Having spent all of my nearly 32 years of life in and around Chicago, I was a little nervous when my wife and I moved to the Vegas area. I looked forward to the mountains and warm weather (hot as hell, actually), but I worried my way of being wouldn’t vibe well with the local culture, however much they had. I brought my Big City mentality and savvy, along with my Big City politics, to this dusty desert town out West.
Everybody in America knows Chicago is a Democratic city, and therefore a liberal city. (The Democrats have been in power for so long in Chicago that they act less like Democrats and more like people who have been in power for a long time.) Vegas, on the other hand: nobody back East knows what the politics are in Vegas. When us Easterners think of Vegas, or even Nevada, we think of that hardy cowboy culture so iconic of the West in the American imagination. But a Vegas cowboy is different than, say, a Texas cowboy, at least as us Easterners think of him. A Vegas cowboy is flashier, with tassels or a silk shirt, snakeskin or swade boots, big shiny aviators, and a big shiny droptop Cadillac, stereotypically pink or white.
If the image I’ve just painted reminds you of something out of Casino, that’s the point: most of what Easterners know about Vegas, at least Easterners of my generation, comes from Scorsese — him and Ocean’s 11 (the reboot, of course). Whereas Texas has Big Oil, Vegas has Big Casino. There are the mines, gold and silver, plus a few cattle ranches. The rest is mountains and high desert.
When you think of a Western cowboy, you think of rugged conservatism, of Goldwater Republicanism. I had heard that the conservatives out here had a rich vein of libertarianism running through them, which makes sense when you consider the history of the West in general, and Nevada in particular. A young Samuel Clemens came out to Nevada during the silver rush, when Nevada was just a lowly territory. By then he’d already been down and up the Mississippi, and now he hoped to strike it rich in the silver mines. But when his dream dried up, he started writing for the local paper, signing his columns “Mark Twain.” He later wrote a memoir based on his time in Nevada, and gave it the title Roughing It — which is exactly what I’ve been doing these past two and a half years in Vegas: “roughing it,” mentally and spiritually.
The people out here in Southern Nevada are different, and it’s hard to pinpoint in which ways. You can say they’re slower, but that’s too vague. The closest I can come is by saying the people out here are desabridos, or sin sal, as Latinos would say. The culture is different, and it makes you realize just how big America is, that it can have these pockets all over like separate countries in and of themselves. It’s taking me a long time to adapt — though, I’ll admit, there are just certain aspects of the culture, certain ways of being, that I’m not willing to assimilate. My Big City ways give me an edge over most people here, and over most people anywhere. I feel like Sandburg’s “tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities.” Cities like Vegas, San Diego, El Paso, Santa Fe, pride themselves on their softness, their safe, easy-going, small-town worries. To them, all the noise and stress and go-go-go of the Big City seems like a smoky metal nightmare. And while a hard Big City guy like me can appreciate the softness of a small town, I prefer to hang on to as much of my hardness as I can — it was hard-earned.
But the thing about Vegas that has surprised me, in a good way, is that despite all its small-town softness, it has hard, Big City politics. Nevada, it turns out, is a blue state, run by Democrats — and not only that, but run by women, too! Last December, after a few last-minute appointments to fill vacant seats, Nevada became the first state in the history of America to have a majority female legislature. Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall is president of the Nevada Senate, the 30-something-year-old Nicole Cannizzaro is majority leader, and Joyce Woodhouse is the majority whip. The two co-whips are both women, too — one of them a black lesbian, the first openly lesbian member of the legislature. Four of the six Congressmembers from Nevada are women (and only one is Republican), with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto being the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate. She sits with Senator Jacky Rosen, who unseated a powerful Nevada Republican in 2018 whose career stretched back to 1990.
an equal-pay bill that penalizes employers
a bill that toughens penalties on domestic violence, and expands what counts as domestic abuse
a sexual-assault survivors’ bill of rights
a bill that extends restraining orders from 30 to 45 days in cases of domestic abuse, stalking, or harassment
a bill that scraps the statute of limitation on sexual assault when there’s DNA evidence
a bill that scraps a requirement for doctors to ask a woman if she’s married before she gets an abortion
a bill that makes it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone who tests positive for marijuana (unless they’re a firefighter, doctor, or drive something as part of their job)
a gun reform bill that bans bump stocks, requires background checks for private gun sales, and makes it easier to remove guns from people considered a threat to themselves or others
a bill that seals past marijuana convictions for possession less than ounce
a bill that requires cops to state a proper reason before asking about a person’s immigration status
a bill creating an Office of New Americans to help immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers
a criminal justice overhaul that defelonizes lower amounts of drug possession, and allows earlier parole for low-level crimes
a bill that allows the wrongfully convicted to sue the state for damages for up to $100,000 per year of incarceration
a quarter-cent tax increase to provide more funding to schools and social programs
a bill that focuses more education funding on poor students, students with special needs, gifted students, and students learning English
a bill that scrapped a school voucher program passed by Republicans in 2015
a tax credit for grocery stores in food deserts
a raise in the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $12 an hour over the next five years (which is still way too low)
a bill that makes Nevada the fifth state to fully adopt Obamacare’s protections on patients with pre-existing conditions
a bill that provides tax credits to expand the availability of affordable housing
a bill that expands the definition of “homeless youth” to 24 years old or younger, making them eligible for government aid and services
a bill that expands tenant rights, allowing them to appeal eviction notices for failure to pay rent, extends the time frame for evictions, and limits late fees for unpaid rent
a bill that prevents payday lenders from charging monthly payments higher than 25 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income
a bill that expands providing more polling places on Indian lands
a bill that restores voting rights to released prisoners
a bill that provides the poor with proper legal representation, as part of the new Department of Indigent Defense Services
a bill that bars denial of veterans’ benefits or services to LGBT people
a bill that waives in-state tuition for Purple Heart recipients
They’ve done plenty more, too, but you get the gist. Nearly all of these have been signed into law by the new Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak. And did I mention Nevada swung for Hillary by more than two percent in 2016?
I want to say something supportive about women in government, but before I do, let me throw a little shade at ladies in general, just so no one can accuse me of ass-kissing or toeing the politically correct line.
Women, based on what I’ve observed over the past 34 years, are terrible at decision-making. Again, my evidence for this is solely anecdotal, based strictly on personal experience. I was raised, for the most part, and at various times, by my mom, my grandma, my two aunts, and a handful of girl cousins. I’ve never not lived with a woman, whether family or the mom or sister of some buddy. And from what I’ve seen, women are terrible at making decisions. It takes them a long time.
My wife will peruse the racks at some clothing store, examining every item, every shoe and accessory, and still walk out empty-handed (and it’s not like she doesn’t have the money either). Come Date Night, my wife will tell me to hop in the shower before her, but I know better. Once she’s scrubbed and lotioned every inch of herself and is leaning into the big vanity mirror with her eyelash curler up to her face, she tells me again to hop in the shower, this time forcefully: “Hey! Hop in the shower already!” Still, I know better. I’m still reclining on the bed, either reading or watching TV, when she disappears into the walk-in closet. All I hear are the clanging of hangers and piles of clothes being searched through. “I have nothing to wear!” she complains, which is a damn lie, since she has at least five times the clothes I do. She’ll try on an outfit, give a few turns in the mirror, the look on her face deadly serious, like the judges’ at a dog show. Then she disappears back into the closet, only to come out wearing a completely different outfit. Some more turns and poses in the mirror, and then it’s back into closet again. Only when I see she’s just about done do I hop in the shower, and even then I’m usually ready before she is.
I could describe the torture of trying to get my wife to decide on a paint color for the walls, or what type of floors to have put in, or which couch, which coffee table, which dining table, which area rug, which lamp, which stove, which dishwasher, which dish set, which silverware, which washer-dryer set, which bedroom set… but any more might send me to the couch for the night.
My 15-year-old daughter is only a little better at deciding. She usually walks out with a bag wherever we shop — she strongly believes something is better than nothing — though her bags are typically filled with things she half-likes and will only wear once, if at all. And every night before school, for the past five or so years, she’s asked our advice on what to wear. Sometimes she’ll have no clue and my wife has to suggest an outfit, but usually she’ll show us a few options and we’ll okay the final one. Let me be clear: my wife and I don’t care what she wears, so long as it doesn’t break school policy or make her look like a skank. Our daughter wants our help in deciding. If we encourage her to decide on her own, it only stresses her out more. And then, once the three of us have decided on her outfit for the next day, it’s on to the next question: “Which shoes should I wear?”
Maybe it was because we were poor, but when I was kid, I never had trouble deciding what to wear to school or what to buy at the store. Sure, I’d agonize for a bit, trying to decide which shirt would go with my one pair of black JNCOs, and how I was going to schedule my outfits so to make it seem like I owned more clothes than I did. But I was never so stuck as to ask somebody for advice, much less my mom. Deciding is hard, just as hard for men as it is for women, but women will start fierce arguments over what restaurant to go to, where to vacation, what hotel to stay in, what movie or show to watch — made all the worse when they’re hangry or tired or on the rag. Men argue too, obviously, but they decide quicker and move on to other things. However, because their decisions are quicker, men tend to make horrible decisions.
Women take forever to decide, but once they do, their decision is usually the right one (except when it comes to shopping, where the right decision is usually to not buy anything at all). And once they’ve decided, women are the best at getting shit done. Men get stuff done, too — usually stuff no one else needed done. Men will, I don’t know, go get the car washed or take the dog for a walk, while women are taking care of crucial things like making appointments with the doctor and the dentist, dealing with the insurance companies on the phone, or cleaning the house. (Most men can tolerate a high level of filth.) Women may take a long time to reach a decision, but men take even longer to actually do what they’ve decided to do.
The women governing Nevada don’t seem to have had much trouble deciding. As I listed above, they’ve decided on a lot of important bills this past legislative session. It could be that, when it comes to politics and what a well-ordered society should look like, most women are of one mind. Government, after all, is really no different than running a family, which women again seem naturally better at. I don’t really feel the need to explain how or why that is. Just imagine how many households have been managed and are being managed by women, in the United States and around the world, at this very moment. It used to be pretty popular to shit on housewives for being dopey loafers, but nobody who’s seen up close what a good housewife does for her family — and especially a single mother — nobody would want to trade places with her even for a few hours. Some of us would rather work in a mine. My mom wasn’t the best, but I still can’t imagine how she managed to do everything she did, day in and day out, for decades.
Families are the basic political unit of society, so it’s only natural that the people who run families should also run society. They have more experience. Plus, and it’s cliché to say this, but only because it’s true: women are better multitaskers. Again, I don’t know a person who could argue otherwise. Men have a one-track mind, and they can get a lot done on their one track. Most women, meanwhile, conduct a symphony of tasks: work, kids, spouse, school, friends, extended family, house, plus their own health and fitness. And though they beat themselves up for slacking on this or that, women manage each area extremely well, whereas a man might destroy in two or three areas at most, and let everything else fall by the wayside. Hence, the historical swindle pulled by men by relegating women to managing the household while the men bravely head out into the world every Monday through Friday. Who has the tougher role? If you think about it for more than a couple seconds, the answer is obvious. A woman is almost always the rock; it’s the men who are “flighty.”
And, as if this argument needs further support, I ask: is there any greater multitasker on earth than a pregnant woman, especially a pregnant single mother? What man do you know can do all he does while simultaneously creating life — sometimes lives — inside of him? I rest my case.
Women already govern the toughest and most important organization there is to govern in society: the household. If they want to run the state, the country, or even the world, then why not let them?
Featured image: The female rulers of Nevada’s legislature (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)