Nevada is in crisis. It faces a huge $3 billion budget gap, amounting to almost half of the state’s budget, so public schools and services are at risk. And the Sunbelt housing bubble burst here in a big way. One in every seventy-nine homes has been foreclosed on, giving Nevada the highest foreclosure rate in the country, five times the national average. At 14.3 percent, the state has the nation’s highest unemployment rate now that tourists aren’t dropping dollars the way they had before the bubble burst. The state is flattened.
Go to buy groceries in the midst of a 104-degree day in Las Vegas, and you will find poor people walking slowly around the supermarket with almost empty carts to stay in the air conditioning. Homeless people line up on benches near the entrance, shielding themselves in the shade. The desert heat seems to shimmer, the way it does in Western movies.
The people are rising, yet it’s not the poor but the relatively privileged who are angry and pouring their souls into Republican and tea party politics—and the Sharron Angle campaign.
Angle appeals to that part of the electorate that views Nevada’s economic problems as all Harry Reid’s fault and Nancy Pelosi’s fault and Barack Obama’s fault, since they promote big government. Angle calls for cutting taxes and government as a way to unleash economic growth.
But Angle goes further, championing anti-government positions loved by the Ron Paul wing, like rolling back the New Deal and dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency. She gives free market positions a socially conservative twist. A Southern Baptist who became politicized in the conservative Christian homeschooling movement of the 1980s, she speaks frankly to Christian broadcasters about the religious roots of her anti-federal-government sentiment—this in a state full of Roman Catholics and Mormons where gambling and prostitution are legal.
“Entitlement programs . . . make government our God,” Angle told a radio host in April, echoing the language of the far right Christian Reconstructionism movement. “We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not our government.”
In early July, she warned of “Second Amendment remedies,” raising the specter of armed rebellion if the Republicans were unable to retake Congress.
Angle told a radio caller she wouldn’t have saved 22,000 jobs by urging bank loans for the failing City Center project in Las Vegas, as Reid did in the spring of 2009. “That’s not my job as a U.S. Senator,” she said. “I’m not in the business of creating jobs.”
Locals say don’t underestimate her. She surprised a lot of people with her primary win over the former head of the state GOP. The ravaged economy, her fresh attack ads, her tireless campaigning, and her reputed talent one on one may be just enough to put her over the top.