Harry Reid International Airport?

Former Sen. Harry Reid was amazingly famous for his dourness. The former Democratic Senate majority leader had a face defined by its scowl, the scowl of a man sucking on a lemon. His frown was so intense it became a meme. Reid also had a sour demeanor to match. He'd hang up on people on the phone without saying goodbye. He got into scraps with mafiosos and political thugs, leaving one to wonder why they so often intersected. He might have gotten beat up by one in 2015, claiming a gym accident. Reid was last seen searching for space aliens, as if to find a coeval.

So it was just a bit baffling that his home state of Nevada's big entertainment town, Las Vegas, which thrives on attracting tourism, would decide to rename its airport for a guy like that.

According to USAToday, citing the Associated Press:

LAS VEGAS – A county board voted unanimously Tuesday to rename busy McCarran International Airport after former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

The all-Democratic Clark County Commission approved a measure directing the county’s airport staff to file a change with the Federal Aviation Administration renaming the facility Harry Reid International Airport.

The county commission oversees the airport and is the final authority on a name change.

There have been long-standing calls to rename the airport. Its current namesake, Patrick McCarran, served as one of Nevada’s two U.S. senators from 1933 until his death in 1954. He was known for his contributions to aviation along with his anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic views.

If the aim of Las Vegas, a blooming sin-city desert oasis, is to attract tourism, it's hard to see how this would work. Harry Reid was so dour his nickname, bestowed by the late, great, Rush Limbaugh, was "Dingy Harry."

Is colorful, vibrant Las Vegas aspiring to that?

As one wag on the airline aficionado site airliners.net put it:

What?

Not to the much more appropriate "Las Vegas Siegfried & Roy International Airport"? 

...and this one said:

What about re-naming the Terminals, like Terminal 1 into "Liberace Terminal" and Terminal 3 into "Siegfried & Roy Terminal" for more diversity... :scratchchin:

Which isn't as silly as it sounds -- Las Vegas has lots of imagery to draw from. Why not name the airport for what the tourists come in for -- Wayne Newton, Elvis, Cher, Kenny Rogers, and so many other Vegas-famous possibilities? Is there a reason Vegas can't be Vegas? Vegas is what Vegas is. And yeah, I'd love to step off the plane into the Bellagio terminal. Or maybe some vintage, like the late great Sands in all its '50s glory. With Vegas, the possibilities are endless.

But they went with sour, angry, vertical-wrinkles-and-pointy-ears Harry Reid instead.

Perhaps he did some great things for his state in his thirty-year tenure as U.S. senator, one might suggest.  

A search of Wikipedia doesn't provide much to support it. I looked.

What Harry Reid did was turn the state Democrat.

According to this account of his life, written in 2018 by the Associated Press:

But Nevada Democrats do face obstacles.

They can only win statewide if they turn out Las Vegas’ transient and diverse workforce. This was one of Reid’s epiphanies in 2004, Lambe said. “There was a recognition that the electorate didn’t reflect the population of the state.”

One solution was nonstop voter registration to keep catching new arrivals and adding them to the voter rolls. Doing that, and then turning those hard-to-reach voters out, takes money.

Reid is a prolific fundraiser who has been able to keep money flowing to the state. 

One example:

This year [2014], Reid helped pick candidates and staff for important races and raised money. It’s hard to quantify how the machine is funded because money flows through many different organizations. One measure is that Heller had $35 million spent against him by outside groups, as opposed to $20 million for Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen.

“The ‘Reid Machine’ is synonymous with money,” said Jeremy Hughes, a Republican strategist who advised Heller’s campaign. “It totally is a resources issue. People believe the Republican Party is the party of large special interests when it is in fact the Democrat Party that had 30 outside special interest groups on the ground. Republicans did not have that.”

So the guy turned the state blue based on voter registrations of transient labor (no illegal aliens, right?) and introduced huge outside money sources to Nevada's elections, none of them transparent. It sounds like the achievement of a machine pol rather than a statesman, anxious to secure his party's permanent power. Has that done Vegas any good? The answer is no. 

And Vegas's county board members are fine with that, never noticing the impact of naming an airport after someone so sourly partisan.

For Democrats, of course, perhaps that makes them feel good. But it's quite a high risk to be renaming airports and other public installations, given that the next group of city fathers can rename them for their own political favorites, soon as they manage to roll in. Which as Harry Reid (who manipulated the filibuster to eventually be used by a GOP majority advantage) never quite understood. 

The other problem is that renaming airports and other installations after living people often brings surprises. Los Angeles named various elementary school installations after Michael Jackson, later accused of child molestation, and Richard Nixon got his own freeway -- until he was driven from office. There are extraordinary risks to naming installations after living people, whose stature can change with scandalous revelations or other negative news -- which is why the U.S. Postal Service waits ten years after death before issuing a stamp in honor of someone.

To do it for someone living smacks of political patronage. It's as if the city fathers of Vegas are trying to take the joy and feast and color from their tourist town and remake into something sour and leftist. Sound like a bright idea to attract tourists, the way John Wayne airport of Orange County managed to do? Don't think so. It just shows how far these Democrats have taken Vegas down.

 

Image: Screen shot from video from Roll Call, posted on shareable YouTube