It didn’t take long for me to be pulled into circles of progressive and Democratic activists in Las Vegas. And before long, I had to rethink everything I thought I had known about the most famous living Nevadan.
Looking from afar, I didn’t get Senator Harry Reid’s soft voice, his bumbling ways, and his weak excuse for “leadership”. How did this guy become Senate Democratic Leader, and why won’t anyone challenge him already?
Once I was in a position to look under the hood and behind the scenes, I realized Senator Reid may be speak softly, yet he carries a mighty huge stick. While some outside Nevada see him as some feckless & spineless old fart, those “in the know” inside The Silver State know better. We know he’s been instrumental in blocking the shipment of dangerous nuclear waste into this state, saving natural treasures like Red Rock Canyon & Tule Springs, saving Nevada’s gaming industry from “death by Great Recession”, and bringing new businesses into this state (Hello, Tesla!).
When I first heard of Senator Reid, I had wondered why some old Mormon guy from a tiny ex-mining town was the Senate Democratic Leader. But when I saw firsthand his shepherding of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” repeal, other anti-discrimination bills, clean energy programs, and critical last-minute budget deals to President Obama’s desk, I knew. I had realized that the scrappy boxer from Searchlight still had plenty of fight in him.
And from what I see, he still does. That’s why last Friday’s announcement came as such a shock to me. Sure, he had been injured by an exercise band mishap. But come on, he was targeted by the mob, Ronald Reagan, “The House of Ensign”, the religious right, and the Koch Brothers! If Senator Reid could survive all their challenges, how could he not survive this?
Well, he is. He just won’t be in the US Senate any more after next year. Yet even now, Harry Reid is preparing for one more great fight. This time, he’s fighting to ensure Catherine Cortez Masto succeeds him to the US Senate to continue the work he began. This is why he’s now busy clearing the Democratic primary for her, and why he’s just letting Nevada Republicans self-destruct as they fight each other to political death in Carson City.
All of this may seem strange in California. It certainly was when I was looking in from next door. But now that I’m in the thick of it, it all makes sense. Yet now that I’ve lived in Nevada for nearly six years and let Senator Reid to grow on me, it’s difficult to imagine a Nevada without Reid to look out for us from his perch in the US Senate. After Reid, what next?
In 2009, I thought I had seen it all in Orange County. What I didn’t realize when I left was that I didn’t yet know Harry Reid. But now that I do, it’s hard for me to fathom political life without him.
Once upon a time, Andrew Davey raised quite a bit of hell as a Liberal OC contributor. Thanks to his “on-the-job training” here, he launched a blogging career in Nevada. He’s now a contributing editor at LetsTalkNevada.com. He is welcome to write for this blog whenever he wishes.