All hands on deck

The Nevada Legislature building

Going into this new year, our nation is still recovering from the exhaustion of 2020 and we’re now faced with the emotions from the unimaginable events at our nation’s capital within the first week of 2021. However, even in the midst of all it, we must also bring our focus to the issues within our state that still need our urgent attention and support, including that of our public education, an institution that has been tragically undermined. We must remain vigilant, focused and dedicated for Nevada’s students and our schools.

With the pandemic being a root source to last year’s challenges in education, the arrival of the vaccine offers hope, but the societal ramifications within Nevada’s public schools are only starting to be felt. I am calling for the support of all of our students and all of our public schools, be they traditional district public schools or public charter schools. This is a time to come together because the challenges are so great that we need a united effort in order to meet them.

Public charter schools in Nevada have stepped up to take on this great challenge of serving our state’s youth and families throughout this unprecedented time, and in many cases they have served as a life raft for those that have needed them most.

But this is not just about public charter schools. Students in Nevada need all the support they can get. The situation is dire. In addition to the strains being felt in every other sector throughout the state, public education is struggling. An overwhelming percentage of our state’s students have been in an all virtual education delivery model, with at best a hybrid format for some. Not surprisingly we are now seeing data that indicates one-third of all Washoe County students have a failing grade in a core course. This is consistent with a national report, which showed similar numbers, all more than double during a normal year, with English Language Learners (ELL) and students from low-income households being affected even greater than any other subgroup. In spite of herculean efforts by staff, teachers, and families, kids are falling behind and it is no surprise that the pain is being felt most by communities that can afford it less.  Public charter schools have made a deliberate effort to specifically reach low-income and ELL students. For families that have less or at times no options, having improved access to public charter schools is a good thing, particularly now when such options are needed most.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions, some deliberately spread about public charter schools. To begin with, many do not realize that public charter schools are in fact, public schools, open to everyone, tuition-free. In many public charter schools in Nevada, 80% or more of the student population comes from within a 3-mile radius of the school. In recent years, thanks to efforts like those of the late Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson, these schools are placed strategically in low income neighborhoods, with the intention to serve the students in that area, but to also welcome students from outside the zip code, on an equal and fair basis.

These schools have proven to meet local and national academic standards, graduation rates and enrollment and in most cases have far exceeded those standards. Public charters in Nevada are measured against the same parameters of other public schools in the district, including state tests. Public charter schools that do not receive above a 3-star rating based on academic performance, risk losing their charter. To meet the needs of their students, many schools create non-traditional and unique learning methods to give students the best possible education and pathways to success.

And these schools are performing incredibly well. Mater Academy Mountain Vista, located in one of lowest-income neighborhoods in the valley, was the first school to receive a 5-star rating in its area. And Mater is certainly not alone. Democracy Prep at the Agassi campus also recorded a 5-star rating for its middle school. In fact, these are just two of the high performing public charter that are in high-poverty areas. Others include Equipo Academy (5-star middle school, 4-star high school); Nevada Prep (5-star middle school); and Mater Academy Northern Nevada (5-star middle school). 

Public charter schools have proven that they are part of the solution. But we recognize we are only part of it and public education as a whole needs more support. Working together with our traditional district public schools, we must rise to the occasion and meet this difficult moment by putting petty differences aside and focusing on the students first. This is not a time to pit traditional district schools against public charters. It is not an either-or-situation. Our students need all the help they can get. The only way we will have a chance to meet this challenge is to unite as a state under a common purpose.

We need all hands on deck. During a time of crisis, we as a state, do not have the luxury of being able to engage in political gamesmanship and infighting over public education. School districts need help, public charter schools need help and during this upcoming legislative session our collective energies and political capital must be spent in meeting the desperate needs of our state’s children.

Victor Salcido is the executive director of the Charter School Association of Nevada.

The Clark County School District needs equitable layoff policies

The front of the Clark County School District administrative building

In June of 2012, my district, Clark County School District (CCSD), the fifth largest district in the nation, eliminated more than 1,000 positions due to funding cuts required to balance state and district budgets. After accounting for retirements, resignations, and relocations, the district still had to issue 419 pink slips. It would have been even worse if we hadn’t received the Recovery Act funding, which saved or created about 275,000 educational jobs nationwide, including teaching and leadership positions in Clark County. These jobs helped ensure that students in some of our most vulnerable communities were being taught by effective educators.   

Despite this, our schools are still recovering from these layoffs and the impact of the Great Recession. The COVID-19 economic downturn is likely to have a similar effect, further exacerbating the inequities for our most vulnerable students who bear the brunt of the cuts to funding and resources such as teacher and paraprofessional positions. 

My district began cutting budgets two years prior to the COVID-19 crisis, as part of cost-saving measures, resulting in continual reduction of staff and resources within our schools. At my school, we used Title I money and state funding sources to retain critical, core teaching positions in mathematics and science to avoid having 45-50 students per class. 

My colleagues and I teach a high number of students who have experienced serious childhood trauma; every day, we face children who may not feel safe enough to engage in learning. Every day, I seek to navigate the delicate balance of supporting them and fostering a positive, enriched classroom community while simultaneously accelerating their learning. It is a daily commitment to be fully present and the most excellent version of myself that my students deserve―on top of other expectations like lesson planning, differentiating activities to meet the needs of all my students, and building relationships with their families.

If district layoffs of effective teachers happen, a long-term substitute might pick up my job; yet more often than not, different daily subs will be hired and my class will be “covered” by other teaching staff during their prep period. Can you imagine trying to learn how to solve equations or write a persuasive essay from a different adult every day? As a result, students in traditionally underserved communities of high poverty, most specifically Black, Indigineous, People of Color (BIPOC) students will likely experience larger educational setbacks than their wealthier peers. Our students need and deserve consistency, stability, and a sense of belonging within a strong educational environment to support their academic achievement and growth.

As COVID-19 continues to negatively impact our communities, teacher layoffs could not come at a worst time for schools, particularly as increased numbers of families are food and home insecure and are in need of even more support. Teachers are typically the ones who are able to determine the support that students and families need. Research has shown that high-quality teachers are schools’ most valuable asset; they are the strongest common denominator for the largest gains in student outcomes as well as student support in social and emotional need.  Schools serving BIPOC students and students of families within communities of high need tend to have a larger percentage of early career teachers than more-affluent schools. Because of these situations, it is critical to address equitable layoff policies. Teacher layoffs disproportionately affect districts and schools due to layoff policies being primarily based on teacher seniority. When teachers leave, this creates yet another barrier for student achievement, limiting their opportunities to succeed. 

The state of Nevada must address the inequitable reduction in force policies to ensure districts and schools are serving the students with the highest needs and making access to high-quality teachers more equitable. While Nevada is receiving $477 million from the recent pandemic relief package to assist with the reopening of schools, this does not guarantee how funding will be spent in years to come. Let’s change the layoff policies before they become another point of inequity that disproportionately harms our students.  Let’s make sure most critically vulnerable students are not left to pay the price.

Jen Loescher serves as a regional math trainer at Southern Nevada Regional Professional Development Program, supporting middle school math teachers. She is a Teach Plus Nevada Senior Policy Fellow.

A moderate's opposition to impeachment

As I have written before, I am a moderate. That simply means that unlike the many other groups that are claiming responsibility for President-elect Biden’s victory, there will be no legislation enacted on my behalf. I’m not writing to defend the president or his enablers. My position is not based upon what is the best strategy for the Democratic Party (which would love to make Republicans choose between defending insurrection and opposing the president’s adamant supporters). My position is based upon what I believe to be in the best interests of our country.

It was a mistake to impeach the president the first time because it was a futile act without Republican support and further divided Congress and our country. It is a mistake to impeach the president a second time because it will further divide Congress and our country at a time when we need as much unity as possible. 

The best advice I have ever given or received is to “forgive everybody everything.” It is damn hard, and contrary to human nature. When you see something like what happened last Wednesday, you want blood. But that is the last thing we need. If reasonable people who supported the president and oppose President-elect Biden are to be brought into an alliance against the hatred, bigotry, denial, and extremism that led to the assault on the Capitol, we need to support them. 

Forgiveness is not for the benefit of the forgiven, but for the benefit of the forgiver. Your anger doesn’t hurt those who have trespassed against you, it only boils your blood and clouds your judgment. We should forgive those whose intemperate words and actions inevitably led to the assault so that we can find peace of mind and can move forward in the best interests of our country, and not out of anger, vengeance, or spite. And what is best for our country is to tone down the rhetoric, put the president in the rearview mirror, and move forward in the spirit of collegiality that should characterize the preeminent legislative body in the world.

“Where were you for the last four years?” You will never convince fringe extremists that the election wasn’t stolen, but you can convince more reasonable people who have doubts. To do so, we need to marginalize the extremists, and that means encouraging and supporting those who defy the president and his supporters by standing up for the truth. It is easy to say that a person should have taken a stand before, but do not minimize the consequences of that action. 

As we have seen, many of the president’s supporters take that support to extremes – a Republican speaking a word of criticism against the president faced the prospect of being “Romneyed,” becoming a pariah within the party and facing the real (as we now have seen) threat of violence. Do not criticize them too severely for not taking stronger action in the past – forgive them, and encourage them to join a coalition against violent extremism. They can still support Republican principles and many of the actions taken by the administration in the past four years while opposing the divisive hatred that has poisoned our country. You certainly won’t grow the coalition by criticizing those with the courage to defy the president’s myriad supporters and speak out in support of the truth.

“There must be consequences for this insurrection!” Fine. We have criminal laws to address criminal behavior. The people who breached the Capitol are being identified and charged with crimes, which I hope will include murder charges against those responsible for the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. If a prosecutor believes that the president’s actions constitute a crime and a jury of his peers concludes that those actions do, he should be punished according to law. 

If the president’s term was not going to end next Wednesday, impeachment would be a more appropriate action. But what will it accomplish now? The trial won’t even occur until long after he has left office. And in two years when the Republicans retake the House of Representatives (the president’s party virtually always loses seats in the House midterm), do you doubt that they will feel entitled to impeach President Biden for maybe knowing something about Hunter doing some bad things? The Democrats can impeach the president. But it would send a powerful message to choose not to.

To heal our country we need to pursue forgiveness, not revenge. We need to encourage our leaders to reject violent extremists, even when the extremists support the leaders’ policy positions. We need to encourage Democrats and Republicans to interact civilly. And we need to do our part, toning down our rhetoric and saying to ourselves three of the most powerful words in the English language: “I forgive you.” And if you insist on some schadenfreude, it would likely drive the president crazy to be forgiven by his adversaries.

The only stronger action to unify the country would be for President Biden to pardon Donald Trump, but that is a subject for another column, and I’ve undoubtedly already made enough enemies with this one.

Lorne Malkiewich was a Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) employee (1981-2012), served as Legislative Counsel (1987-1993) and was LCB Director (1984-2012). He was a registered lobbyist and employee of R&R Partners from 2013-2017. He is now retired.

The Ghouls of 1860

United States Capitol building

Noxious revisionist history aside, the cause of the American Civil War is not in dispute: slavery, our nation’s original and most mortal sin, spawned our bloodiest conflict. The “war” part of the Civil War also has a fixed beginning: in April of 1861, Confederate forces fired on and captured Ft. Sumter — a federal base on the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. In response, President Lincoln called for 75,000 union soldiers to put down the southern rebellion. The last four of 11 Confederate states seceded, and the war was on.  

Often missed in the Civil War’s origin story, though, is what led the initial seven states to secede in the first place. They did not try to leave because of any “northern aggression,” any change of laws regarding slavery, or even any express or implied federal threat to a state’s right to allow human bondage. No, these seven states seceded because they refused to accept the results of a presidential election, storming off before President Lincoln was even sworn in. 

Last Wednesday, terrorists also refused to recognize the outcome of an election. So they stormed into the nation’s Capitol, stained our republic, and left at least five people dead. These criminals were not rebooting the Spirit of 1776, but the Ghouls of 1860, making words like “sedition,” “treason,” and “insurrection” literal again. There was no mystery as to why they were there and what they hoped to accomplish. They were their losing leader’s bannermen (even replacing an American flag with Trump flag), summoned at his call. Their targets were the elected leaders gathered to recognize the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Although rare, violent, deadly protests and riots do happen. We have seen our fair share of them in the last six or seven months alone. Too often, mobs will take life and destroy property as well. Evil is evil. Wrong is wrong. But what happened on January 6, 2021 was nothing like even 2020’s most violent riots, or really any other protest in the last 100 years or more. Why an armed uprising occurs and what its members hope to accomplish matter. Last week’s Capitol raiders were not interested in civil disobedience. They were political vigilantes, employing force to overturn an election. Whether they sincerely (if wrongly) believed in what they were doing is beside the point. Both their methods and purpose offended constitutional order in ways that no recent protest or riot came close to doing.

If the historical links between 1860 and 2020 are troubling, the ideological connections are downright scary. It is no mere coincidence in American history that refusals to accept electoral outcomes lead to insurrection. Sedition is democracy's arch enemy. Moreover, the provocateurs, past and present, justified their actions with lies so explosive they convinced even good people to risk and take human life.  

In 1860, secessionists lied by claiming that President Lincoln and northern Republicans would eviscerate state sovereignty, outlaw slavery everywhere, and radically upend the southern social caste system that even non-slave holders wanted preservered.  They continued to deceive when arguing that they then had the extra-constitutional right to leave the union anytime the political winds shifted. 

The multitude of 2020 political distortions are almost too numerous to count. But the lie that mattered most was the absolute fable that President Trump really won re-election. This malignant whopper imagines a broad conspiracy stretching across multiple states, involving millions of voters, requiring crimes from thousands of official actors and judges — Republican and Democratic alike, and implicating only the race for president. Worse, President Trump then matched fabricated remedies to fabricated injuries, asserting constitutionally abhorrent (and totally phony) rights, procedures, and authority to overturn the election itself. 

Make no mistake: President-elect Biden won the election, just as he has won every recount, independent review, evidentiary hearing, court case, and appeal. President Trump had every chance to prove otherwise and he failed completely. But he dismissed each defeat as a sign of a bigger conspiracy, not a dose of reality. The lies grew more dangerous.  

Here in Nevada, the Trump campaign had good lawyers. They filed a proper election contest, with the proper parties, in the proper place. The case ended up with a good and fair judge, no stranger to difficult disputes. President Trump’s team took depositions, retained experts, and submitted its findings. They made serious allegations, accusing almost 10 percent of Nevada’s voters of committing felonies. Unfortunately, at their request, they also filed nearly all of their evidence under seal, meaning only the other parties and the courts actually saw it. The judge was not convinced. Me neither. I have looked at the public data — anyone can — and the idea that there is any doubt that President-elected Biden won Nevada is as ridiculous as it is malicious. Indeed, the claims against Nevada were so spurious that not one Republican U.S. senator joined in the formal objections to Nevada’s electoral votes. Even so, telling the truth about Nevada’s elections became far harder than it should. 

This month marks two years since I submitted my first article to The Nevada Independent. Back then, I was still a Republican election lawyer. I pleaded with fellow Republicans to fully embrace both the right to vote and the obligation that comes with having to sell the party to a broader electorate. Restricting the franchise rather than reworking the message is never the answer. I then spent much of 2020 trying to calm fears over mail-in voting, and defending our electoral system and the results. When trust in our elections ends, madness takes over.

No matter how many articles I wrote, though, I could not keep up with the torrents of falsehoods voiced from the highest platform and office on earth. President Trump spent much of his presidency alleging nonexistent fraud, and much of 2020 preemptively claiming that the election would be stolen. He went so far as to float the idea of postponing voting. President Trump’s constant and deceptive assault on our electoral system finally led me out of the Republican Party last summer. I was an early “Never-Trumper,” an admitted “RINO,” and a supporter of President-elect Biden’s. But just criticizing and voting against President Trump was no longer enough for me.

I will never stop believing that the vast majority of people are wonderful, noble, one-of-a-kind miracles that I am fortunate to call countrymen and would be even more fortunate to know. That includes many of the good people here in Nevada I have had the honor of serving. Most of those in my orbit voted for Trump, and all of them were horrified by what occurred Wednesday. In support of causes and comrades, I have also committed my own political sins that I must bear. But President Trump must be held accountable; all options, including a possible second impeachment, should be considered.  

As Sen. Mitt Romney said, the “best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.” Former Majority Leader McConnell also understood the stakes, noting that overturning elections “by mere allegations from the losing side” would send “our democracy” into a “death spiral.” That millions of Americans may genuinely believe that the election was stolen does not free anyone to join a false chorus.  We should tell and accept the truth, not expect our political opponents to expose it for us.   

In the end, patriotic Americans did prevent election theft in America. But President Trump was the thief, not the victim. In Nevada and elsewhere, tireless and unknown election workers, brave officials such as Joe Gloria and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and their staff, lawyers working for private and public clients, state and federal judges, and, most of all, millions of voters who refused to be disenfranchised stood strong and stopped the steal. Seditious electoral saboteurs may have breached the walls of the capitol, but the walls of democracy held. Let’s hope last Wednesday was the last gasp of something rotten and not the start of something worse. 

Daniel H. Stewart is a fifth-generation Nevadan and a partner with Hutchison & Steffen. He was Gov. Brian Sandoval’s general counsel and has represented various GOP elected officials and groups.

Legislature must make AB4 permanent

A ballot cast in a mailbox

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Nevada lawmakers, election officials, and state offices did the right thing and adjusted election procedures to make sure that we could all vote safely. But it shouldn’t take a public health crisis to protect Nevadans’ right to vote. Now is the time to make sure that these changes are permanent. 

In August, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed AB4, a sweeping and necessary election reform package including mailing a ballot with prepaid return postage to all eligible Nevadans, more thorough signature-matching measures for mailed ballots, and protections for in-person polling places. But the downside is that it only applies during a state of emergency. Why should Nevadans only have safe and secure access to vote during a crisis?  

AB4 helped ensure that Nevada voters didn’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. And it paid off. Nevada voters showed up for this election, embracing unfamiliar processes, with more than 1.4 million voters making their voices heard. 

AB4’s directive for county officials to mail a ballot to every active, registered voter, brought the option of voting by mail to Nevadans, a population that, for the most part, votes in person. And Nevadans approved. 

More than 47 percent of Nevada voters cast mailed ballots. For the 2016 presidential election, that number was just 7 percent.  

Voting by mail is safe, secure, and convenient, pandemic or not, and it should continue to be made widely available to all Nevadans. Mailed ballots are tracked from the day they are printed to the day they are counted. And mail voting takes the pressure off the Election Day rush. 

As a part of the nonpartisan Election Protection team tasked with assisting voters and answering questions on Election Day, I witnessed firsthand countless voters expressing relief and excitement of being able to skip lines at polling places and simply drop off their completed mailed ballots. 

AB4 also made it easier for voters to verify their ballot, if they forgot to sign it or a poll worker misinterpreted their signature.

The law mandated that county officials contact voters to explain how to fix any errors with their ballots. Election workers mailed notices and called more than 12,584 voters, and verified more than 9,697 ballots.

U.S. Postal Service delays proved that ballot drop boxes were critical. AB4 guaranteed access by requiring that all counties have at least one drop box; 14 out of the 17 counties in Nevada actually placed more than one. 

In Humboldt County, following pressure from advocates including All Voting is Local, the addition of one ballot drop off location alone reduced travel times to the nearest voting location from over an hour to seven minutes for voters living on the Fort McDermitt Reservation. 

Still, voting by mail is not a cure-all. The pandemic and the expansion of voting by mail could have threatened voters’ access to an in-person polling place, but AB4’s directive to keep a minimum number polling places open was crucial in ensuring that all Nevadans have equal access to the ballot. 

Some voters—for example, the 26 percent of Native Americans in neighboring Arizona without a U.S. Postal Service address—do not have access to a reliable vote by mail option. Some people with disabilities or voters with language access needs rely on in-person voting to cast their ballot. Protecting eligible voters’ option to vote in person on Election Day or during early voting, or cast a ballot by mail, lets them choose what works for them. 

When the Legislature meets for the 81st legislative session on Feb. 1, lawmakers must prioritize making AB4 permanent.   

AB4 showed what is possible when officials meet the needs of the people in a crisis. But it shouldn’t take a deadly pandemic for Nevadans to have free, fair elections. AB4 gave us a glimpse of the way voting ought to be for us all. We must not turn back now.  

Kerry Durmick is All Voting is Local’s Nevada State Director. For more than a decade, Durmick has led outreach, community organizing, campaign efforts, media relations, and policy decisions to ensure that all Nevadans are engaged in our democracy. Prior to joining All Voting is Local, she served as Statewide Census Coordinator for the Nevada Census 2020 operation. Before that, Durmick served as the representative and grants director for U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), In both positions, Durmick successfully implemented statewide strategies to increase civic engagement and expand educational resources for Nevadans. Durmick graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of Arkansas and a Master of Arts in Political Science, Legislative Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas.

A post-insurrection pep talk from a Las Vegas Proud Boy

His yellow Pittsburgh Pirates cap cocked sideways, self-described Las Vegas Proud Boys member Matt Anthony could be forgiven for appearing a little confused in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.

It was admittedly a lot to take in. But he had other issues on his mind. His Facebook account frozen for 30 days, Anthony moved over to the Pissed Off Americans Facebook group on Friday to record a nearly 17-minute-long update for his followers and fellow Proud Boys on what he perceived to be the state of play following the storming of some of our Republic’s most sacred ground. The neofascist Proud Boys, a steady presence in armed protests at state capitols throughout 2020, have emerged as one of President Donald Trump’s most zealous supporters.

Although Proud Boys leaders deny they’re racist, and call themselves proud patriots and western chauvinists, they regularly spout white nationalist memes, according to the Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC), which categorizes them as a “general hate” group. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which like the SPLC also tracks hate groups, labels it “Primarily alt lite: Misogynistic, Islamophobic, transphobic and anti-immigration.”

During his rambling talk, Anthony discussed the shuttering of social media platforms and the new challenge of finding ways to communicate. He called the decision by tech giants such as Twitter and Facebook to close accounts deemed to inspire violence or foment conspiracy theories about the election, especially the president’s Twitter account, “absolutely insane.” He later admitted one exchange on Facebook generating five administrative violations in a few minutes.

Thus, Anthony’s scramble to Pissed Off Americans, which describes itself in part as “a National Facebook group for Americans who are tired of the non stop lies, corruption and Politicians who don’t give a crap about our country!”

Anthony’s update gives insight into the mindset of a Proud Boys activist and true believer in the president’s big lie. For a fellow apparently deeply concerned about being censored, once he focused Anthony appeared pretty uncensored as he gave his perception of the state of play following a riot that has resulted in six deaths, including two police officers, and hundreds of injuries in the name of overturning the 2020 presidential election based on pursuing President Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

He didn’t reflect much on the destruction, instead noted repeatedly viewing video in which overwhelmed Capitol police allowed protesters into the building. He didn’t say he’d seen the video of one officer being smashed in a door while doing his duty to hold back rioters being widely labeled as insurrectionists.

With Twitter and Facebook getting tougher, and Parler and other platforms undergoing closer scrutiny, Anthony believes it’s a dark day for free speech as he defines it.

“I mean, they’re coming after us,” he said. “The censorship is hard. They don’t want patriots communicating whatsoever.”

He admitted he didn’t know the status of each platform, but had a general idea that, “They’re basically going all in on tyranny, guys. … They’re watching. It’s to be expected. They’re the enemy. They’re going to shut down our ability to communicate.”

The enemy, it appears, includes Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, whose image is caricaturized with a red clown’s nose on Anthony’s Facebook post.

Like more mainstream organizers, he offered his thoughts about reorganizing a communications network disrupted with the flip of a few switches at Facebook and Twitter. He stressed growing local groups through word of mouth and telephone networking with the presumption that “big tech is down” and “it’s back to old school.”

“It’s coming,” he said. “They’re going to start banning everyone. If they can ban the president, then you’re next. Next is anyone who is pro-Trump or even pretty much just even not a Satanist commie.”

When he got around to the events of January 6, he appeared resigned to Trump eventually departing the White House. Sort of.

“Elections are going to be very hard, I’ll just state, at that point to win for us going forward,” the Proud Boys leader said. “With all the stealing, obviously, we know they stole it, and that’s why there were millions of people in the streets on January 6th.”

Making air quotes with his hands, Anthony continued, “The ‘supposed breach’ and violent attack on Congress. I don’t know, yeah, there’s something really fishy about that. I guess we’ll get into that.”

He continued, “I don’t want to give people false hope and say that Trump is still going to be our president. The Congress voted him down. I know that, but the new reports, I will say they somewhat make sense with what’s actually happening. Because I know I’m sure all of you have seen the videos of the Capitol Police just letting people into the Capitol Building.”

But there was still something conspiratorial afoot, he suspected.

“With the way shit’s going down right now, the other side’s not acting like the side that’s about to take full power for the next two to four years,” Anthony said. “Congress, they seem to be freaking out. They’re definitely not acting as if this is in the bag. … they’re acting very shady.”

Could it have something to do with being stormed by a violent mob while carrying out their constitutional duty?

He remains certain, “The fight’s just beginning patriots. We’re going to have to get creative now. We’re definitely going to need to organize locally first.” That’s because, “Something big’s happening. Something big’s coming.”

He noted the “Q crowd,” meaning the QAnon conspiracy theorists who proliferated Wednesday’s riot, are already concluding that the Capitol insurrection was all a big “setup” and that the president was actually bunkered up in Texas. He didn’t endorse such theories, just repeated them. In recent days, one popular conspiracy theory has former President Obama accepting pallets of cash and conspiring to fix the election from Italy.

Compared to all that, Matt Anthony was almost beginning to sound reasonable.

“All I’ll say is, I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “But if this is all part of master plan, I mean, shit, I guess we’ll see. We’ll find out soon before the 20th … The traitors need to be arrested and held accountable for what they’ve done.”

By traitors, Anthony didn’t mean those Americans who poured into the nation’s Capitol and shouted about hanging Vice President Mike Pence and attempted to justify their violence and chaos with the declaration, “Our president wants us here.” Perhaps he meant members of Congress, the press, and anyone skeptical of the president’s stolen election lies and conspiracy theories.

Near the end of his update, he gave his followers another clue about what was coming. He directed them to contribute to his Protecttheright.com website. He’s fundraising in advance of a plan to file “massive lawsuits” against local and national publications and newspapers.

“All kinds of media is getting sued,” Anthony said.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal— “Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at jlnevadasmith@gmail.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

Legislative Republicans should resolve to repent

ASSEMBLY CONCURRENT RESOLUTION — Directing all lawmakers to affirm the results of the Nevada election

WHEREAS, Doubts still linger in too many minds about the legitimacy of the election process in Nevada because of public statements since Nov. 3.

WHEREAS, Lower courts and the state Supreme Court have thrown out all lawsuits alleging fraud

WHEREAS, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske has said: “Nevada’s election officials performed their duties with integrity and fairness, and to have the results be rejected by many Americans is disheartening and clearly of great concern. As a state and a country, we are better than this. I ask all Nevadans to respect the outcome of this election.”

WHEREAS, It is a sacred duty of this body to reassure Nevada citizens that their votes matter and that their elections are clean.

RESOLVED BY THE ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, THE SENATE CONCURRING, That the members of the 81st session of the Nevada Legislature hereby declare the results of the 2020 election to have been valid.

This should not be necessary, but it is.

This should not be a requirement for serving on a legislative committee, but in light of what has occurred since the election, it should be this session.

This should not have to be the first item of business on Feb. 1, but it must be.

I wrote at the end of 2020 that I have faith in the governor and lawmakers to work together during arguably the greatest crisis this state has faced — a raging pandemic and a devastated economy. But until the stain of what has occurred since Nov. 3 is erased, until Democrats and Republicans can agree that Joe Biden is rightfully president and that their own elections were free from fraud, they should not, they cannot proceed with any credibility.

Democrats, who control Carson City, must do this to send a message to Nevadans that they will not allow the calumny to pass; it is their solemn duty to do so.

Republicans, who have nearly to a man and woman either been accomplices to this slander or enabled it, must tell this state’s residents they repent; it is their solemn duty to do so.

This is not about ball-spiking or hairshirt-wearing. This is about reinvigorating faith in democracy, which has been rattled by the actions of too many.

Sure, some ears will never open, some minds will remain closed. But this is not about reaching the unreachable; it’s about sending a bipartisan message that it’s time to move beyond the descent into madness and mendacity that was 2020.

This will not be easy.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some Democrats wanted to seek revenge on the Republicans who slimed the electoral process here and accused the Democrats of a conspiracy to fix the election. But they should holster those recriminations and sign onto this proposed concurrent resolution.

I also wouldn’t be shocked if some Republicans, still smarting from the heavy-handed treatment during the special sessions last year and eager to pander to voters who still believe the election was purloined from them, had no spirit of bipartisanship. They, too, need to find their better angels.

And they will have a hell of a time doing that.

Except for two — state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (especially) and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles — the entire GOP Carson City cohort has been culpable in this destructive charade that has fueled so much distrust. At least two – Assemblyman John Ellison of Elko and incoming Assemblywoman Annie Black of Mesquite — have offered conspiracy theories about Antifa being behind the Capitol riot (Black was there but claimed she did not storm the building); they should abjectly apologize to their colleagues, to the people of Nevada and sign onto this proposed resolution or be consigned to oblivion.

Harsh? I don’t think so.

There are few things worse that an elected official can do than to imbue in their ingenuous constituents such toxic notions that elections should be rejected, that their votes may not count. This is a violation of their oath of office, not to mention common decency.  It is pandering of the worst kind and cannot simply be dismissed.

Let’s also not forget that in so doing, these Republicans also have smeared the judicial process and jurists who found the evidence, such as it wasn’t, to be the stuff of fevered imaginings. They actively tried to destroy faith in electoral infrastructure staffed by hard-working public servants and volunteer poll workers, who were blithely accused of being part of a plot to commit fraud, a federal crime, and overseen by truly the only stalwart Republican elected official throughout 2020 — GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske. She was the bulwark against these malefactors, and only she knows the kind of pressure she was under from the lowest and highest levels.

Neither of the putative GOP legislative leaders – state Sen. James Settelmeyer and Assemblywoman Robin Titus – has lifted a finger to tamp down these flames. Indeed, Titus instructed Lyon County commissioners to not certify its vote was accurate. This is unconscionable.

Meanwhile, other Republicans who have stood silently by or actually claimed there was fraud (Assemblyman Jim Wheeler and incoming Assemblyman Andy Matthews, to name two) also should repudiate their previous comments and sign on to the resolution. They owe the state an apology, too.

Many of these Republicans, in what almost seemed like a choreographed effort, began putting out tweets after the D.C. storming of the Capitol, trying to dance between the raindrops. To wit:

Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner: “I voice my support for the patriots that went to Washington DC to peacefully protest. The #FirstAmendment however, only protects the right to peacefully protest. I am opposed to violent extremists.”

Opposed to violent extremists? Bold.

State Sen. Scott Hammond: “As events in DC unfold, I voice my support for the patriots that assembled to exercise their 1st Am. Rights by peacefully expressing their concerns about the election. I also categorically oppose the radicals who used the cover of these patriots to attack & invade the Capitol.”

Patriots? Why are they patriots, pray tell? (Last time this word was so stripped of meaning here was when then-Sen. Dean Heller called the insurrectionists at the Bundy Ranch “patriots.”)

People went to Washington to protest an election that was lawfully certified by every state and the Electoral College. Why is that patriotic?

Don’t call them patriots; don’t call yourselves leaders.

Their position amounts to this: “We submissively questioned the election or kept our mouths shut but now we are very upset that there was violence and people died. That’s not who we are.”

Ah, but it is. And they all are part of The Fraud Caucus now.

What really saddens me is the slow descent by the Republican Party leadership here into the swamp. No, I’m not talking about an opportunistic carpetbagger such as Adam Laxalt, an accident of electoral history who lied about fraud starting on Nov. 3 in order to increase his email list and raise money from fools after a term as attorney general in which he did nada about election issues. Or a serial grifter such as Michael McDonald, who has presided over the unraveling of the state GOP as its longest-serving chairman and who has been a Trumpian echo on these fraud prevarications. Or a fringe performance artist such as Michele Fiore, the Republican national committeewoman who loudly joined the cacophonous chorus of fraud-singers.

I am speaking of the party of Ann O’Connell and Bill Raggio and Lynn Hettrick and Kenny Guinn and Brian Sandoval and many others, principled people who would never have engaged in the power-hungry schemes that GOP elected leaders have during the last two cycles.

In 2018, it was an attempted subversion of recall laws because they could not win fair and square at the ballot box – most Republican officials were part of that or did not protest because they would have benefited if the recalls had succeeded. That was a minor infraction compared to what they did in 2020, though, when they conspired to cast doubt on the election results, either as willing or passive participants.

If this is a progression of debasement, what do they plan for this cycle?

This is who they have become, the Fraud Caucus that cannot recruit good candidates, cannot beat the Democratic machine so they have to cheat and lie. Guinn and Raggio are rolling in their graves.

But there is still time to fix this. And I am stubbornly clinging to my optimism.

Democratic leaders Nicole Cannizzaro and Jason Frierson may want to grind the GOP minority into dust for all of this. But they should not — and not just because they might need them on any taxing votes.

Now is the time for reconciliation. But only if the Republicans are willing to put their votes where any remorse might be.

So give them a chance to vote for the resolution. There’s no chance of any fraud on that ballot, and it will shine a spotlight so they have no chance to hide any longer.

Nevada GOP’s propagandists share responsibility for insurrection

Repeated scans of television news coverage and social media posts failed to produce images of Michael McDonald and Adam Paul Laxalt at the deadly MAGA insurrection Wednesday at the nation’s Capitol.

I know they were there in spirit.

As despotic President Donald Trump’s top enablers in Nevada, state campaign chairman Laxalt and state Republican Party Chairman McDonald continued to bang the drum for the misleading and dangerous “Stop the Steal” propaganda effort right up to the moment the first rioters stormed the US Capitol.

Trump didn’t get the coup that he and his frothing followers wanted, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Through its efforts to do his bidding no matter the cost, his Nevada contingent is complicit in his actions.

The presidential election has been over for more than two months. It’s been scrutinized more closely than any other election in history. Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a proud Republican, followed the facts and the law – and for that has been vilified.

The facts don’t matter. It’s the myth of a Trump victory that’s being marketed like snake oil. And now it’s turned deadly.

The state Republican Party’s official Twitter account this week offered yet another revisionist history lesson.

From Jan. 4: “While the @NVSOS fails to investigate actual voter fraud and hides behind ‘Facts vs Myths’ talking points, we have shared some inconvenient truths they omitted concerning election fraud.”

From Jan. 5: “Join patriots tomorrow as we stand for our President, and fight for clean elections in Nevada. No amount of voter fraud is acceptable!”

On insurrection Wednesday: “Reminder: Nevada had over 130,000 fraudulent votes. Our evidence has not been disputed, just ignored.”

Not ignored, exactly. I think the legal term is laughed out of court. Make that courts. It’s certainly not been ignored. It’s been punted. Dunked. Shredded. Round-filed.

And used over and over again to promote the big lie.

From the state GOP’s pals at freenfair.us: “January 6th will be marked as a momentous day nation-wide as we gather together to rise up and defend our great Nation, our Republic, our Liberty, our Vote and our Constitution. Join us at 10am in front of Capitol (Carson Street side) & support all those who took the time to fly or drive to Washington DC for the Stop the Steal Rally taking place there.”

Continuing the big lie about widespread voter fraud despite all evidence to the contrary feeds the anger and suspicion of those who have been willing to believe Trump’s many lies. When you’re willing to pile lie upon lie on behalf of a president who gives shoutouts to racist Proud Boys and eggs on white supremacist militia members, you’re not patriots. You’re fascist sympathizers. The figureheads of Nevada’s Republican Party leadership have marched in lock step with their leader.

Scratch the surface of much of the party’s conspiracy-driven outrage, and you’ll find the sharp teeth of the far-right race-baiters and outright white supremacists. They didn’t crash Trump’s party. They were invited.

Trump’s incitement of Wednesday’s mob wasn’t spontaneous. It was staged. Intelligence officials and even some of Trump’s own former defense secretaries have warned the nation about it. Right-wing social media sites have buzzed with excitement at the prospect of “revolution” for weeks. Trump has encouraged his most dangerous followers every step of the way.

It’s hard to say whether their big plans will change in the wake of Wednesday’s botched coup attempt, but Trump’s white supremacist militia men and QAnon conspiracy quacks have also been preparing to assemble armed “rallies” at statehouses prior to the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Many of Trump’s biggest enablers, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chief among them, at last have done their duty and sided with the Constitution. For that, Pence is now being called a “sellout” on right-wing social media; McConnell is described as nothing less than a “traitor.” Whether out of a sense of shame or self-preservation, Trump’s own Cabinet members are ducking out on him.

As the facts emerge, even as his propagandists lay down a predictable smoke screen about Antifa infiltrators, Trump’s seditious behavior becomes ever more clear. His enablers and monied backers should be reminded of their complicity in his crimes. That includes Nevada’s super-rich casino kings who have dumped so many millions into his factory of lies.

It wasn’t exactly shouted from the floor of the House, but Nevada Republican Rep. Mark Amodei at least uttered the right sentiment Wednesday when he tweeted, “History made today for all the wrong reasons. Shameful. All our Washington staff are safe.”

Shameful is right. That shame is shared by Trump’s Nevada enablers.

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal— “Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at jlnevadasmith@gmail.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith

January 6th needs to be a call for truth

Hypothetically, if I told you rampant voter fraud occurred in November and our election was being stolen, what would I mean? 

Would I mean exactly what I said — that I sincerely believe rampant voter fraud occurred in November? Or would I mean that I personally committed rampant voter fraud but sought to draw attention elsewhere so I won’t get caught? Perhaps I don’t really care about rampant voter fraud at all, but simply view the phrase as an expression which encourages you to support a specific action which may or may not address it. Or, worse yet, perhaps I’m just signaling that I belong to the loyal wing of a mutual in-group and know discussing rampant voter fraud places me safely between Mitt Romney and the Camp Auschwitz guy in your mind. 

Each of these interpretations are based on the simulacra model of communication, a model which is admittedly simplistic in much the same way the iconic London Underground map is simplistic — what it highlights, it highlights very well, but don’t expect anything to be in scale. 

According to this model, there are four layers of communication to consider. 

In the first layer, words have direct meaning to what they’re describing (for example, “you are reading my column” means you are, in fact, reading the column I wrote). In the second layer, language is manipulated by the speaker — they lie, in other words — to secure a desired result from the recipient (“you are reading a short column” is almost certainly wrong for any meaningfully useful definition of “short”, but I say the phrase anyway to reassure you and encourage you to finish this parenthetical, this paragraph, and ultimately this article). 

In the third layer, neither participant in the conversation is trying to communicate direct truth. Instead, they use language which seems superficially true or superficially provable to make a separate point. For example, imagine a tedious conversation between two groups of Indy readers, each claiming to argue over the published length of Indy columns, with one camp demanding “fewer, shorter columns” (because my columns would no longer get published), while another camp demands “more, longer columns” (because they want me to write more than once a week). 

In the fourth and final level, neither side is really trying to communicate much of anything beyond whatever seems necessary in the moment to achieve some ephemeral gain in social status. This roughly describes every argument on the internet, given enough time. 

Four years ago, we were told by intelligent, well-meaning people to take Donald Trump seriously, not literally — in other words, assume Trump speaks to his supporters on the third layer of our model. This analysis was based on the assumption that Donald Trump was a politician who, like most politicians professional enough to serve in Washington D.C., primarily lives in the third layer of our model. Following this assumption, Trump’s bizarre claims and utterances — we’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, Ted Cruz’s father killed John F. Kennedy, and so on — were simply Trump finding novel and clever ways to tell potential supporters what they needed to hear to support him over the other presidential candidates. 

To understand what I mean by living in the third layer, take the issue of gun control. Gun control is an issue which reliably raises money and volunteer energy from supporters and opponents alike, even though the legislative status quo seldom changes, because that money and energy is easily redirected to politicians who support (or oppose) other, more malleable policies. Consequently, when politicians claim opponents favor “gun control,” they frequently mean opponents favor a basket of policies which opponents of gun control also reliably oppose — whether the opponents would actually pursue meaningful gun control is incidental. Similarly, a politician who claims an opponent is a “gun nut” may mean the opponent favors the basket of policies that overt gun owners frequently approve of, irrespective of whether the opponent actually owns a firearm or not. 

If this all sounds like lying to you, well, it is — but it’s a different sort of lying than children lying to their parents about whether they did their homework or not. All parties, at least in theory, are in on the lie. Nobody actually expects anyone else to directly tell the truth. Doing so, in fact, would be both politically unwise and unforgivably uncouth since telling the truth might actually lead to resolution of these wedge issues, thus depriving all sides of money and enthusiastic free labor. Instead, arguments are used as soldiers to encourage each candidate’s supporters to knock doors, cut checks, and fill out their ballots, all while actually advancing any conceivable policy except those which reliably draws donors and volunteers. 

If this sounds like fraud to you, well, many donors and volunteers would agree.

Politicians, however, are at least notionally accountable to reality. Their votes are on record. The rest of us in the bleachers — opinion columnists, talk radio hosts, legal hacks and random strangers on the internet yelling at each other — labor under no such restrictions. We can say any damn fool thing we think might increase your willingness to send money our way (donate to The Indy here) or otherwise pay attention to us. The easiest way to do that, however, isn’t to tell you the truth, nor is it to openly lie to you. Instead, it’s to fall into the model’s fourth layer and let confirmation bias guide me into saying what you want to hear. To be really good at this, you have to slip into motive ambiguity and choose destructive signals of loyalty to the listener, even when — no, especially when — it’s entirely unnecessary. 

Rush Limbaugh, for example, probably doesn’t actually believe there should still be violence in the streets of Washington D.C. — he just knows his listeners do and wants them to continue listening to his show. 

While all of this third- and fourth-layer self-referential metacommunication (a fussy and fancy way of either saying “playacting” or “lying”, depending on your point of view) is going on, however, there’s a large group of people who interpret it as first layer communication — as unvarnished truth, as gospel. They hear someone they trust — a politician, a columnist, a talk radio host, a trusted friend on social media — say something, and they assume it must be earnestly true. 

Why wouldn’t it be? The person they trust wouldn’t lie to them.

This past week, we learned — or were reminded — that Donald J. Trump, current president of the United States of America and, consequently, the most powerful human being on the planet, is one of these people.

When the Adam Laxalts and Michael McDonalds of the world — truly third- and fourth-layer communicators if there ever were any — told their supporters the reason they wouldn’t win the election was because of rampant voter fraud, and not because they were simply outnumbered, they did so because they knew saying so would increase their public profiles and draw donations. These people don’t actually believe a single word of their claptrap. They just know it makes them sound extra-Republicany when they do so, which makes them look far more loyal to potential voters, donors and volunteers than the Heidi Ganserts, Ben Kieckhefers, and Jill Tolleses of the world, each of whom could change parties tomorrow if they wanted to since they’re actually allowed in polite society. 

The people digesting this horse manure, however, are people like Assemblyman John Ellison, the cast of characters occupying several of our state’s county commissions, and yes, Donald J. Trump, who all believe every word. That’s why the President was cold-calling secretaries of state only a week ago ­— because he sincerely, truly believes the election was stolen from him. Why wouldn’t it have been? He has the best people working for him — the best! — and they’re all telling him and each other so. 

What happened on January 6th is that many of Trump’s supporters, many of whom are every bit as credulous (a fussy and fancy way of saying “gullible”) as he is, took what passes for political discourse on the Republican side of the aisle these days at face value. President Trump promised a 'wild' protest, so they prepared to deliver a wild protest. They were told the vice president had the power to overturn election results, so, when he didn’t, they built a functional gallows and threatened to hang him. When President Trump said our media has “become the enemy of the people,” the rioters took his words to mean journalists should be, well, treated like enemies of the people — so they inscribed “Murder the Media” on the doors of the Capitol and destroyed equipment

To quote Tim Miller from The Bulwark, he and his supporters took everything they’ve been saying to each other literally and seriously.

In retrospect, it was about time somebody did.

***

With the events of January 6th now behind us, it’s up to us — not historians decades from now, nor some gauzy disembodied concept of “history” itself — to decide what those events mean and what lessons we will learn. We are history. It’s well past time we start acting like it. 

A good first lesson would be to say what we mean, mean what we say, and hold everyone around us accountable as if they truly are telling us what they think is the truth. Online communities learned a long time ago that irony poisoning — “ironically” saying increasingly edgy and provocative things for attention — shields many earnestly terrible opinions. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog and nobody knows whether you’re joking when you wear a hoodie that says “6MWE”. This is why many users in online spaces increasingly err in the direction of taking so-called “edgy humor” earnestly — if what you say in jest is indistinguishable from what a Nazi would say in earnest, why should we give you the benefit of the doubt? 

Now it’s time to apply this same principle to political speech. 

Political policy in this country has long suffered from a categorical refusal to clearly describe what it does, how it does it, and why it’s doing it. For example, as Matthew Yglesias recently pointed out, pandemic checks are wildly popular while the Paychecks Protection Program is considered an ineffective boondoggle. Pandemic checks are exactly what they sound like — the government writes a check, you cash it. The PPP, on the other hand, was a small business bailout program for businesses affected by the pandemic — only instead of cutting small businesses checks, the governments decided to call each check a “loan,” even though the loan only has to be paid off if the recipient business fails to maintain the payroll they’re ostensibly paying for with the check. (Editor’s disclosure: The Indy received a PPP loan, which later converted into a grant.)

This intentional confusion has led to unceasing frustration from Americans about the incomprehensibility of our political outcomes and undoubtedly played no small part in Donald Trump getting elected to president in the first place. It’s also part of the reason why our vice president-elect, who inspired the Oddly Specific Kamala Harris Policy Generator, didn’t end up at the top of that ticket. Say what you will about Trump, but he clearly means what he says. On the other side of the aisle, it’s why candidates like Bernie Sanders remain stubbornly popular — when he says “Medicare For All,” he’s not bluffing. 

The solution, as Yglesias pointed out, is to openly advocate for public policy which does “what it says on the tin”. No, it won’t be finely tuned or targeted as, say, a zoning deregulation program for deployed soldiers who open a comedy club that operates for three days in upstate New York (seriously, go play with the Oddly Specific Kamala Harris Policy Generator — it’s still fun!), and it certainly won’t be as inexpensive to implement, but it’ll be transparent and intelligible to voters. 

For a local example of precisely the opposite of what I’m describing, read all 112 pages of the second version of our state’s vaccination playbook, which should be replaced with a paragraph that says health care providers will be the first to receive vaccines as they’re the ones responsible for giving them, followed by each vaccine dose getting into a Nevadan’s arm as fast as possible. No, it wouldn’t lead to those who might need the vaccine the most getting it first, like the elderly, schoolteachers, and front-line retail workers, but it would lead to more than 23.8 percent of the vaccines delivered to Nevada getting into the arms of Nevadans. 

Vaccines. Arms. Now. Keep it simple.

That, in turn, would shrink the space charlatans and grifters, who prey upon the gullible by promising to deliver “real truths” about our otherwise opaque political process, can operate in. As Rex Briggs pointed out in his excellent two-parter in December on Nevada’s election system, few people actually know anything about how our election system works and the people responsible for administering it don’t do a very good job of making it easy for the rest of us to learn. That’s getting better, especially after our most recent election, and simplifying our process won’t keep people from lying about it, but doing so makes it much easier to catch people when they do. 

Next, we need to take our politicians and pundits seriously. When someone prominent says Sisolak is a king, or even Hitler, we need to treat them as if they actually mean what they say and aren’t using those words for rhetorical effect. Where’s Sisolak’s Tower of London? Where are his concentration camps? Show me a single Republican legislator condemned to the Nevada State Prison via executive order, show me a single political enemy executed for crimes against the state, or shut it. There’s plenty to criticize our state government for, and we absolutely should, but pretending Nevada in 2021 is somehow indistinguishable from pre-revolutionary France or Hitler’s Germany because we’re kind of sort of requiredish on paper to wear masks in public is absurd.

This just doesn't apply to local opinion pages. Many political attack ads are well north of irresponsible and have been for generations. Aspiring politicians who try to motivate by fear need to be named and shamed. 

Finally, we need to take inventory of who encouraged us to get into this mess in the first place. Assemblywoman Annie Black proudly attended the protest, then proudly shared misinformation (misinformation that was eventually taken down by the Washington Times, by the way) about the rioters to cover her rear. Assemblywoman Robin Titus, after getting caught telling the Lyon County commission to refuse to certify their elections, is now trying to cover her rear by pushing Ms. Black out of the airlock. Then there’s the matter of Republican Party leadership, which, if this letter from the Nye County GOP is any indication, is completely disconnected from reality — a disconnect which goes all the way to the top with help from the likes of Michele Fiore.

Trump will be president for another four years? Biden will not be president? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. How do you plan on making that a reality? What, exactly, are you asking your followers to do to make that happen? Be specific. Show your work. Or shut up and give an adult the keyboard for a change. 

It’s been well past time for a long, long time to get back to the first layer of communication — to get back to telling each other the truth, or at least trying to. If nothing else good comes of January 6th, let’s at least hope we get that.

David Colborne has been active in the Libertarian Party for two decades. During that time, he has blogged intermittently on his personal blog, as well as the Libertarian Party of Nevada blog, and ran for office twice as a Libertarian candidate. He serves on the Executive Committee for both his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is the father of two sons and an IT professional. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at david@colbornemmx.com

Bipartisan bill has all but eliminated underage marriages

As we head into a new legislative session, I want to highlight the impact of a bipartisan bill passed in 2019. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas), AB139 was designed to eliminate marriage for minors. Before 2019, Nevada had no floor — meaning there was no lower age limit to marry in this state. Any child (usually a girl) could be married off so long as a parent and a judge signed off on the arrangement. There was evidence that girls as young as 14 had been legally wed in Nevada — often to an out-of-state, much older groom. If the bride was 16, all that was needed was a parent to sign off on the union.

I testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of AB139 as a concerned citizen passionate about women and girls in this state, but the brave testimony from those directly affected by childhood marriage will sit with me for a long time. Girls married off young, often by a parent who failed in the responsibility of protecting his or her children. Women courageously detailing their escape from abusive marriages and the ways in which our system failed to protect them from harm in the first place. These girls were treated as mere commodities. Beyond these stories, there is evidence that underage marriages often lead to increased domestic violence, lower levels of education and greater poverty. According to Pew Research, in 2016 Nevada ranked third for the rate of underage marriage, at 5.9 per 1,000.

AB139 passed in 2019 and became law. Although it wasn’t a total ban on underage marriage, it was fairly close. As it stands now, no one under the age of 17 can get married in this state. If either party is 17, a parent and a judge must agree that there is a legitimate reason the union cannot wait — and pregnancy cannot be the reason. Plus, both the bride and the groom must be Nevada residents. According to the Tahirih Justice Center, from 2015-2017, 80 percent of the underage marriages in Clark County involved at least one out-of-state party. AB139 ensured that Nevada would not be complicit in the use of marriage as a sex trafficking tool for out-of-state predators. 

Since the law was implemented in October of 2019, there has only been just one underage marriage in the entire state of Nevada (as of October 2020). The bride was 17 and the groom was 19. Both were residents of Carson City. In comparison, the Tahirih Justice Center stated that over 5,000 minors were married in just Clark County between 2005-2015, an average of 500 a year. To go from those numbers to only one statewide is a huge achievement. 

In 2018, Nevada was reportedly the second worst state in the country for domestic violence. Stopping underage marriage won’t eliminate domestic violence, but it does protect girls from being forced into a legally binding contract before they reach adulthood. And the more that we protect the girls in this state, the more we protect the women they can become. As we head into another legislative session, I hope all of our representatives continue to find ways to improve the lives of women.

Jeana Blackman Taylor (she/her) came to Las Vegas more than a decade ago to perform with Cirque du Soleil. In 2016, she formed the group Everyday People Taking Action to facilitate conversations regarding key issues facing Nevada and raise money to support local teachers. She serves on the Community Advisory Board for the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada (UNLV), the Bond Oversight Committee for CCSD, and the SOT at her children’s elementary school. Over the summer, she was a cofounder of the Vegas Community Pantry. She is also a donor to The Nevada Independent. View all our donors here.