Adam Laxalt is a lot like your dentist — if he’s telling you to go all in on an investment, it’s time to pull your money out.
Saying this, to be clear, is not meant as a knock against dentists. Dentists know dentistry far better than I ever will. I bet some of them even floss regularly. They also, however, tend to have more disposable income than most and their customers know it. Consequently, when your dentist — or your lawyer, doctor, mayor, or IT manager-turned-opinion columnist — starts chatting up some new investment opportunity that doesn’t directly involve their trade, it’s likely not because they’ve suddenly become experts on solar panels, electric cars, cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence or some unregulated private real estate investment firm.
Dentists, like most high-skilled professionals, are too busy to pick up a second trade on the side.
Instead, they’re likely telling you about their latest investment because one of their customers convinced them it was a good idea to throw their money into something they’re in no way equipped to fully understand. Which means that whatever they’re enthusiastically investing their money in has reached the “greater fool” phase of the hype cycle.
In the case of Adam Laxalt, I’d love to reassure you there is no “greater fool” than him, but that’s not true. He still has supporters who, despite his Oakland Athletics-like winning percentage (he’s won exactly one general election race in the past decade), should really know better unless they’re getting paid by him in cold, hard cash.
Besides, Laxalt is absolutely right about one thing — there is no path for Donald Trump to win Nevada in a general election. He didn’t succeed in 2016 or 2020, so why would 2024 be any different?
That does not mean, however, that Laxalt is making a winning play by hitching his political future to his former roommate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump, unlike DeSantis, delivers the only two things a majority of Republican primary voters can be reliably counted upon to vote for: constant entertainment on cable television and an inexhaustible persecution complex. If Trump ends up campaigning from court or prison, he’ll better provide more of both. Even if Trump dies, Republicans will simply vote for his corpse, just as they did after Dennis Hof died and posthumously won his election for Pahrump’s assembly seat in 2018.
DeSantis, by contrast, is about as entertaining as your average politician, which is a barely polite way of saying he even loses C-SPAN viewers if he’s in front of the camera for more than a few minutes. To compensate for that, he’s decided his best bet in a Republican primary is to treat every single issue raised by every single faction of the Republican base as a grocery list. Instead of signaling that he takes their issues seriously but not literally — instead of, in other words, telling anti-abortion activists and the National Rifle Association to stand back and stand by, as Trump has already done — DeSantis has chosen to deliver on every single issue raised by every single faction of the Republican Party’s fractious base.
Are you a Republican voter who believes any medical procedure with the word “gender” associated with it is child abuse? No problem — Gov. DeSantis is right there with you. He’ll even let the courts take people’s children away.
Are you the sort of person who thinks My Two Dads is “wokeism” and believes the concept of two male penguins raising a baby penguin is developmentally inappropriate for children? Once again, Gov. DeSantis is there, this time with a bill that is technically broad enough to stifle all discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom — including the existence of straight cisgendered people.
Do you think it’s too easy for criminals to escape the death penalty by merely serving life in prison instead? Gov. DeSantis agrees — consequently, it no longer requires an unanimous vote by a jury in Florida to send a criminal to death. Instead, it now takes the same margin used to pass tax increases in Nevada’s legislature to condemn someone to death.
Want to carry a concealed gun in Florida, where the Pulse nightclub and Parkland shootings occurred? No problem, no questions asked.
Do you think Disney is hiding the mark of the beast in its logo or is otherwise irredeemably wicked? Once again, no problem — Gov. DeSantis will happily tie his political future to the losing side of a failed boycott from over 25 years ago.
Shoot, are you a well-heeled car dealer? Sounds like you’re the sort of person who will love Gov. DeSantis’s new law banning direct-to-consumer sales. Could you be a dear and cut his campaign a check?
Are you a Republican primary voter who wants everything on that list? Statistically speaking, almost certainly not. Sure, maybe you’re OK with, say, DeSantis’ policies on gender issues (never mind that a balding teenage girl might appreciate some “gender-affirming care”), but that doesn’t mean you think the amusement park you take your family to every year is in league with the devil and it definitely doesn’t mean you think everyone should be forced by statute to buy their car from Jerry Lundegaard.
Even if you’re a Republican primary voter who wants most of the policies DeSantis has enacted in Florida — and are willing to hold your nose on the few you disagree with — that still doesn’t mean you’re categorically in favor of, say, allowing one person to ban multiple books in your school district or refusing medical treatment for women undergoing failing pregnancies. Like a lot of primary voters, there are a lot of problems you’ll happily let aspiring politicians solve if it can be done as easily as a genie snaps their fingers.
But if there’s actually a measurable cost, an unintended consequence, or, horror of all horrors, an externality imposed by the solution? Stop right there. That’s not what you signed up for. At the very least, surely there’s a candidate promising a cheaper solution, one with fewer unintended consequences? A master of the deal, perhaps?
Trump, for all of his myriad faults, is a professional entertainer and, as a professional entertainer, he knows what happens when a showrunner panders to the base. The result is never a better, more entertaining product.
All of this may explain why barely a single high school’s worth of attendees bothered to attend Laxalt’s Basque Fry this year and why nobody else is bothering to visit. It’s not that Nevada doesn’t matter — we still do. If you’re a Republican and your last name isn’t Trump, however, it doesn’t matter how many boxes you check or how many bills you sign — you don’t matter.
Maybe Adam and his former roommate can get their last names changed — if it isn’t “woke” to try.
David Colborne ran for office twice. He is now an IT manager, the father of two sons, and a weekly opinion columnist for The Nevada Independent. You can follow him on Mastodon @[email protected], on Twitter @DavidColborne, or email him at [email protected].