Nevada’s senior senator, Dean Heller, is notoriously elusive. During the confirmation process for Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees, Heller has been strikingly inaccessible to his constituents, refusing to hold a town hall, refusing to expand staff capacity to address constituents’ anxieties, and even shutting down the ability of constituents to comment on or react to his social media presence. Last night, his constituents held a packed town hall in his absence at the Flamingo library branch in Las Vegas, raising the questions they would expect their representative to address in person.
One group of constituents discovered the only way to meet Heller face to face: by purchasing tickets to attend a chamber of commerce luncheon in Carson City, and use that opportunity to question the senator. We have a state representative who is literally adopting a “pay to play” approach to his constituents.
Cornered by irate constituents, Heller defended his support of Trump’s cabinet nominees by saying, “I think every president has a right to put their cabinet into place and I support the cabinet put into place. But that doesn’t mean I support all the policies…I’m going to treat all the policies that come out of the Trump White House the same way [I have those of other administrations]…they’re not always right, but they’re not always wrong…if it’s good for Carson City, I’ll support it.”
This sounds reasonable, on the surface.
There are, however, significant problems with this line of thinking. Our country has a president who has no experience of government, no history of public service, and no experience of crafting public policy. His views on many specific policy points are totally unknown, and his views on other have been established to be very dangerous, and are increasingly being defined by courts as un-constitutional or unlawful.
Trump’s ignorance and inexperience, coupled with his very real contempt for democracy and equality before the law, mean that his cabinet appointees are extremely important. Because of his ignorance and inexperience, they will in some spheres have tremendous latitude in shaping public policy. Because of his fascist, authoritarian tendencies, they also need to be able and willing to stand up to him.
While I understand the logic of letting a president assemble his own team, senators should be evaluating the worldview that those people bring to bear on their sphere of responsibility. If Heller’s framework actually is, “if it’s good for Nevada, I’ll support it,” he should be evaluating the likelihood of Trump’s nominees pursuing policies that are good for Nevada.
Several of Trump’s nominees appear to hold worldviews that ensure that basically nothing they propose or support will be good for Nevada, and Heller should have been fighting those people tooth and nail instead of indulging and enabling a dangerous administration.
The new Treasury Secretary has devoted his career to an organization and sector which works consistently at cross-purposes with the well-being of most Nevadans, exploiting people financially and redistributing wealth upwards. How is someone with this background and his worldview supposed to suddenly have a 180-degree turnaround and reconstruct himself as a Treasury Secretary for the 99% rather than the 1% he’s made a career of serving?
The new Attorney General has demonstrated his contempt for civil rights, his willingness to erode voting rights, his support for mass deportation, and his co-authorship of a bigoted and unlawful Muslim ban. How is someone who doesn’t respect voting rights, religious diversity, or the moral imperative to protect children and families from the most vicious effects of deportation policies someone who will make reasonable choices for Nevada?