Remember in college when you were hooking up with this girl pretty regularly, and eventually you sat down and the two of you decided that you were going to just be what you were and not worry about labels like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” and it seemed like you had discovered a bold new way of living right up until some dude started hitting on her at a party? Well, the 2010 Nevada senatorial race is the party, and John Ashjian is that dude. As of a few weeks ago, he’s running against Harry Reid as the official candidate of the Tea Party of Nevada. Unfortunately, the creation of the Tea Party of Nevada seems to coincide with the announcement of his candidacy. Previously, retired CPAs in Nevada who got all their news from daytime talk radio were represented by the Northern Nevada Tea Party, the Reno Tea Party, or the political action committee Anger Is Brewing. These organizations, as well as the national Republican Party, have suggested that Ashjian’s candidacy is a liberal plot—an attempt to split the conservative and anti-Washington vote in a race where Harry Reid’s seat is seriously threatened. A woman named Elizabeth Crum, writing in a column called The Blog on a website called Nevada News Bureau—which describes itself as, simply, “an independent new service”—writes of the Tea Party of Nevada that “I cannot find any evidence that any of these principals have ever been involved in any Tea Party activities, until now.” Are you beginning to see why having some sort of defined structure is useful in politics? Not to mention journalism?
The problem is particularly compounded for the Tea Party, a grassroots movement/thing that Dick Armey tricked people into doing that is united, at least in part, by paranoia. There’s little doubt that Ashjian’s candidacy is good for Harry Reid, who currently polls at a loss to Republican front-runner Sue Lowden in the general elections, but enjoys a narrow lead in polls positing both Lowden and a Tea Party candidate. But is it, as some have alleged, a liberal plot? Is it a real plot, with like people doing it an evidence and stuff, or is it like the plot to turn America toward socialism? Even the conspiracy theories sound like the work of conspiracies. Witness this quote from Kelly Anderson Wright, reporting in the North Star National under the headline “Fake Nevada Tea Party a liberal front group trying to save Harry Reid?”:
Most Tea Party faithful in Nevada are comfortable with the Republican party’s large field of diverse Senate candidates, with well-known names, pedigrees, voting records and commitment to conservative principles.
That’s some objective, non RNC-funded reportage, right there. Probably because they invested all their resources in conducting a scientific poll of Nevada residents, the North Star National failed to interview UNLV basketball star and Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian. Too bad for them, because that dude is hilarious. “Nobody in the Tea Party knows who he is,” Tarkanian told CNN. “No doubt about it…Harry Reid’s staff, campaign, whatever” chose Ashjian because he’s Armenian, Tarkanian alleges. “They know the Armenians are very close; they’ll vote for each other.”
Harry Reid’s dastardly plan to win another term as Senate Majority Leader by splitting the Nevada Armenian vote probably would have worked, too, had Danny Tarkanian not exposed it. The absurdity of his allegation calls into question the initially plausible suggestion that the national Democratic Party has orchestrated the Ashjian campaign. First of all, if they had, it would be two standard deviations more politically intelligent than anything the Democrats have done all year. Second, and more convincing, if Ashjian really were a stalking horse selected by cabal of liberal operatives, wouldn’t there be some evidence? This is where a national press interested in investigative journalism might come in, if we were living in 1971. As it is, CNN contents itself with reporting the controversy, and bemusedly noting that Ashjian as so folksy as to “personally give [them] directions to his house.” Thank god that we have a multimillion-dollar, 24-hour news organization to tell us that A) John Ashjian may be the object of a national conspiracy to exploit anti-federal populism in order to preserve the career of the Senate Majority Leader and B) whoever he is, he doesn’t have a personal assistant. LOL, you guys!
The situation in Nevada might be a little easier to understand if everyone involved weren’t such an idiot. Between the Trotskyite bickering of the various factions of the “real” Tea Party, the integrity-free reporting of the local press, the faddish superficiality of CNN and the sheer, mouth-breathing stupidity of Danny Tarkanian, I don’t know what’s real. The only thing that can be definitively said is that we are looking at what happens when a system breaks down. You can’t just have a borderline fake movement that’s against everything, attack it with wild accusations, report the whole thing uncritically and call it politics. We know one thing about Candidate Ashjian: he’s the first person in Nevada to go down to the state house with a couple of lawyers and a ream of signatures and reserve the name “Tea Party of Nevada.” That puts him far ahead of the so-called leaders and activists declaring his illegitimacy. John Ashjian is proof that, if you want to do something about your government, it’s better to go fill out forms than it is to stand in front of the library and yell.