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Harry Reid, Sharron Angle, and the Role of Government in America

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In the October 25th issue of the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann presents an interesting portrait of Harry Reid. For those, like myself, who are relatively unfamiliar with the details of Reid's hardscrabble upbringing, Lemann brings an angry, driven, methodical and philosophically galvanized Reid into focus. The fact that a man of Reid's background (and being from Nevada) is not a staunch Republican should serve as a great inspiration to Congressional Democrats who want to maintain their majority and remind voters of the ultimately good and transformative power of a courageous and creative federal government. Whereas some would not carry a dime in their pocket because it bore FDR's image, Lemann writes:

Other than a few close relationships, like the ones with his wife, Landra, and with Mike O'Callaghan, what most reliably draws warmth from Reid's tempered-steel heart is New Deal liberalism. He likes to say that his parents' religion was Franklin D. Roosevelt; practically the only good thing that ever happened in the life of his father was joining a union. "The American government is the greatest force for good in the history of mankind"; Social Security is "the greatest social program since the fishes and loaves." Sig Rogich, a Nevada adman who worked in George H. W. Bush's White House, and who, like most establishment Republicans in Nevada, is backing Reid over Sharron Angle, told me that during many evenings at his house he and Reid have relaxed to old Woody Guthrie songs on the CD player -- "poignant songs about society and the poor."

Reid, however, is in real trouble. Reid's opponent is Sharron Angle, another incurious, cookie-cutter, late-model neocon who demonizes that part of the federal budget that does not stimulate the Dow with every other word out of her mouth. Lemann concludes the article by writing:

European governments get into trouble by overloading on pensions and other expensive benefits; American governments get into trouble by practicing a kind of casino liberalism, in which credit flows too easily, everybody goes too deeply into debt, and if the growth ever stops, everything crashes. Now Nevadans are being presented with a great clash of social visions: help from Washington with Reid versus less of Washington with Angle. The stakes are real, not rhetorical. Reid's reëlection campaign is about the role of government in the United States. Obama's reëlection campaign will be about that, too.

Here, once again, is where we are with the election just a week away: the choice between someone like Reid, who largely pulled himself out of dispiriting poverty yet acknowledges his debt to a progressive federal government, or Sharron Angle, who is not an unintelligent woman, but merely vague in the way that many anti-government Tea Party types must always be. They must remain vague, at times numbingly so, in order to conceal the preposterously transparent sleight-of-hand of their fiscal policy. Tax cuts at the federal level often simply transfer obligations to state and municipal governments. Where, one might ask, does Angle think the necessary funds will come from, as more and more Americans are out of work and may remain so for a considerable amount of time?

Christine O'Donnell has attempted to present herself as Palin 2.0, yet the original Palin looks oddly listless and tired on the circuit these days and she has done virtually nothing to expand or freshen up her act. Like some Charo of the Chugach, Palin grinds out the same quips and winks and seems even less prepared for 2012, in any capacity, than she did in 2008. O'Donnell styled herself after the wrong role model, and obviously failed to understand that Palin's future in national politics is anything but secure. However, Angle's vagueness, along with her charmless, trudging delivery, seem to be working, as she finds herself in a dead heat with Reid.

I agree with Lemann that Reid vs. Angle typifies what is dividing Americans this election year. I just hope that all Americans will carefully consider one question as they go to the polls. Who do you think will lend you a hand should things get even worse?