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Raising a Banner of Pale Pastels

Nevada Senate Democrats yesterday breathlessly announced their priorities for the 2011 legislative session. Don’t get excited; there’s not much there to hang your hat on, but read this entire column all the way through for a surprise, though not happy, ending.

The Democrats announced that their priorities “are aimed at making government more efficient, effective and responsive in ways that create more good jobs in Nevada.” How? They don’t say. Maybe just wishing it will make it come true.

The Democrats note that they have a “host of individual goals and objectives” and “have pledged to work with Republicans, Assembly Democrats and all elected leaders on issues that are critical to getting Nevada back to work.

“This list includes critical education reform that emphasizes students over bureaucracy, spending reform that forces government to give taxpayers a better return on their investment, holding the line on taxes, and fairly redistricting the state in a way that represents the best interests of the people rather than any political party.”

I have no idea what they mean by “emphasizes students over bureaucracy,” but it certainly doesn’t mention vouchers, the ultimate emphasis on the child not the government.

And “holding the line” on taxes isn’t the same as opposing any tax or fee hikes. “Holding the line” could mean leaving in place the current taxes which are scheduled to sunset in June.

What do they mean specifically by “spending reforms”? Your guess is as good as mine. They don’t say.

What do they mean specifically by redistricting “that represents the best interests of the people”? Who knows? They don’t say.

Democrat Senators “reaffirmed their willingness to work with Governor Sandoval, Lt. Governor
Krolicki and Republicans in both Houses through an open process that leads to better government” while “welcoming input from all.”

How sweet.

They say their legislative priorities send “a clear message that we are willing to work with anyone committed to a government that treats taxpayers as valued customers and puts fairness ahead of politics.”

How lovely.

“Senator Horsford and the entire Democratic caucus is proudly committed to putting in the time
and energy necessary to reform government in a way that keeps our budget balanced and gets Nevadans back to work”, added Assistant Democrat Leader Valerie Weiner. “We welcome Republicans and Democrats alike to join our call for a more efficient government that is built on delivering necessary services in the most efficient way possible to those who need it most.”

OK, class, time to join hands and sing Kumbaya.

“Senate Democrats are working closely with Governor Sandoval, Lt. Governor Krolicki and Assembly Democrats to offer commonsense solutions to difficult issues in challenging times,” the statement concluded. “Each of the Democrat Senators will work tirelessly to promote these ideals and make each a daily priority.”

Somebody hand me that barf bag.

Now here’s the kicker:

That embarrassing say-nothing-of-substance statement yesterday wasn’t put out by Senate Democrats.

No, it was actually put out by Senate REPUBLICANS!

Just re-read and put “Democrat” where it says “Republican” and “Republican” where it says “Democrat” and you have the actual statement. Sadly, as I’ve just demonstrated, the Republican statement of priorities said almost nothing that a Democrat couldn’t have said. It was pure political pabulum.

To be fair, there was one line in the release that I omitted because we know Senate Democrats never would have said it: Senate Republicans “(reaffirmed) a collective commitment to passing a budget without raising taxes.”

The problem with that statement is that we already know the caucus has made no such “collective commitment” not to raise taxes. Sen. Dean Rhoads has already indicated that he’ll vote for a tax hike if the price is right. And three of the ten GOP senators have been mute on the issue so far.

The only way this statement is remotely true is that six of the ten GOP senators have made such a commitment – a majority. But EIGHT out of ten are needed to actually block any and all efforts to increase taxes of fees. So even this statement, which Democrats certainly wouldn’t issue, is pure milquetoast.

If I seem a little extra cranky about this, consider the fact that I’m (freezing!) in Washington, DC, today, and the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) starts tomorrow. In addition, we just finished celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birth over the weekend.

As such, I am reminded of Reagan’s 1975 speech at CPAC where he proclaimed that “A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.”

Reagan was referring to “moderate” Republicans – such as Bill Raggio, Bob Cashell, Dean Rhoads and Joe Hardy in Nevada today – who were calling for the GOP to abandon its core conservative principles and stand for nothing. Here’s what the Gipper had to say about that 36 years ago (the more things change…):

“I am impatient with those Republicans who after the last election rushed into print saying, ‘We must broaden the base of our party’ – when what they meant was to fuzz up and blur even more the differences between ourselves and our opponents.

“Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?

“It is time to reassert our principles and raise them to full view. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these principles, then let them go their way.”

The key difference here is that Republicans in Congress, for the two years leading up to last November’s election, drew up clear and unambiguous distinctions between what they stood for and what Obama’s Democrats stood for. And the American people rewarded them by overwhelmingly rejecting Obama’s Democrats and their agenda at the ballot box.

By contrast, yesterday’s so-called statement of priorities by Nevada state Senate Republicans succeeded only in fuzzing up and blurring the differences between Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats. That statement is one of the perfect reasons why more voters in Nevada today are registering as “independents” than Republicans.

That was a statement of pale pastels.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Nevada is at a critical juncture. We can continue going down the path that got us into this economic mess in the first place – growing government, protecting the government monopoly over the education of our children, and raising taxes – or we can chart a new “bold colors” course as laid out by Gov. Brian Sandoval in his State of the State address.

The governor has drawn a line in the sand. To borrow another Reagan line, it’s time for choosing. Are Republican state senators with him….or with the Democrats? And if they’re not willing to stand under the banner of bold colors being carried by Gov. Sandoval, then maybe it’s time for some of them to go their way.

Don’t let the door hit you.