Reid: Lesser of two evils

Harry Reid is the luckiest son of a gun in politics.

In January, Mason-Dixon polling showed the Senate majority leader facing a daunting 50-40 deficit against then-Republican front-runner Sue Lowden — mired in a place where few incumbents survive.

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Yet six months later, Reid is well within reach of pulling off an improbable reelection. The latest Mason-Dixon poll shows Reid trailing Sharron Angle, who defeated Lowden in the GOP primary by a very manageable 44-41. And by drawing Angle as an opponent, Reid has been dealt blackjack.

Twice called the worst legislator in the Nevada Assembly by the right-wing Las Vegas Review-Journal, Angle’s résumé is straight out of the Rand Paul-Tea Party playbook.

In a 2006 interview during an ill-fated run for Congress, Angle segued from a discussion on medical marijuana to pontificate on the evils of booze. Not only would she oppose any effort to legalize marijuana, for medicinal purposes or otherwise, but she added: “I feel the same about legalizing alcohol. The effect on society is so great that I’m just not a real proponent of legalizing any drug or encouraging any drug abuse.”

But … alcohol is legal! “I don’t think you can get away from that,” she added. “People just make value judgments. We’re not a neutral society. Politics, especially, are not neutral and no one can come to the table value-less or moral-less.”

Well, isn’t that the whole point of Nevada?

Social Security may be the third rail of politics, but Angle has embraced it with relish. Calling the program “a broken system without much to recommend it,” her campaign website offers her solution: Kill it. “Free market alternatives, which offer retirement choices to employees and employers, must be developed and offered to those still in their wage earning years, as the Social Security system is transitioned out.”

Medicare is also broken, she says, as is the Department of Veterans Affairs. Privatize them, too!

Her free-market absolutism doesn’t end there. “Sharron Angle believes that the Federal Department of Education should be eliminated,” her website reads. “The Department of Education is unconstitutional and should not be involved in education, at any level.”

Of course, there is a role for government in Sharron Angle’s world: funding a Scientologist prison drug rehabilitation program that uses saunas and massage treatments, all at a cost of $15,000 per inmate for three and a half months.

And while 76 percent of Nevada residents oppose using Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, according to a 2007 poll for the Reno Gazette-Journal, Angle welcomes radioactive material with open arms, promising to “Promote Nevada as the nuclear energy capital of reprocessing spent fuels for the United States.” She even thinks it would make for a great educational opportunity, and would “Invite scientists to do research and development in a secure test site environment as well as mentoring students who would come to UNR and UNLV to study under these great minds.”

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“They always try to marginalize me, treat me like I don’t exist,” Angle told the Review-Journal. “[Mainstream Republicans] say, ‘You’re too conservative’ … I’m tired of some people calling me wacky.” Given her positions on prohibition, prison massages, radioactive waste and popular government programs like Social Security, it seems her Republican critics have a point.

Several have already abandoned her, like Republican Reno Mayor Bob Cashell. “Our state will suffer and we would never get anything done,” he told the Reno paper.

Reid won’t win this thing on personal popularity. Nevada voters don’t like him. Period. But with Angle, he now can run against someone they’ll like even less.

Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com).