"My opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I’ll say no. And they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again, and I’ll say, to them, ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’ "
— George H.W. Bush at Republican National Convention in 1988
Why do we bother? We send reporters out on the campaign trail to follow the candidates and listen to what they say. We cover the debates. We invite them in for editorial boards and ask about their stances on the issues.
I don’t recall a single winning candidate saying back before the November election that the state of Nevada needs to raise taxes, much less $1 billion in new taxes.
Not Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, not Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, not Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio.
Despite repeated questions, Democrat Horsford would not say he would raise taxes. Buckley said her plan did not call for raising taxes. Other candidates of both Democratic and Republican stripes refused to allow the word to pass their lips.
Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons is one of the few people to say no to new taxes and stick by it, so far. At an editorial board at the Review-Journal this past week, the day before he vetoed the state budget with that $1 billion tax hike, he said, "I am very proud of the fact that I stand for something, because I think the Nevada public is tired of politicians who walk in, tell you they’re going to do something and then turn around, when they get elected and go the Legislature and do just the opposite. Mainly, go look at the comments of Majority Leader Steven Horsford when he was running for election. Your paper printed a whole series of comments saying we are not going to raise taxes during this session. Where is he today? He turned around and said I am going to support raising taxes. I tell you the people I speak with, as I travel around Nevada, hope that the people who elected tell them something and stick to it."
Words and deeds should have consequences. Our legislators must someday be held accountable to the voters. If the voters have no problem with what was said on the campaign trail in contrast to what was done in the halls of the Legislature, so be it.
Yes, we have a republic and not a pure democracy. We elect representatives to go to our capitals and govern, to debate and compromise, to achieve the best for the constituency.
But when the outcome looks nothing like the promises, one has to wonder.
Several times during the editorial board the governor referred to the political pendulum swinging, admitting that at the moment it seemed stuck to the left, with his party not faring too well. He bemoaned divisive class-warfare politics
But then he talked about trying to rebuild his party, launching into a definition: "Whatever your ideas are, whatever your beliefs are, if you believe in the concept of smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, you’re a Republican. If you believe in hard work and responsibility and accountability, you’re a Republican. If you believe having a job instead of being on the government payroll is important in your life, if you believe a pay check is more important than a welfare check, you’re a Republican. I welcome everybody."
It was a Review-Journal poll recently that showed a general dissatisfaction with the governor, perhaps deservedly. But his words and deeds do match.
President Bush’s "read my lips" promise came back to cost him.
A campaign commercial by Bill Clinton was devastating. It opened with a clip of the Bush promise and followed with: "Then he gave us the second biggest tax increase in American history. Bush increased the gas tax by 56 percent. Can we afford four more years? Bill Clinton a different kind of Democrat. As governor, Arkansas has the second lowest tax burden in the country, balanced 12 budgets. You don’t have to read his lips. Read his record. Clinton-Gore. For people. For a change."
Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. Pendulum swings.
Will that pendulum swing toward change in Nevada?
Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press and access public information. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Read his blog at lvrj.com/blogs/mitchell.