Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s definitive novel. It’s a modern-day classic which should be on the reading list of every incoming college freshman. Some of their parents should pick it up and read it again.
In the book Thompson tells the tale of Raoul Duke and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they visit 1970s Las Vegas to report on a motorcycle race. The purpose of the trip is lost via excessive drug use and a discussion of the decline of American civilization.
Everyone has their favorite line from Fear and Loathing. My personal favorite comes at the beginning when Duke is driving across the desert in a convertible. With Gonzo sleeping in the seat next to him, Duke battles with large screeching bats that keep dive-bombing the car. Duke wakes Gonzo to drive. “No point mentioning the bats, I thought. The poor bastard will see them soon enough.”
What happens in Vegas …
… stays in Vegas.
Nearly 40 years after Duke and Gonzo drove the Strip, those words are seared into the minds of gamblers and non-players alike. A lot of money has been spent on that ad campaign. The problem with the ad is that it fails to point out that there isn’t much happening in Las Vegas these days. I was there this week and you could roll a $50 chip down the main corridor of most hotels without anyone stomping on it.
Las Vegas is a tourist town that depends almost entirely on the number of people that walk up and down the Strip every day. The decline in the number of people taking that stroll to 2005 levels has hit hard.
Before President Obama advised Americans to stay away from Sin City, he should have checked the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce’s web site. Tourism matters so much in this town that you can actually book a vacation via the Chamber’s web site. They are still pissed about the President’s warning.
More importantly, Obama’s comments soured an already dismal economic mood in Nevada and set the stage for Sharron Angle’s challenge of Majority Leader Harry Reid.
All politics are local
I spent this past week in Las Vegas and, as I am prone to do when I visit cities, I found a nice Irish pub. There, over several Guinnesses, I befriended a card-carrying union bartender, who would probably rather not have his name printed in this publication. I’ll call him Gonzo. Gonzo gave me a new perspective on the Reid/Angle race.
America has been watching the Reid/Angle battle with big picture issues in mind. My discussion with Gonzo the bartender confirms the old campaign adage that all politics are local.
Gonzo believes that Reid has lost touch with Nevada voters, caring more about being Senate majority leader than the people he represents. To many voters in Nevada, the big picture doesn’t matter. They simply feel that Reid has made no difference in their lives.
I probed further.
In short, Gonzo explained, Reid has failed to bring home the kind of pork that one would expect from a majority leader. Tea Partiers are energized about Angle, Gonzo explained, but Reid’s base is disillusioned because they think he’s ineffective for Nevada.
It’s simple politics. Spending is pork only when it’s for projects in some state other than your own. In your own state federal spending is an effective return of tax dollars. As the home state of the Senate majority leader, Nevadans expected more. Gonzo thinks that the lack of sufficient pork may keep Reid’s base at home on Election Day.
Not that Gonzo is thrilled about voting for Sharron Angle. Both candidates have the ability to misspeak on the campaign trail and sound … well … stupid. Gonzo, in fact, predicted that the candidate who puts their foot in their mouth last will lose.
I left the pub with my head spinning. If Gonzo is right, Reid might lose because he hasn’t brought home enough pork, not vice versa. I felt dizzy at Gonzo’s revelations … like large bats were dive bombing my head.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.