I must confess up front that from a strongest candidate standpoint, Sharron Angle’s Republican primary win in Nevada concerns me. This year there exists a perfect political storm to sweep Harry Reid out of the Senate. It represents a unique opportunity to strike a psychological blow to the Democratic Party. By voting Reid out of office and winning Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois, along with the earlier victory in Massachusetts, the message to the Obama/Democratic agenda could not be clearer. Not living anywhere Nevada, I do know that their unemployment rate is higher than the national average and that Nevada was at the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis. I can surmise that the recession probably wreaked havoc on Nevada’s tourism and casino industries. And I suspect that voter anger, distrust and perception of politics today- with Reid as but one face of the status quo in Washington- is alive and well and Nevada. And it is these facts and misfortunes that may allow Angle to defeat Reid in Nevada.
We are seeing already the Democratic strategy as they scramble to define Sharron Angle. Some of her positions, whether stated in the past or more recently, are being taken out of context. In one liberal posting, her consideration on the reasons for the Second Amendment blared, “Angle May Have Supported Armed Insurrection.” Yet when you read the whole quote, she was merely mentioning tyrannical government actions and quoted Thomas Jefferson along the way. Surely, even Democrats can agree that Jefferson was one of the greatest thinkers of his time. It may be a sign of the times where sound bites rather than in-depth analysis and quotes taken out of context are the norm. And admittedly, Republicans unfortunately play the same game. However, usually stupid liberal comments usually stand on their own. Case in point: Nancy Pelosi’s statement that she has not heard any Bush-bashing. Really?
Another example is the alleged controversy over Angle’s supposed unique attempt at prison reform which used scientology principles and programs to address a recidivist prison population. Obviously, since she tried to organize fact-finding trips to a prison that used these methods indicates that it was not she who thought up the idea on some whim one sunny Nevada afternoon. Was this an instance of a lawmaker “thinking outside the box” (I really hate that phrase). Was it the case of looking into something that sounded viable, realizing it was a crock of #$@tand then moving on? But already she is portrayed as some scientology crackpot in certain media circles.
Another stance she has stated is that she favors abolition of the Department of Education. Recently, in a POLITICO article, it was mentioned that Angle’s views may be even too conservative for the Republican Senate caucus. As Richard Lugar was quoted in the article, her ideas were popular among Republicans 18 years ago. Lest anyone forget, abolition of the Education Department was actually part of the Republican Party platform not too long ago.
There have been numerous commentaries on the effectiveness of the Education Department. Many writers, George Will chief among them, have correctly noted some inconvenient facts along the way. Chief among them is the fact that America was a leader in education as gauged by student performance until roughly the mid-1960s. This cut-off coincides with the federal government’s intrusion into K-12 education as part of the Great Society. And what can be a greater federal intrusion than the establishment of a cabinet level bureaucracy? Keep in mind that as the federal government became more involved and placed greater mandates on the state, student performance stagnated or even declined. Throwing greater sums of money with strings attached did very little to raise educational standards or results in this country. In fact, a great case can be made that with an encroaching federal involvement, innivative approaches were stifled or discouraged at the local level by the expanding bureaucracy. We would never allow Washington bureaucrats to actually fight our wars. Why allow them to dictate how or what our children are taught? These are decisions rightfully and historically the province of state and local governments. Does anyone today really believe that any State aspires to educational mediocrity? If this is what Sharron Angle means by “aboling the Department of Education,” then with all due respect to Richard Lugar, perhaps the Republican Party had it right 18 years ago and she has it right in 2010.
Thomas Jefferson may have said that having a revolution every 20 years is good for a democracy- the quote Angle referenced in her alleged call to armed insurrection. But he also fretted about, advocated and argued about state’s rights. He realized that the best government was the government closest to and most accountable to the people. In a day and age where the federal government essentially nationalized the banking industry, took over the auto industry and seized 16% of the American economy, one wonders what Jefferson would think today. Perhaps he would support phenomena like the Tea Party Express as our best guardian for limited government, decreased spending, and Congress remaining true to their Constitutionally-mandated duties. Perhaps Sharron Angle is the not the best choice to communicate these ideals. But she should at the very least be given the opportunity to define herself to the voters of Nevada and let the chips fall where they may.
What is happening in Nevada is exactly the same as what happened in Kentucky with Rand Paul and his infamous musings over the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As he was portrayed (gasp!) as a closet bigot for questioning the constitutionality of telling private property owners who they can and cannot serve, he allegedly attacked something as sacrosanct as that landmark civils rights legislation. Never mind the fact that he also stated he would never roll back civils rights laws and that he would never patronize a segregated business. Likewise, Angle has had the audacity to question the effectiveness of something as sacrosanct as the Department of Education.
In a previous diary posting, I had the audacity to suggest that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan be given a chance to explain some of her past views as culled from academic writings and White House memos. I argued that Republican lawmakers look at the context of those items and allow her to fairly explain herself. Essentially, I argued that she be allowed to define herself to the Senate Judiciary Committee and then be afforded an up or down vote on the Senate floor. I argued against knee-jerk reactions that because Obama nominated her, she must be a liberal kook. Perhaps she is. That remains to be seen over time as she grows into her role as an Associate Justice. And likewise, Republican candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle should be afforded the same luxuries to explain their views, for comments not to be taken out of context, to not be branded “kooks” because of a policy position in the past or because the Tea Party Express endorses them. I argue that they be afforded their up or down vote by the people of Kentucky and Nevada. I have a sneaky feeling that just as Kagan is not the terrible liberal ogre she is painted out to be neither, neither are Rand Paul and Sharron Angle the conservative ogres out to turn back the clock on civil rights legislation and outright abolition of the Education Department. An adjustment in federal priorities perhaps, but not the dire consequences liberals are trying to scare the public with today.