As political revolutions go, the Ira Hansen Tax Revolt era certainly set a record for brevity.
With the print on his official Assembly Speaker business cards still drying, Hansen, R-Sparks, announced Sunday he was withdrawing from the leadership position after some of his controversial and nearly 20-year-old column writings surfaced.
Before Hansen learned his political table manners and sought public office, he was no stranger to racially charged hate-speak. His old Sparks Tribune columns, unearthed by enterprising journalist Dennis Myers and reprinted in the Reno News and Review, were riddled with buzz words that speak of bigotry and beliefs that fall miles outside the mainstream.
Hansen made a bad predicament worse by failing to admit his language was inappropriate even back in 1994. Presuming there’s nothing else out there that makes him look like a thinly veiled racist — that’s not a bet I’d make — Hansen might have survived had he either defended his position or communicated contrition rather than showing contempt for his critics.
Instead, he folded his flag and went home after the first shot was fired.
“For the greater good of the state of Nevada and the cause I support it is necessary for me to withdraw as speaker designee,” he said in a brief statement published in the Review-Journal. “The tens of thousands of people who both read my columns and listened to my radio shows through two decades in the media know this has been a carefully orchestrated attack to remove a conservative Republican from a major leadership role in state government.”
If that’s actually the case, then you might ask why he quit so quickly. Did he think politics was played with bean bags? Did someone forget to tell him that, when it comes to public office, anything you say can and will be used against you?
He whined on, “The deliberate character assassination and the politics of personal destruction have totally distorted my views and record. Ultimately, this whole attack has very little to do with my views. The powers that be are planning a massive, more than one billion dollar, tax increase, and I stood in the way as speaker.”
So Hansen did what any fierce defender of the beleaguered taxpayer would do, he ran for the hills after having his own words reprinted in a Reno alternative weekly. In fairness, the language did go viral and, once again, made Nevada look like a bastion of bloviating bigots.
But Hansen wouldn’t admit that it was really about him, or that he made his political enemies’ job easy by failing to appreciate that some of the things he’d written were out of line whether in or out of context.
“I have already served two terms as an assemblyman without any of those vicious attacks,” he continued. “It was only when I had risen to leadership that this smear campaign occurred. That is the real reason for this and it is vital the public understands that.”
Trouble is, he’s actually the author of much of what now smears him.
Given his logic, the GOP Assembly caucus would be even better off if he left the Legislature entirely.
Whatever his selfless, take-one-for-the-team motives might have been, even Hansen must realize how his inflammatory rhetoric plays in 2014 with those who share his conservative religious beliefs. He must also know whether there’s more race-baiting and anti-gay writing and recordings out there. (Guess which way I’m betting.)
Ira Hansen’s sideshow and record-setting departure from the Assembly leadership position have set back Nevada conservatives who truly want a tax revolution.
The Sparks Minuteman only lasted a minute, man.
John L. Smith is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. E-mail him at email@example.com or call (702) 383-0295.