Nicknamed “none of the above,” the goofy idea began right here in the Rail City with a lawmaker held in such high regard that there was no public protest when the sports complex named after him was bulldozed for a shopping center.
So let the defense begin here with the return of NAGPAC, the legendary None of the Above for Governor Political Action Committee.
It all started in 1982 as a reflection of public perception that there wasn’t much difference between our incumbent governor, Republican Robert List the Lustful, and his Democratic challenger, then-Attorney General Richard “Gold Dust” Bryan.
Both were colorless lawyers, unable to get a suntan. They ran conservative, bloodless campaigns. Voters expected a banquet and found two pieces of dry white toast on the menu.
As an exercise in futility, I called a few guys and offered to buy the beer at Del Mar Station fern bar. After enough liquid courage to sooth their seething political apathy, we formed NAGPAC. I was appointed chairman because nobody else wanted the job.
Our slogan: Apathy is never having to say you’re sorry. Our only rule: There shall be no regularly scheduled meetings. Our philosophy: We believe only in what’s right, not whether something is right or left. Our purpose: Electing the whole horse for a change.
We held a “What? Me Worry?” press conference at the old Depression Deli. In honor of the Reagan Ranch homeless encampments then meandering the country toward DC, free food was served via soupline: white bread, water and anemic-cream-of-nothing broth.
The turnout was surprising, the media coverage overwhelming. We placed a NAGPAC mobile billboard on President Reagan’s route to a speech at UNR with Gov. List in the car. Suspicious U.S. Secret Service agents hovered nearby. One even grabbed my wife’s arm as she reached into her purse for a camera as the motorcade swept past.
We made NBC News and ESPN, which suggested None of the Above for baseball commissioner. Things have since improved neither for baseball nor politics.
The provision was placed into law in 1975 by former Assemblyman Don Mello (D-Sparks) and former Assembly Speaker Joe Dini (D-Yerington). They pointedly excluded themselves.
Animosity was the real motive. During the 1975 legislative session, Mello raked Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Al Gunderson over the coals to the point of personal insult. The late judge happened to be up for re-election the following year. Anticipating that Gunderson would get no opposition, Mello fielded the ghost rider against him.
The weird new law put even unopposed candidates in the position of raising and spending money to keep the “None” vote to less-than-embarrassing proportions. Gunderson was its first victim. He drew no opponent, but “None” scored 21.5% in the November ‘76 election.
The Ghost Rider had claimed its first victory in the September primary, winning the Republican congressional nomination. (Back then, Nevada had only one statewide seat.)
By the time I chaired NAGPAC in 1982, many people felt that a loss to the mythical “None” should disqualify all flesh-and-blood losers and force an election re-run. I disagree. The seat in question should be declared vacant with the next officeholder appointed by random drawing of all eligible citizens, not just voters, within the affected district.
One of the 1982 NAGPAC planks advocated just such a lottery system. (I didn’t think of it. My late wife, Betty, did.) Could we do worse today? In the year of the superpac, that question is more appropriate than ever.
NAGPAC caught the public’s imagination in ‘82 because the average Nevadan knew he/she was royally screwed no matter who won. Things have not gotten better in the intervening years.
Workers have acquired no rights, only more obligation and discrimination under our punitive, medieval state laws. We continue to fracture families with the active help of government as pawned by heavy payments from the gambling-industrial complex and its cronies. We continually top the charts in suicide and teen pregnancy while promoting ourselves as a tax-free workers paradise. In reality, we are not lowly taxed, just selectively whacked. In Nevada, the less you make the more you pay in hidden levies and user fees.
I wrote much of the above in 1997. It is little wonder that voter turnout last Tuesday approached record lows. Apathy means never having to say you’re sorry about voting for the wrong guy.
The bright side of not voting
About one in five registered voters showed up this month, which means everybody who cast a ballot actually had five votes. Trying to motivate the disinterested is often counterproductive. Is it really worth sobering up your no-account brother-in-law and driving him to the polls with the hope he’ll remember how to vote right? Nah. I like the idea of representative democracy with motivated voters doing a better job of choosing than slackers.
Apathy means never having to say you’re sorry.
Nevada Citizen TV Project
Support the Nevada Citizen TV Project to re-establish a non-corporate people’s channel hereabouts. You may donate at ReSurge.TV, contact me or (drum roll, please) none of the above.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 43-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail email@example.com.