Nevada turnout is more important than Rosenstein & Mueller

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Clark County Election Department photo.

We don’t know if Trump is going to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, or, in the event, if Rosenstein’s replacement will fire special counsel Robert Mueller. As Philosopher Donald Trump is fond of saying, “We’ll see what happens.”

In the meantime, we also don’t know if Nevada voters would care.

Anyone with any idea who Rosenstein is, and what his departure would mean, is probably already a regular, statistically likely voter. And given the so-called tribalism of the electorate, the vast majority of those likely voters already know who they’re going to vote for.  Left or right, those voters are going to show up.

As for the rest…

In 2012, when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were on the ballot, more than a million Nevadans voted in the general election, and Obama won the state.

In 2014, when no presidential candidates were on the ballot, roughly half as many Nevadans turned out to vote, and Democrats were crushed.

In 2016, 1,125,429 voters cast ballots in the general election, and Hillary Clinton won the state.

This year, the number of Nevada voters has been projected to drop by 37 percent from two years ago, to just a little more than 700,000, according to a report on voter drop-off in battleground states published in 2017 by Lake Research.

Of the estimated 400,000 or so voters who showed up in 2016 but are projected to take a pass this year, three-fourths of them are what Lake Research described as the “Rising American Electorate” – unmarried women, millennials and people of color: in other words, more often than not, Democrats.

You can see why Nevada Republican candidates early on this cycle went all-in for Trump – in Dean Heller’s case, even humiliating and demeaning himself in the process. Heller, Adam Laxalt and the rest of the Nevada Republican political-media-industrial complex are counting on hundreds of thousands of Nevada voters, the great majority of them Democrats, not bothering to vote in an election when they don’t get to vote for president, because that’s how Democrats have rolled lately. Heller has openly acknowledged that he can’t win unless Democratic turnout is low.

Republican voters – older, whiter, better off financially — don’t drop off in midterm elections near as much as Democratic voters. Counting on that reliable base, Republican candidates have pragmatically stashed their disgust with Trump in the small place inside where they store inconvenient feelings, and worship Trump publicly, because Trump is now more beloved in the Republican Party than Ronald Reagan.

Will more Democratic voters show up if Trump fires Rosenstein, eviscerates the Justice Department and effectively crushes Mueller’s Russia investigation?

Democratic candidates don’t seem to think so. They’ve not campaigned on the Russia probe, Trump’s lies and corruption, or even Trump’s unfitness for the presidency. Democrats for federal office are campaigning first and foremost on health care, followed by the Trump-GOP tax cuts for rich people, reproductive choice, immigration, and, to a lesser extent, the degree to which those issues are threatened by the confirmation of America’s heartthrob, Brett “Biff” Kavanaugh.

“We have a responsibility to prevent Trump’s bullying, aggressive behavior from becoming normalized in the eyes of Americans,” Harry Reid said in November, 2016, in one of his last speeches on the Senate floor.

But normalizing Trump is exactly what Democrats have done this cycle: The issues they’re running on would be pretty much the same if the president were Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

Will preserving insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions boost Democratic voter turnout in a non-presidential election year?

Will anything?

Trump will, or so the expert-texperts tell us.

That’s also what they told us in 2016.

Trump has historically low popularity for this stage of a presidency, and the party out of power almost always picks up seats in midterm elections. Dynamics suggest the oft-promised “blue wave” is a real thing.

This year’s election is reminiscent of the 2006 midterms, with Trump playing the role of the Iraq War. By 2006, voters had soured on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The war was the issue of the 2006 campaign. Democrats running for federal office rarely campaigned on it, however, instead running mostly on Republican corruption by tying their Republican opponents to Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Tom DeLay and other Republican scandals (all of which seem quaint by contemporary Trumpian standards of filth and venality).

Exit polls in 2016 revealed however that it was the war, not the scandals, that prompted voters to deliver both houses of Congress to the Democrats.

Like the Iraq War in 2006, Trump is the issue of the 2018 elections, and he might boost Democratic voter turnout even if Jacky Rosen, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford don’t make him the centerpiece of their campaigns.

Then again, he might not.

Are there other reasons those voters projected to drop off might vote after all?

The fight over the future of the Democratic Party has been dormant in Nevada since the primary, when establishmentarian pro-business 20th century Clintonism crushed 21st century Ocasio-Cortezism. Medicaid for all, alternatives to the rapacious financial services industry, mandated sick pay for all workers, an end to labor scheduling abuses, the creation of affordable but well-paying, quality systems of child and elder care, ambitious public and affordable housing programs, expanded public transportation, justice system reform, exempting the first $35,000 of income from payroll taxes… we’ll never know if leadership on issues like those drive voter turnout in 2018.

Instead, we’ll find out if protecting Obamacare does.

Even that modest, rearguard priority is in jeopardy as long as Trump and Republicans control Washington.

For Trump to fire Rosenstein so as to sweep aside the Mueller investigation is of course an authoritarian attack on the rule of law. It’s allowable, and permissible, only so long as Heller and other Republicans control Congress and stand idly by while Trump dismantles “the existence of any authoritative reality.”

If – when – Trump fires Rosenstein, in all likelihood it won’t prompt people to vote who otherwise would have stayed home. It should. But it won’t.

No matter what Mueller’s investigation reveals, Republicans will never, ever stop the abuses and excesses of Trump’s shambolic occupation of the White House. The only thing that will is Democrats winning one (preferably two) houses of Congress.

With two competitive House seats and one of the most competitive Senate races in the nation, as well a competitive race for governor, Nevada voters – especially women, young voters and people of color — can do a lot to help bottle up Trump. The future of civilization is, you know, sort of up to them. Nevada turnout is more important than Rosenstein or Mueller, for a lot of reasons that are a lot bigger than protecting popular Obamacare provisions.

By the way, in that 2006 election when Democrats took back control of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, Nevada candidates for Senate, two competitive House seats, and governor all lost.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.

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