After such an ugly election, what’s next?


“Memo from the Middle” is an opinion column by RGJ columnist Pat Hickey, who was a member of the Nevada Legislature from 1996 to 2016.

By the time you are reading this, many of you will have already voted. Nothing I say here will determine the outcome of this election. However, how each of us behaves after all of the votes are finally tallied will matter… a lot.

Given how deeply divided the country is and how razor-thin the polls for Nevada’s major races are right now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see losers on both sides of the political aisle calling foul and the blame game in a post-election frenzy of accusations and counter-accusations.

In such uncivil times we would do well to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln when we had a real civil war. Besides warning that a house divided against itself cannot stand, Lincoln noted the irony say of the two sides who insist they have divine providence on their side; “Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each implores his help against the other. It may seem strange that people should dare ask a just God for help to wring their bread out of other people’s sweat, but let us not judge that we will not be judged. The prayers of both could not be answered.”

Even today, the hopes and prayers of American political parties will not be finally answered by the 2022 election. We entered this election season with a divided nation. Unfortunately, we are likely to leave this year’s polling station in an even more divided country.

In the most closely watched US Senate race in the country, both Catherine Cortez Masto and Adam Laxalt have something to win. If incumbent Cortez Masto records a win, the Democrats will likely retain control of the upper house. If challenger Adam Laxalt prevails, a Republican majority will give his party powerful leverage in the remaining two years of the Biden presidency.

Either way, the House of Representatives is expected to turn Republican, and Americans will once again “please” a divided government. Again, either compromise or stagnation are the two choices that await us.

Having served in elected office in Nevada, I can tell you that compromise requires meeting your political opponents somewhere in the middle. Whether you believe your prayers or your political philosophy are for the benefit of the Almighty, you must be able to cooperate (and dare I say, even forgive) your opponents. That is, if you want to get something done while you’re in DC or Carson City.

Enough has been written about how bipartisanship has poisoned our political waters. Walking around Lake Tahoe this summer, I have observed how restoration efforts are helping to reclaim some of the lake’s natural splendor. It seems to me that we should also do something to stop the erosion of our once-cherished political system. Just as Tahoe is “the most beautiful picture that the whole earth offers,” so America’s representative democracy has been the envy of most of the world. To replenish both, we need more clean water and less dirty politics.

An infusion of new blood requires younger voters to be engaged. I worry that the opposite is happening. While playing golf with a young professional couple in their 20s in Reno last weekend, I was disheartened to learn that neither of them will vote in the midterm elections.

Sondra Cosgrove is a past President of the League of Women Voters and a college professor. She, too, is concerned about young Nevadans sitting on the sidelines.

“My students are frustrated and feel paralyzed by all the negative campaign ads. The barrage of negative publicity relentlessly tells them that all candidates are bad for Nevada.” Cosgrove continues, “Young voters tend to be impartial, so telling them to vote D or R is unhelpful. You want to vote for someone, not against someone.”

A lesson I learned earlier in life: You never make yourself look good by trying to make someone else look bad. Shame on those of us who are destroying faith in our voting system for younger Nevadans. Lincoln warned against such stupidity.

On the morning after November 8th, the sun will again rise over the Great Basin. If we want Nevadans to have a bright future, we should all start by doing the adult thing and accepting the election results.

If we want younger Nevadans to be involved in their own future and to participate politically in it, we should start cleaning up the ugliness in our own political backyards.

“Memo from the Middle” is an opinion column by RGJ columnist Pat Hickey, who was a member of the Nevada Legislature from 1996 to 2016.

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