Helen Mirren for governor

Screen grab of Helen Mirren's video endorsement of Nevada Democratic congressional candidate Patricia Ackerman.

Early in-person voting started and Donald Trump brought his mobile coronavirus distribution center to Carson City, but easily the biggest political news in Nevada last weekend was the revelation that Helen Mirren voted for the very first time in a U.S. election, in Douglas County.

The Oscar-winning actress, who has a residence on the Nevada side of the Lake Tahoe Fancy People Sanctuary, cast her first vote in the U.S. by dropping her mail-in ballot in a box in Minden.

She also appeared in a video for Nevada Democrats urging people to vote early, as well as a video endorsing Patricia Ackerman’s challenge to unseat GOP Rep. Mark Amodei in Nevada’s second congressional district. Mirren only became a citizen three years ago, so Amodei is the first and only U.S. congressman she’s ever had, which, for a new American citizen, must be anticlimactic.

Having declared herself a Democrat and demonstrated an interest in Nevada and its politics, maybe Mirren should run for governor in 2022.

“Wait” you say. “Nevada already has a Democratic governor, and he will be seeking reelection in two years, won’t he?”

Yeah, presumably. 

But that might be … dicey.

First things first

Not to belabor the obvious, but over the next two weeks anxiety over the the republic’s survival will tighten its grip on a citizenry already besieged by hardship, panic, misery and despair. In the hellscape that has become post-2016 America, a preponderance of pollsters and poll analysts predicting a Trump loss in 2020 seems not cause for relief, but too good to be true, a devilish hoax best ignored, lest one start believing it only to be devastated when the antiquated electoral college system yet again makes a mockery of democracy in America and projectile vomits Trump to a second term.

Yes, pollsters are giving more weight to uneducated voters, so as to guard against that demographic blindsiding projections as it did in 2016. And yes, the 2016 polls actually were not that far off anyway. And yes, as of this writing, FiveThirtyEight’s models favor (however slightly in some cases) Joe Biden to win not only Florida and Arizona but Georgia — Georgia! — as well as the Pennsylvania-Michigan-Wisconsin Axis of Upheaval that condemned the U.S. to its long national nightmare in 2016.

And yes, the most informative data point suggesting a Biden win in Nevada in 2020 remains the sweeping Nevada Democratic victories in 2018.

All those factors and considerations and signals notwithstanding, the projections could still be wrong, and Trump could still win. 

Anybody who says they know what’s going to happen doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and the uncertainty and heebie-jeebies will eat you up inside out if you let them. (Helpful hint: Stay off social media.)

The midterm problem

But what if this time, the projections are right? What if Biden wins?

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a political party like its new president’s first midterm election. 

Remember the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution? 

That was Bill Clinton’s first midterm, in 1994. 

How about the Tea Party ascendancy that brought Barack Obama’s presidency to a grinding policy halt and gerrymandered Republican congressional and legislative seats in multiple states for a decade?

Obama’s first midterm, in 2010. 

The “Blue Wave” that rid the House of Representatives of nearly a decade of Tea Party rule and put Democrats in control of the House? 

Trump’s first (and only, gods willing) midterm, in 2018.

The ritual first midterm bloodbath is why it would be no surprise if we were to learn that Amodei, along with fellow potential Nevada GOP gubernatorial candidates including but not limited to Adam Laxalt, Dean Heller and Ben Kieckhefer, were all secretly voting for Biden. The surest path to Nevada Republican victories in 2022 is Biden winning in 2020.

In the event, Nevada Democrats will remind voters in two years that all those Nevada Republicans went all-in on Trump and Trumpism. But the American electorate’s attention span is notoriously short and flibberty-gibberish, and American voters have demonstrated a willingness to forgive and forget Republican transgressions in particular.

If Biden wins, 2022 will almost assuredly be a horrible year for Democrats, especially incumbent governors who struggled to make their state’s unemployment systems go.

Facing the inevitable backlash to the party in power, Democrats may want to consider putting up a candidate who doesn’t have to relive, defend and explain every corona-related decision they ever made.

Since Nevada governors occupy a very important upper-middle management position in the resort industry, the industry, too, may want to take necessary steps to avoid having to deal with, say, an extremist show horse like Laxalt, and orchestrate a Democratic alternative to the incumbent. 

OK, probably not Helen Mirren. For one thing, she already has a day job.

Fortunately, there are multiple other Nevada Democratic women who would be perfectly good gubernatorial candidates.

Oh, and if all the projections are wrong, and Trump wins?

The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion co-authored by Amy Coney Barrett and Biff Kavenaugh, will approve Trump’s scheme to install puppet governors, one of several Trump initiatives to replace democracy with authoritarian rule. Probably. Then the 2022 election will be the least of our problems, and not even Helen Mirren will be able to save us.

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.