Editor’s note: This column appears in the current issue of Las Vegas CityLife.
Harry Reid has never been Nevada’s most popular politician. Unless he’s running against a total nobody, he’s been known to win by as few as 428 votes.
But the hatred — the passionate, driving enmity — that the right-wing feels for Reid is simply inexplicable.
In person, Reid is a shy, soft-spoken person, not given to fits of yelling. Even when he tries to be funny — say, mocking Sarah Palin’s trademark “you betcha!” — he does it in a low-key way. You can come away from a meeting with Reid thinking people would be more likely to ignore him than to loathe him.
But there he is, driving right-wingers into fits of spleen-venting fury from Washington, D.C. to Bonanza Road in Las Vegas, where he’s a fixture of derision on the editorial and op-ed pages of the Review-Journal. (That newspaper is owned by the same company — Stephens Media LLC — that owns CityLife.)
Even fellow members of Reid’s faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are driven to distraction about him. Reid had to cancel a recent appearance at a local Mormon stake house where he’d been invited to talk about “Why I Believe,” after threats were made to disrupt the proceedings. In response to a blog written on the subject, one fellow Mormon said he’d hit Reid if he saw the senator in church. Another said Reid was the most evil man on the face of the earth. And — the ultimate religious slam — one said he’d rather hear from a minion of Satan himself than Reid.
Here, the indelicate question must be asked: What the hell, people? Reid may be a Democrat while the majority of Mormons are Republicans, but he’s never violated his religious conscience or the teachings of the church with a vote. Why the anger?
And it’s not just Mormons. Polls consistently show about half of registered voters with an unfavorable opinion of Reid. Two weeks ago, a small gully near Reid’s hometown of Searchlight was filled with cheering conservatives chanting “Vote Reid out!” amid signs that called him a socialist or displayed his image alongside Karl Marx’s.
This is not just your standard political rhetoric. Many of these people really hate Harry Reid. They wish him ill. Physically.
Reid has done plenty for Nevada during his decades in office, whether it be killing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump idea, securing more money to expand state highways, preserving the beauty of Lake Tahoe, or helping to forge an agreement to get an intrastate power transmission line built. His leadership is responsible for the recent health-care reform law signed by President Barack Obama, which will help thousands of Nevadans get medical treatment they never would have received otherwise.
For that, he’s a socialist? A traitor? Do his detractors even know what those words actually mean?
It’s understandable that Republicans would resent Reid for his political skills, his deal-making ability, the way he wooed former members of the GOP such as Jim Jeffords and Arlen Specter to the Democratic side. It’s understandable they’d dislike him because he can beat them, and because he embraces a moderate Democratic agenda.
But the intensity with which the right hates Reid is out of proportion to all that. It’s not just political differences, it’s as if he shot their dog. And their mom.
And it’s completely irrational, even in the modern age of zero-sum politics, when you destroy, and not just defeat, your opponents.
There’s just no explaining it.