The Dead Pimp, and Other Lessons

“The Campaign Doctor,” a tall, sturdily-built, mostly bald man in a novelty imitation lab coat, was standing on a chair at the back of the classroom, reading a novelty imitation medical disclaimer out loud.

“Liberals over the age of 18 may experience dizziness, shortness of breath, and skin-rashes,” he said, to chuckles among his 15 “patients” — prospective candidates for local office and aspiring campaign strategists — all seated at desks, twisting around eagerly in their chairs. The clinic was funded by a non-profit group, and therefore had to be officially non-partisan; in practice, it was aimed squarely at the conservative grassroots. It all took place at “Ahern Academy,” a small institution nestled, to the detriment of the whole medical theme, within the grounds of Ahern Rentals, a purveyor of heavy construction equipment and industrial vehicles in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“Last year was a disaster for the Republican Party in Nevada,” affirmed the Doctor, aka Chuck Muth, a veteran operator in the libertarian circles that once defined the state’s political culture. In the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans had limply surrendered their U.S. Senate seat, failed to budge a three-to-one disadvantage in the House delegation, and lost the governorship along with enough seats in the state legislature to give Democrats majorities in both chambers — a “trifecta” of power within the state. In the process, the legislature had also become majority-female, a first in U.S. history.

“I mean, a disaster!” Muth repeated, shaking his head. He had, in fact, been personally responsible for one of the Republicans’ few successes: he had managed Dennis Hof’s campaign for a seat in the State Assembly. No Democrat could have competed for the district in question, a huge swathe of desert dominated by military test sites and otherwise home to about two and a half people per square mile. But Hof’s triumph, with 63 per cent of the vote, was still remarkable in view of two unusual characteristics that might once have been considered disqualifying. The first was that Hof was a self-described pimp, the owner of several brothels in rural Nevada (prostitution remains legal in eight counties); the second was that, by the time election day came around, Hof was dead….

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