GOP leadership descends from red scare to racism



The only time I ever met Assemblyman John Carpenter (R-Elko), he called me a socialist. No big deal. I don't care what you call me, just spell my name right.

The occasion was a 1980 Elko County Commission meeting. Mr. Carpenter sat on that body, which heard a presentation from the Coalition for Affordable Energy. The citizens group was headed by someone with whom Mr. Carpenter would one day serve in the legislature, Randolph Townsend, now a Reno Republican state senator. (Back then, he was a consumer-oriented Democrat.)

We got the cold shoulder for asking Elko officials to support our statewide initiative petition mandating that the legislature establish a consumer advocate's office to fight skyrocketing utility rates. We also suggested that Elko join with Winnemucca citizens and officeholders who wanted to acquire their own power system. At the time, CP National wanted to sell its northeastern Nevada electrical service and Sierra Pacific Powerful was the only buyer.

We advocated the cost savings of public ownership as an alternative to turning the power system over to Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. All of this proved too much for a cowboy like Mr. Carpenter.

We ended winning one out of two. The 1981 legislature established the consumer advocate's office, which has saved Nevada telephone, electricity, gas and water consumers tens of millions over the past 16 years. Alas, Elko and Winnemucca were swallowed up by Sierra Pacific, much to their citizens' financial detriment.

So I find it quite ironic that Assemblyman Carpenter is now a practicing socialist working for the little guy Sen. Townsend abandoned long ago. Mr. Carpenter has been leading the charge to get a bill passed authorizing Elko to vote for bonds to pay for a new public hospital. He is swimming against a powerful tide churned by the Elko Daily Free Press. The dukes of the Steninger newspaper family apparently favor a private pirate ship similar to Washoe Medical Center.

Carpenter recently responded with this editorial submission: "Many people, including myself, do not think privatization is a good idea...especially under the terms of the first contract that was presented which was written to 'give' our hospital away." (If this brings back nightmares of the 1985 giveaway of Washoe Med, it should. Read on.)

"The professional managers which you (Elko Daily Free Press editors) speak of do not always hold costs down," Carpenter stated. (Sound familiar?) "During the last two years, Elko General Hospital has had a profit of nearly $3 million," Carpenter noted. (Chillingly, this is the same dollar figure Washoe Med earned before it was privatized under a big lie propaganda campaign that asserted that the hospital would eventually start losing money. Never did. Never will.)

"There is no sugar coating or free lunch. We either pay for the hospital with our taxes and then we own it, or we pay off a bonded indebtedness issued by a corporation and pay nearly double...and then end up with the outside corporation owning 'our' hospital," Mr. Carpenter concluded.

He is acting in the best interests of his constituents. He's also peddling a socialist program, public ownership. It's all just a label game. Words like "socialist" and "liberal" have been demonized by propagandists for corporate America. We hate communists and disfavor socialists, but love Social Security. Same thing, different media spin.

If you get caught up in namecalling, you will not make progress in the public interest. John Carpenter has matured as an elected official. Too bad the same cannot be said of his party's leadership.

Last week, I detailed the red scare tactics of the Nevada GOP. A bulletin from their state chairman basically called labor unions a bunch of dirty commies. I pointed out that the extreme policies of the national Republican Party are hurling us toward communism under a new label. If you eliminate the rights of workers to organize, then deregulate business, you will eventually have one big corporation which has swallowed up all other enterprises. When everyone works for one monster corporation, you have communism.

Governments are formed by citizens to regulate and protect a civil society - civilization. Hate them or not, we need our governmental creations. Democracy can exist only when based on a balanced tripod of business, government and labor. Right now, the rights of U.S. workers have been ground down to their lowest level in the industrialized world. Government is the next tripod leg to be demonized, then termitized. Who needs a government agency to regulate tobacco, food and water anyway? It costs too much to prevent botulism or lung cancer, doesn't it? The Nevada GOP bashes ABC News as a union dupe while praising Food Lion, the east coast chain the network exposed for selling tainted groceries.

Communism wrapped in a capitalist label is the wave of the future. That's why I found the state GOP calling labor unions communist to be such a hoot. Nothing promotes democracy better than vocal, organized groups of citizens, unions included. In his rebuttal to the Elko media lords, Mr. Carpenter noted that 1,800 residents had signed a petition which led to his legislative action to place the measure on the ballot. That's democracy, dammit.

After last week's column, someone sent me a file of other Nevada GOP propaganda. It should make Assemblyman Carpenter and Sen. Townsend both angry and ashamed.

"Jesse Jackson: poverty pimping race hustler," reads one installment. "He's a secular socialist and I think secular socialists have developed a network of pimping poverty," the GOP quotes a backlashing yahoo named Star Parker, joined by Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.). When I talked to party communications director Charles Muth, he said their publications merely quote what others say. Right - and publish them as official party bulletins. You can't pull a Pontius Pilate that easily.

The GOP quotes backlashing reactionary writer Thomas Sowell: "We already have far too many people in college who have neither the desire nor the ability to make the investment pay off," the oxymoronic black conservative asserts. Apparently everyone and everything must be judged like a corporate bottom line. Realistically, if we're being plunged headlong into a third-world economy of hamburger flippers, who needs education anyway?

Which brings me to the probable cause of the current Republican venom. The AFL-CIO has targeted Las Vegas with a program called the Building Trades Organizing Project. Headed by the estimable Jim Rudicil of the United Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, organized labor will spend $6.3 million over the next two years. My brethren in the news media, despite ample opportunity, have managed to miss the most important part of the story.

Mr. Rudicil and his associates are not only organizing Las Vegas, but training union organizers from all over North America in techniques they can take back home. That $6.3 million is buying seeds to grow trees for rebuilding a severely weakened leg of democracy's tripod.

Mr. Rudicil's basic tactics are scary to some: he (gasp) informs workers of their rights under federal law. A worker who knows his or her rights can be flat dangerous to an exploitive employer.

That's the reason for calling unions communists and terrorists in Republican publications. Better to keep the great unwashed ignorant, as Thomas Sowell advocates, rather than organizing for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

I suggest calling the local GOP at 882-2467, state chairman John Mason at Lake Tahoe, (702) 588-6963, or Mr. Muth at (702) 454-0350; fax 454-7798; e-mail

Tell them that hatred, bigotry, racism and red scare have no place in the party of Lincoln.

Be well. Raise hell.


©Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a Reno-based syndicated columnist and 28-year Nevadan.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988. This column originally published 4/6/97.

Reprints of the UNR financial scandal newsbreaks remain available for the cost of copying at
Nevada Instant Type in Sparks and both Office Depot Reno locations.