Nevada Senator Dean Heller represents one of the most diverse states in the country. Across the board, Nevadans voted in November for candidates who spoke up for the rights of immigrants, women, workers, refugees, and others who have been subjected to discrimination. Even more conservative citizens in this western state share a strong commitment to the idea of liberty, though they might have different issues foremost in their minds.
Now Heller finds himself on the frontline in a struggle against an administration that is mounting an assault on everything this blend of new and old Nevadas seems to stand for. The Trump-Bannon regime came to power in an election in which barely over half of eligible voters turned out. The racist ticket topped by a candidate who boasted about sexually assaulting women with impunity not only failed to win a majority, but fell far short of a plurality, being trounced by Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.
Nonetheless, Trump, backed by a white supremacist who has flirted with the toxic ethnic nationalism of Russian-inspired Eurasianism (which sees the kind of diversity we have in Nevada as a threat to civilization rather than a marker of its progress), is pushing ahead on a range of policy fronts.
The administration is moving to slash access to healthcare, which will leave a range of Americans either without healthcare or facing dramatically rising costs for that care. The administration is rolling back regulations which offer workplace protections, limit corruption, and help to ensure the basic health of our citizenry by keeping the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat safe.
In spite of an inauguration pledge to not seek to remake the world in America’s image, Trump’s first international actions involved refusing U.S. funding to any organization which supports abortion as an option for women in the developing world. Having criticized Hillary Clinton for being too interventionist, Trump has now gone further than the Obama administration she served, putting U.S. soldiers on the front lines in Yemen. Having attacked Clinton for speaking to Goldman Sachs employees, Trump is now packing his administration with insiders straight from the belly of that Wall Street beast.
Trump has sidelined the uniformed military within the National Security Council, replacing them with Stephen Bannon. This means the kill lists and control of national security policy is being politicized to an unprecedented degree, in the hands of a self-described bomb thrower. Trump has ordered the construction of a border wall, and is attacking those cities which give shelter to undocumented migrants.
The manner in which Trump is approaching the latter issue suggests that he is interested in creating a corrupt, patrimonial state, in which he uses immigration as a casus belli to embark on an open pillaging expedition in particular states, shifting wealth, resources, funds, and welfare from his political opponents to his allies. His efforts to appoint Betsy DeVos to the education department corroborates this suspicion, given DeVos’ interest in transferring public funding from the public schools that educate the overwhelming majority of American children to the selective charter schools that predominantly benefit the affluent or special religious interests.
Trump has also claimed loudly and repeatedly that there was massive voter fraud in the election. There is no evidence to support his claim, and much to the contrary, but Trump’s claims are less concerned with reality than with sowing confusion in advance of a calculated assault on voting rights in the next election.
Trump then issued a discriminatory executive order targeting Muslim refugees, visa holders, and would-be migrants. Although his administration claims that the ban is not targeting Muslims, the countries it is set to affect (conspicuously omitting some where Trump does business) gives the lie to the claim, and Rudy Giuliani has bragged that he was commissioned by the administration to draw up an order that would introduce a “Muslim ban” through the back door.
Many of the people affected by this attack on global refugees are fleeing conflicts fueled if not started by the Republican Party, and jihadist groups have greeted the order with glee and enthusiasm. Trump’s intervention in Yemen is calculated to create more refugees, but those too will find the door slammed in their faces. In the meantime, Trump excoriates European countries for not spending enough on their militaries, ignoring the extent to which those countries subsidize irresponsible U.S. policy by taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Trump’s nominee to be Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has exhibited contempt for the Voting Rights Act, and is also said to be a brainchild of the discriminatory refugee executive order. When a judge issued a stay against Trump’s order, enforcement officers were ordered by their superiors to disobey, setting the administration on a collision course with courts. Heller soon has the opportunity to vote on the confirmation of DeVos, Sessions, and a host of other Trump nominees.
Dean Heller has attempted to shield himself from scrutiny by asking a few probing questions of Trump’s treasury nominee, while refusing to speak with clarity on some of Trump’s other disturbing nominees, or the disturbingly authoritarian character of the administration.
Nevadans, who made their preferences clear in November, need their voices heard. Catherine Cortez Masto is doing her bit to push back against the unconstitutional actions of the administration and its discriminatory rhetoric and practice. Governor Brian Sandoval has warned that “lives are at stake” if Trump and the Republicans repeal Obamacare without a serious replacement.
But Nevadans are still waiting on Dean Heller. What does he think about the threatened assault on voting rights, the discriminatory executive orders directed at Muslims, the turning back of vetted refugees, and the contempt for the courts? I wonder what Heller thinks about the sidelining of the uniformed military, the plunder of public funds for the private sector, and attacks on healthcare, access to which should be a fundamental social right of all Americans.
It’s time to hear more from Dean Heller. And crucially, it’s time for him to match words with action. Nothing less is required to protect our states and the welfare of its citizens, and to defend the constitution against an authoritarian administration. Senator Heller, please stand up, speak out, and act. We could be in the twilight of American democracy, and we need all hands on deck.