Scene In Passing: River of habit churns, but does it swamp?

The river of habit is an upside ally or a downside foe for politicians.

Habituated behavior in the electorate and the pols can rear its good, bad or sometimes ugly head with regularity. Though results may look startling, appearances are deceiving.

Some in my media game think a sea change last week swept in Republicans and dumped Democrats, and they’re correct if you take a snapshot view. But a long-term look shows the river of habit rolls on.

Nationally, a sitting president after nearly six years again lost ground. It’s not unusual, though this one got lame-ducked big time. Democrat Barack Obama saw congressional colleagues of his own ilk disappear — both on the campaign trail and in actuality after the polls closed. Two obvious takeaways: incumbents had problems and voters in the president’s party gave new meaning to the word lassitude.

By the way, the results mean Nevada’s Harry Reid is on the downward arc of the power curve. The river of habit — what others see as the clock-like political pendulum — means Reid’s sway is waning with an assist from Father Time.

Statewide, the powers that be now have a popular second-term governor with a first-term lieutenant governor positioned at the on-ramp with prospects rosy. But, whoa; the anti-establishment GOP isn’t dead by any means. Nor are ultra-liberal Democrats in their grave, though some observers think they’re in intensive care.

Bottom line: Republicans still have a divided party in both the state and nation. Democrats, too, have two wings even though they’re nearly grounded now. Mixing metaphors and returning from air and earth to water, rivers of habit don’t get dammed up easily. What looks like abrupt change often is just churn.

Locally, meanwhile, a government town remains a government town. Some might see things otherwise when it comes to local races, but this is my fourth state capital community and I view Tuesday’s split results in the supervisors’ races as still tilting toward government-oriented approaches and solutions.

Technically non-partisan on the surface, the supervisors’ races ended with split results exposing the never-absent partisan shadows or intra-party jockeying. Incumbent Karen Abowd, viewed as left-leaning though in business, and Lori Bagwell, right-leaning and also in business after a career in state government, won. An incumbent survived; a challenger upended an incumbent.

The result signalled the death knell for the hopes of those opposing downtown makeover with millions spent on tax-backed public infrastructure changes. Public projects now go forward unless a major problem surfaces later.

Strip away the noise, top to bottom, and you still find habitual behavior patterns. In politics, you get upside high water and downside low water marks, sometimes even droughts or floods. But the river of habit rolls on.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at


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