Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Jon Ralston:

Inmates prepare to take over GOP asylum

Republicans in Nevada have a lot to smile about these days. But, in the comedy show that is this state’s politics, they are poised to give Democrats the last laugh.

Riding an artificial high after Rep. Mark Amodei’s crushing victory in the House special election, salivating over President Barack Obama’s subterranean poll numbers and frothing over the New York Times story on Rep. Shelley Berkley, the GOP powers that be have high hopes for Campaign ’12.

The eyes of the world will be on the Republicans in a few weeks, too, as a nationally televised presidential debate will be the highlight of the Western Leadership Republican Conference at the GOP’s Strip headquarters, aka the Venetian. And early next year, the presidential caucus will further reinvigorate the previously moribund party, now bolstered by real professionals and support from the elected elite.

But the best-laid plans of party leaders often go awry because of the party faithful, who often seem to be the biggest impediments to success. If this weren’t so deliciously entertaining, I might feel sorry for Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian, who won a landslide victory just a couple of months ago from the same folks who are seething at her now for the heresy of floating the idea of same-day registration for the February caucus. And the divided GOP is laying bare the sheer lunacy of some of the inveterate partisans, who so often (in both parties) are fueled by paranoia, a quality that has derailed a train or two headed for victory.

It is no coincidence that trait animated Sharron Angle’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate, which drowned in a sea of tea and left the party under water after Harry Reid sailed to a nearly 6 percentage point victory. Now, the same folks who think Reid stole the election and that Angle is a badly misunderstood Joan of Arc are trying to scuttle the plan for same-day registration, one that was to be modeled after the Democratic caucus strategy that registered 30,000 voters in one day and helped the party score smashing victories in 2008 and 2010. The Democrats have had substantial statewide registration leads since — it’s now about 65,000 voters — and the only way for Republicans to cut deeply into that edge would be a massive registration output from the caucus.

So there is no good reason not have same-day registration for a caucus — but there are plenty of bad reasons to oppose it. Consider this excerpt from a missive put out by their Angle-backing group called Tea Party & Republicans Uniting Nevada Conservatives (TRUNC):

“This is a wide open door to massive voting fraud and disruption of the Republican process by Democrat-controlled Acorn type organizations and elitist, calculating Republicans wishing to control the election outcome in our important swing state.”

(The entire TRUNC piece is here.)

It’s clear that Tarkanian, who was not the establishment choice when she ran for chairwoman, has risked her job by even raising the issue, which will be on the central committee’s Oct. 22 agenda at the Venetian, four days after the presidential debate.

Clark County Chairman Dave Gibbs gamely tried to calm the troops in his own release, saying, “The diatribe from TRUNC is full of inaccuracies and insults …”

But logic has no chance in a world where up is down, right is wrong and Sharron Angle is a sainted martyr. And it’s not just the obvious crazies. The Nevada Federation of Republican Women also sent out an alert against same-day registration, and the brushfire is quickly building into a conflagration.

What’s ironic about the TRUNC epistle is that it does raise one painful point for the GOP: “Whatever the case may be, this amounts to handing a victory to the Democrats in their fight to get same day registration, which Republicans have long fought against.”

Indeed, when Democrats last session tried to push through a same-day registration bill, Republicans raised all kinds of red flags, saying they feared ineligible folks voting. (What they meant is Democrats would be able to bring union workers and — shh — maybe some illegal immigrants to the polls.)

The opposition to same-day registration also is embedded in the 2010 party platform. So now the TRUNC crowd — and others — see this as a betrayal of a core GOP principle and seem poised for a coup. It only infuriates them more that Sen. Dean Heller backs the same-day registration plan — I tried to get Gov. Brian Sandoval to comment but he was strangely silent.

Many triple-digit IQ folks in the GOP are worried that if same-day registration is entombed, the tea terrorists will have won. But that’s not what they really fear: They know if the plan dies, the Democrats will have won — and may well be victorious in November 2012.

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