Andy Matthews, late of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, on Monday began his brand-new campaign for the 3rd Congressional District the way many politicians do, with a nice-sounding promise that‘s impossible to keep.
"A strong and consistent proponent of fiscally conservative principles and government accountability, Matthews pledged to remove barriers to job creation and economic growth, expand liberty, and empower individuals and entrepreneurs to lead America to a new era of prosperity and opportunity," he said in his emailed announcement to supporters.
And right there, in the second paragraph of his announcement, we have the problem, and one that doesn‘t confront just Matthews, but nearly everybody running for office no matter their party affiliation: making promises they can‘t keep.
No matter what, even in the highly unlikely scenario that Matthews defeats better-known Republicans such as state Sen. Michael Roberson and famous son Danny Tarkanian and won the GOP nomination and then the general election, he couldn‘t possibly remove barriers to job creation and economic growth, expand liberty and empower individuals and entrepreneurs to lead America to a new era of prosperity and opportunity. (BTW, who writes this stuff?)
At the very most, Matthews can promise that he will work to persuade a voting majority of his colleagues in the House and Senate to pursue his agenda. That‘s the way it works, whether you are running for president, governor or mayor – in American democracy, we govern by consensus, not by the will of a single officeholder.
Perhaps this is too fine a point to expect from a first-time candidate, even one who has been in charge of a think-tank that has produced metric tons of conservative rhetoric under his leadership. Perhaps it‘s too much to expect of any candidate. But telling the voters you will accomplish something over which you have no ultimate control is a form of deception that ultimately leads to cynicism, and politicians (even would-be, first-time politicians) should stop doing it.
The rest of Matthews announcement was pretty much what you‘d expect:
"Washington, D.C., taxes too much, spends too much and regulates too much," Matthews said. "And politicians today spend too much time trying to run our lives. We need leaders who recognize that fact and are committed to ending the assault on our freedoms.
"The big-government, liberal agenda that we’ve seen in Washington creates more problems and severely limits the opportunities available to the American people," Matthews said. "Too many of our nation’s leaders have forgotten one of history‘s most important lessons – that where you have liberty, you have prosperity. I‘ll fight for policies that reflect that truth."
Matthews draws a stark contrast to his chief rival for the Republican nomination, liberal State Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson. The current Majority Leader stuck Nevadans with the largest tax increase in state history and supported a massive and costly expansion of the state‘s Medicaid obligations under Obamacare.
And of course by "stuck" Nevadans with the largest tax increase in state history, Matthews really means "enacted by democratic process through broad and bi-partisan consensus and with a two-thirds supermajority as required by law, under the leadership of the most popular Republican governor in state history." That doesn‘t sound as diabolical as Matthews‘s version, but it‘s nonetheless the truth.
And of course by "supported a massive and costly expansion of the state‘s Medicaid obligations under Obamacare," Matthews really means "helped thousands of people get access to health insurance and health care who didn‘t have it before, with costs entirely or mostly borne by the federal government, in a program once again led by the most popular governor in Nevada history." Definitely sounds more sinister in the first version.
Left out entirely are the education reforms enacted by the Legislature in 2015, including the voucher-style Education Savings Account program that Matthews‘s former institute has touted as part of its apparent agenda to dismantle and debase the public school system in Nevada. That‘s what that largest tax increase in state history is going to pay for, and while Matthews and his fellows at NPRI may look at that as a bad thing, inasmuch as it boosts the public schools, thousands of Nevadans will benefit from the important reforms enacted in 2015.
But let‘s put no more words in Andy Matthews mouth. This is his campaign, after all, and it should reflect his ideas and his values as much as possible. In fact, at least one of his rivals would absolutely insist on it.