Won’t someone think of Dean Heller?

ha ha ha
"He wants to remain a senator doesn't he?" Donald Trump said of Dean Heller at a White House luncheon in July 2017, at which Trump was pressuring Republican senators to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images)

Senate Republicans are shutting their eyes and covering their ears and yelling “lalalalalalalala!”

That way they won’t hear or see any facts that might interfere with this week’s celebration of their unconditional surrender to Trump. 

Dean Heller, alas, is no longer part of the club. 

But the former Nevada senator can take comfort knowing he did his part to help make the Republican Senate what it is today: A cowering sniveling wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump.

After renouncing Trump during the 2016 campaign, Heller spent the first few months of 2017 flirting with the idea of standing up to Trump, or at least resisting Trump’s drive to undo Obamacare. Heller even appeared with then-Gov. Brian Sandoval, who had the sense to know that repealing Obamacare, and particularly the Medicaid expansion Sandoval had signed off in Nevada, would be bad for the state.

Standing next to Sandoval in a press conference, Heller said he, too, could not support the version of Obamacare repeal favored by Trump at the time.

That performance was only day during months of Heller flipping and flopping and floundering on Trump’s plans to repeal Obamacare. In April 2017, an embattled Heller, lacking the courage to do a town hall on his own, even brought the much more glib (and less politically threatened) Republican Congressman Mark Amodei along with him, to effectively provide a skirt behind which Heller could hide.

Good times.

But maybe not for Heller.

At a White House luncheon in June 2017, Heller’s mild resistance had earned him a seat right next to Trump. Heller, was “the one we were worried about,“ on health care. Trump said. “You weren’t there. You’re going to be.”

And then Trump, gesturing at Heller, said to the room, “He wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

This was when Heller’s career in the Senate was finished. Not by Trump. But by Heller.

Heller might have turned to Trump and respectfully but firmly explained that as Nevada’s senior senator, Heller had a responsibility to do what was best for his state and its people — and certainly not harm them — and that Heller was eager to work with the president on health care legislation that would do that.

Of course Heller, being Heller, said nothing of the sort. 

Instead Heller laughed, like a cowardly fool would laugh when pretending they are in on a joke that they are the butt of.

It was demeaning. It was humiliating.

And it established the role Heller would play for the remainder of his career as the senior U.S. senator from the state of Nevada: Trump lapdog.

You can see why Heller would fit in so well with today’s Senate Republicans.

A few weeks after his disastrous White House lunch date, Heller, after months of twisting and turning all windsock-like, voted for a measure to repeal key portions of the Affordable Care Act, and co-sponsored a bill to cut Medicaid.

About the same time, facing a very Trumpy primary challenge from that one kid whose dad used to be a basketball coach at UNLV, Heller revealed that despite declaring himself “vehemently opposed” to Trump in 2016, he had in fact voted for him.

Heller’s evolution was complete. By the end of the summer of 2017, he was sucking up to Trump full-time.

And Trump noticed. At a rally in Las Vegas a couple months before the 2018 election, Trump assured the devoted gathering that while his relationship with Heller didn’t start out well, “we started to like each other, then we started to love each other.”

By October 2018, just a couple weeks before Heller’s ignominious reelection campaign would come to its ignominious end, a gushing Heller looked at Trump during a rally in Elko and said, “Mr President, you know a little about gold. In fact, I think everything you touch turns to gold.”

Some of Heller’s former Republican Senate colleagues, like Heller, are also no longer in the U.S. Senate.

Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Tennessee’s Bob Corker continued to resist some of the more egregious elements of Trump and Trumpism until the end, opting to exit on their own rather than fully capitulate to the most despicable and deplorable personage to ever occupy the White House in an effort to save their Senate careers.

Heller took a different path, genuflecting to Trump at every opportunity, in the desperate wish that Trump’s base would salvage the senator’s candidacy.

Not long after his defeat, Heller hoped Trump might reward Heller’s subservience and nominate him as Interior Secretary, one of the frequent cabinet posts that occasionally become vacant during the Trump presidency because the prior appointee is a charlatan and/or crook.

Alas, Trump took a pass on Heller. No matter how much Heller fawned and gushed and humiliated himself on bended knee to hail Trump, it turns out Trump has no loyalty to anyone or anything except himself.

You’d think all those Republicans senators who are putting venality and cowardice ahead of the country and doggedly defending their indefensible president this week would take Heller’s experience as a cautionary tale. They must worry that even after they swallow whatever is left of their consciences and their senses, vote to acquit, and dangerously embolden the madman even further, their fickle Supreme Leader may turn on them.

Nah, Trump wouldn’t do that to them.

Meanwhile, what of poor Dean Heller? He might run for something again. He reportedly wanted to run for governor in 2016, except he lost the Adelson primary to some snot-nosed kid from Virginia. So maybe Heller will run for governor in 2022.

In the meantime, Heller’s not in the Senate to ignore impeachment evidence and proclaim the perfection of Trump’s phone calls is matched only by the perfection of Trump’s character.

But as his former colleagues willfully dishonor themselves and debase the nation by pretending Trump has any business being anywhere near the presidency, Heller can honestly say he helped set the tone.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He 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 wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.