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Reid Leads in Nevada Senate Race After Series of Controversial Statements by GOP Challenger Sharron Angle

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Nevada’s US Senate race pits Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid against Republican challenger and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle. Reid’s poll numbers were down, mainly over Nevada’s sky-high unemployment rates, but since Angle, a former state assemblywoman, won the Republican primary on June 8th in a come-from-behind victory, she has made a series of statements that appear to be hurting her poll numbers and have put Reid ahead in the race. We speak with independent journalist Hugh Jackson. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the race that may well, well, be determined by what’s happening here. Jobs have been the focal issue in Nevada’s US Senate race that pits Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid against Republican challenger and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.

For a while, Reid’s prospects for reelection did not look good. His poll numbers were way down, mainly over Nevada’s sky-high unemployment rates. But since Angle, a former state assemblywoman, won the Republican primary on June 8th in a come-from-behind victory, she’s made a series of statements that appear to be hurting her poll numbers and have put Reid ahead in the race. Angle has been forced to backtrack from her suggestions that Washington “phase out” Social Security and Medicare in favor of private accounts. She also backtracked after she called the $20 billion BP compensation fund a, quote, “slush fund.” She also came under intense scrutiny for a statement in January suggesting people should invoke, quote, “Second Amendment remedies” as a check on the government and to, quote, “take out” Reid.

Well, for more on Sharron Angle, Harry Reid and the political landscape of Nevada, we’re joined here in Las Vegas by Hugh Jackson, an independent journalist. He blogs at lasvegasgleaner.com.

Hugh, welcome to Democracy Now!

HUGH JACKSON: My pleasure.

AMY GOODMAN: Lay out the story for us, this race that is really being seen as a bellwether in the country, the Democratic establishment versus the Tea Party.

HUGH JACKSON: Well, you’ve hit some of the high points with your introduction there. You know, we had a spirited primary, and there was a Republican establishment candidate, and everyone expected her to win. Some of the audience may remember this woman Sue Lowden, who rose to national fame — infamy, if you will — by suggesting that we barter for healthcare. “Take a chicken to the doctor” was her campaign slogan unofficially. But she had a huge lead in the polls, and then she collapsed. Sharron Angle got the endorsement of the Tea Party. She’s the Tea Party darling. And she started to move up.

But I always suspected that Sharron Angle was going to win that Republican primary, anyway, eventually, because of the nature of where the Republican Party is now, not just in Nevada, but nationally. You may remember after Obama’s election, people were saying, “Well, which way is the Republican Party going to go? Are they going to come up with some ideas and be sensible and try to appeal to a broader population, or are the going to let the right take over?” Well, now we see what the answer obviously was, and this is what they’ve got. They’ve got a person who’s, you know, pretty far out there.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me play an example, the comment of Sharron Angle from January where she suggested that people should invoke Second Amendment remedies as a check on the government and the idea to “take out” Harry Reid. She was speaking on The Lars Larson Show, a conservative radio show, in January.

    SHARRON ANGLE: And our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, you know, Thomas Jefferson said it is good for a country to have a revolution every twenty years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies. They’re saying, “My goodness! What can we do to turn this country around?” And I’ll tell you. The first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Republican senatorial candidate Sharron Angle. She came under criticism for the comment after it was highlighted by the Washington Post

after she won the Republican primary. Angle was also criticized for only appearing on conservative shows. At the end of June, she did her first interview with a mainstream media outlet, the Las Vegas political program Face to Face. Interviewer Jon Ralston grilled Angle about the Second Amendment remedies comment.

    JON RALSTON: You essentially say if Congress, in your view, spends too much, bails out too many businesses, has a healthcare bill that you don’t like, that’s reason —-

    SHARRON ANGLE: No, I don’t think I went that far. Come on!

    JON RALSTON: No, but that’s a reason to take up arms, essentially, is what you’re saying.

    SHARRON ANGLE: What I was saying, in the broader context, is that people are afraid of their government and what the government is doing with all this takeover. But you know what? What I find is interesting here -—

    JON RALSTON: You’re essentially endorsing them to arm themselves.

    SHARRON ANGLE: Well, what is —- well, of course! We need to. We need to make sure that we keep our Second Amendment rights.

    JON RALSTON: I didn’t say -—

    SHARRON ANGLE: And I think that people should. In fact, the Supreme Court —-

    JON RALSTON: So Barack Obama gets elected, we should have more guns?

    SHARRON ANGLE: The Supreme Court agrees with me. Yesterday, the Supreme Court even agreed with me -—

    JON RALSTON: That’s —- they don’t agree that you -—

    SHARRON ANGLE: — that we should have our Second Amendment rights and that we should be able to protect ourself.

    JON RALSTON: No one’s saying anything about Second Amendment rights. Someone’s saying that you’re saying —-

    SHARRON ANGLE: But that was the context of the conversation that we were having.

    JON RALSTON: You went too far. You went too far.

AMY GOODMAN: There you have Sharron Angle on the program Face to Face. The Second Amendment remedy to take out Harry Reid?

HUGH JACKSON: I will say, perhaps too generously in her defense, that I don’t think she was advocating shooting the Majority Leader. I may be wrong. But, you know, when you look at the rhetoric -— and this is really a point that I think needs to be made. Sharron Angle is not leading anyone in Nevada. When she comes up with, what Professor Hofstadter once described in reference to another populist demagogue, a heart full of simple emotions and a mind full of equally simple ideas, she’s a vessel for a lot of the community and a lot of what they feel — misguided, paranoia, fearful of change. When the economy crashes — and, of course, as your previous guest mentioned, I mean, obviously here it’s crashed pretty hard — people turn in lots of different directions, and they lash out. And Sharron Angle, it’s not that she has aroused anyone and awakened them to do this. She’s just kind of got in front of a group that was already headed in that direction.

AMY GOODMAN: Perhaps this isn’t so much about Sharron Angle. I mean, until this moment, she was ahead of Harry Reid. It’s the question, how the most powerful Democrat in the country, the nation’s Senate, you know, outside of President Obama, can be polling so low here?

HUGH JACKSON: Well, he’s been around a long time. And again, you have all this angst, anger, paranoia, fear that’s out there in the population. And so, that tends to get transferred to the party in power, and he happens to be the party in power.

It must be said also that Harry Reid may be the least personable politician on the national stage right now, if not in my lifetime. I mean, he’s just not a very likable person. He doesn’t come across well. He doesn’t have a gut visceral connection with voters. So there are a lot of reasons why he’s down.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain. I mean, here we are in this state, the highest unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures. And, of course, Harry Reid represents more than Nevada: he is a powerhouse in the Senate. And when you look at where the economy has gone, the solutions that have been offered?

HUGH JACKSON: Yes, but if you want to look at the example of what these Tea Party and Sharron Angle-style policies, how they manifest themselves in the real world, Nevada is an excellent case study. We’re one of three states with no form of tax on corporate income or businesses. We’re one of seven states with no form of personal income tax. We have the cheapest state government, whether based on as a scale measured against the entire economy or per capita, in the nation. And it’s by a pretty long shot; it’s not close. This is a very, very cheap state. And as a result, when — we had two industries: growth and gambling. And when the growth industry died, it took everything down with it, because we have no diversified — we have no texture to our economy. We have not diversified, because we don’t spend anything on education. We don’t spend anything on higher education. We are not training a workforce. We do not value education. There are a lot of foreclosed houses around here, but you still can’t find a used bookcase, because it’s just not the type of thing that people are putting in their homes. I mean, this is a very one-dimensional economy that loves no taxes, loves small regulation, and now you can see how that’s manifested itself in 14.5 percent unemployment rate.

I would also add, with regard to Harry Reid, that I think if — the stimulus package was too small, obviously. The healthcare reform was a capitulation on — the Sherrod thing and the Democratic capitulation kind of reminds me of why the stimulus was too small and why the healthcare reform was too inadequate. But, you know, if they had gone out and said, “Look, we’re going to put Medicare to the population,” and if they had done a stimulus program that was about twice the size that it was, which most economists said that it should have been, the economy would be in much better shape, and Harry Reid would have a lot less problems. But because they nickel and dime and triangulate and “Oh, let’s try not to offend any swing voters anywhere,” then this is what you get, and an angry public that’s coming back at it.

AMY GOODMAN: Hugh Jackson, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Are you going to be at the Netroots Nation conference?

HUGH JACKSON: I think I’m doing a panel in a couple hours.

AMY GOODMAN: We are here in Las Vegas at the Netroots Nation convention. There will be thousands of people here over the coming days.

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