Commentary

Lombardo says NV is ‘needlessly’ polarized. Hmm, how’d that happen?

January 5, 2023 7:21 am

Joe Lombardo not rising above political polarization in Minden in October. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

For decades, it’s been commonly observed that Nevada tends to rank at the bottom of good lists and the top of bad lists. 

That’s probably not what Gov. Joe Lombardo means when he says “the Nevada Way.”

In case you missed it, in an inaugural address Tuesday Lombardo said the phrase “the Nevada Way” multiple times.

Lombardo initially tied “the Nevada Way” to a “spirit of independence.” Which needed to be said because no governor of any other state has ever claimed their state has an independent spirit. Unless of course you count every governor of every state ever.

Nevada’s purported exceptionalism, Lombardo continued, is “rooted in the notion that no challenge is so unsurmountable it cannot be solved.”

Except maybe for that whole good lists/bad lists thing? Well he’s a new governor so perhaps we should be polite and not quibble.

“The Nevada Way,” as articulated by Lombardo, is “the concept that as Nevadans, if we believe in ourselves sufficiently enough, and trust one another to overcome adversity, no matter the magnitude, we will never fail.”

As of this writing, Nevada has indeed never failed to underfund schools, place a disproportionately large tax burden on low-income Nevadans, subsidize wealthy people and businesses that don’t need subsidies, and coddle the state’s most powerful special interests while turning a blind eye to working families. There’s your Nevada Way right there, governor.

In fairness, you can’t begrudge a new governor for muttering vacuous banalities in an inaugural address. That’s almost always what inaugural addresses are. 

Nor should we be too hard on the governor for falling well short of eloquence and vision, especially a governor who during his campaign rarely demonstrated either. 

“The Nevada Way?” It’s entirely possible if not probable that the only reason Lombardo kept repeating that phrase over and over is because “New Nevada” was already taken by one of the guests at his inaugural event, former governor Brian Sandoval.

And “the (insert name of state here) way” is anything but new.

Those of you with a passing familiarity with the state of Virginia’s political culture (oh hi Adam Laxalt how’s tricks?) will recall that the phrase “the Virginia Way” is about as old as the Old Dominion itself. It’s supposed to have something to do with honor and civility and gentility and the like, but the critique is that the civility, at least in terms of determining public policy, has usually been shared among powerful cronies and connivers as they stick it to everybody else. In other words, if any state has the right to rip off Virginia’s mantra, it’s probably Nevada.

No more, Mr. Nice Guy?

Parts of Lombardo’s address may have been inspired by another Virginia phenomenon – a Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, who has managed, for the most part, to not get too much Donald Trump on him.

In a vague reference to the American psyche Trump has done so much to shatter and batter over the years, Lombardo in his address lamented “needless polarization” and called on Nevadans to “strive to rise above it.”

Appealing to civility and gentility, Lombardo is effectively telling Nevadans “never mind.” He’s asking Nevadans to henceforth politely and respectfully refrain from ever again publicly mentioning that he was endorsed by, and campaigned with, Trump. 

He also no doubt hopes everyone will forgive and forget that time he humiliated himself by publicly and obsequiously folding for Trump and retracting the words that had come out of his own mouth because a Trump intermediary told him to.

Lombardo would prefer to stand apart from the once and still leader of the Republican Party, Trump. Any Nevada governor would rather govern in some – any – Nevada way rather than as directed by Trump and whichever grifting chuckleheads are serving as his minions at any given time.

But that aspiration, along with the one to transcend polarization, will be made more difficult so long as Lombardo’s party continues to be chaired by fake elector Michael McDonald and a party’s organizational ranks riddled with similarly Trumped-up megaMAGA-folk.

Lombardo would love it if everyone, especially Nevada Democratic legislators, just decided to play nice. And Nevada elected Democrats and Republicans have long shown an ability to get along when it comes to coddling special interests – the Nevada way, after all. But given a veto-proof Democratic majority in the state Assembly and a near veto-proof majority in the state Senate, the bar is pretty low for Lombardo’s legislative aspirations.

Perhaps he should broaden his goals.

He’s not just the governor. He’s also now the de facto leader of Nevada Republicans. If Lombardo helps rid the Nevada Republican Party’s leadership of the MAGA fruits and nuts who have been working harder than anyone to polarize the state, that, not his policy agenda, might be the most consequential legacy of his governorship.

Elected Democrats in the U.S. generally and Nevada definitely are not radical extremists. They’re merely center-left, and often as not rather squishy about it. As numerous studies have documented, the Republican turn to the right has been far more extreme than the Democratic turn to the left. That was happening even before Trump, and even before the Tea Party.

Lombardo says for Nevadans no challenge is insurmountable. If true, that means Nevadans can even surmount political polarization.

The Nevadan best positioned to take that on is the Nevadan who holds a higher elected office than any Republican in the state. Please proceed, governor.

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Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson

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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