deals — at least in the past four years — because the Republicans have repeatedly rebuffed Democratic attempts to find bipartisan solutions. In the first two years of the Obama administration, Republicans used the power to filibuster in record numbers in the Senate. What have they done since winning control of the House of Representatives in 2010 that was bipartisan? It’s hard to say. After all, it wasn’t the Democrats who walked away from a bipartisan “grand bargain,” created the problems with the nation’s credit rating or stopped needed jobs programs.

Maybe “big bipartisan agreements” means something different to Ryan, who walked away from the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles debt commission. Ryan has been one of the faces of a party in Congress that has obstructed progress by refusing to compromise and demand its way or nothing at all.

The new Republican pitch might sound good, but it doesn’t speak to where the party has been recently. So is this rhetoric or a real change of heart?

“I’m all for people willing to change,” Denis said. “But right now, it’s just them talking about doing things differently.”

Indeed. The nation needs politicians who are willing to consider ideas beyond their own and find ways to work together. This is particularly true in Nevada, where the far right obstructionism has hobbled recovery efforts.

In Nevada’s upcoming session of the Legislature, as well as in Congress, a spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship is vitally important toward not only putting Nevada on a better course economically but for laying the groundwork for future generations.

The question is: Which Republicans will show up?

As voters weigh the candidates on the ballot, they’d be wise to remember the old adage: Actions speak louder than words.

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