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Dennis Myers: political parties outliving their usefulness?

On July 25, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, D-Nevada, sent out a press statement. It had been timed for 11:00 in the morning, I assume, because I received it by email at 11:37 a.m. It read:

“Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either. That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans, particularly those living in rural areas, with dwindling or no choices. Whether it’s my ideas to protect Nevadans who depend on Medicaid or the Graham – Cassidy proposal that empowers states and repeals the individual and employer mandates, there are common-sense solutions that could improve our health care system and today’s vote gives us the opportunity to fight for them. If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it.”

Shortly afterward, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, – who is running against Heller – sent out a message of her own:

“Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller just cast a vote to move forward on the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away health care from tens of millions of people. He’s up for re-election in 2018, and I’m running to replace him. Winning in Nevada is Democrats’ best Senate pickup opportunity, but right now the latest poll shows this race is a dead heat. I can’t win without your support. If you’re as outraged as I am about Senator Heller’s heartless vote to take health care away from millions of people, then I need you to step up and give right now: Will you give now, every dollar you can, to defeat Dean Heller and turn Nevada’s critical Senate seat blue?”

In subsequent days, news releases or fundraising mailings denouncing Heller came from the Democratic National Committee (six mailings); Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (two); Rosen’s campaign committee (three) and her House office (three); lesser-known candidate Jesse Sbaih; the Nevada Democratic Party (five), one of which contributed to the dialogue by calling Heller a “lying coward” and one that called him “Coward of the Day”); and one each from the Women’s Online Media and Education Network, Organizing for Action (money was requested), Revolution Messaging PR, the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations and MomsRising.org.

U.S. Sen Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, sent two mailings, one on the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, the other on the Affordable Care Act.

Attacks on Heller also came from American Bridge Political Action Committee (“Heller’s Lying and Constantly Shifting Stances”) and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez.

I received one mailing supporting Heller. That came from the National Retail Association.

A couple of mailings arrived from Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is running for president again and keeps portraying himself on health care as a sane and reasonable prospective president, which will take a lot of living down of his U.S. House record.

This barrage was not unusual. The days BEFORE Heller’s July 25 statement were the same way – dozens of Democratic groups denigrating Heller.

These barrages have a habit of hardening feelings. There were times when Heller seemed to be gravitating away from supporting a Republican health care plan, and there were times when the language of the Democrats seemed designed to make sure he DID vote for a Republican health plan, the idea being that they would rather have him on the wrong side of the issue for campaign purposes than work with them to aid the working poor.

Did the Democrats really think that “lying coward” mailings were the right way to get him to vote with them?

Of course, the Democrats learned this technique from the Republicans, who started promoting polarization and mean-spirited attacks during the Gingrich speakership (I often tell students how people like Everett Dirkson and Hubert Humphrey worked together and they have trouble believing it).

For instance, in 2010 Brian Walsh, a D.C. publicist for the National Republican Senate Committee, spent every single day trashing Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. And we can be certain that the NRSC will put another publicist to work soon trashing Rosen.

The truth is, the public is held hostage to these two groups of juvenile delinquents who have used their position as major parties to rig the election laws so that other, less puerile and more competent parties cannot take the place of political parties that no longer function as vehicles for change, but rather as obstacles to change.

Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.

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