PHOTO/DENNIS MYERS

Fred Lokken is a political scientist at Truckee Meadows Community College who is often quoted on the latest developments in politics. Last week he was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE, normally rendered verbally as witchy), a higher education partnership among states and territories that aids cooperation among states that do not provide all disciplines in higher education, as with Nevada, which has no law school.

You’ve been appointed to WICHE.

You know, it’s been around since the 1950s. It’s been probably—well, easily, the most effective of the regional compacts. There are others, but for Western states, I’ve learned a lot since I got the letter from the governor. They’re working on 46 different programs. Each state identifies programs that are important to them. … The Nevada WICHE, there’s a director, it exists in Nevada Revised Statutes, it has probably more than a million dollars that it’s responsible for. It’s doing everything from programs to encourage Nevadans to grow up in K-12 to become nurses. It’s been one of the major arms for bringing professions to Nevada. … They’ve provided support for people to track into nursing careers, physicians, now mental health is a priority.

Mort Sahl used to end his nightclub routines by saying, “Are there any groups we have not yet offended?” I get the feeling that is the way the Republican Party is conducting its search for a presidential nominee.

Well, this year especially. [The Aug. 6 debate] was a horrible performance by Trump, fully demonstrating the lack of knowledge he has about anything. It’s all bombast and no substance. And then you watch Fox News—“Oh my god, he [Trump] dominated!” … I was still trying to figure out if I watched the same debate that Fox News did. [Republicans are] so afraid of him, I guess, running as an independent that they’re letting him destroy the party. They’re doing the exact same thing on the Democratic side. Apparently the [Democratic] National Committee does not want Hillary, because why would you allow someone who’s never been a registered Democrat, only an independent and socialist, run in the Democratic Party?

Well, the DNC doesn’t control what secretaries of state do.

Well, that’s true. And it’s not like—he [Sanders] just had to sign on with the FEC [Federal Election Commission], I suppose, and get the blessing. And then some suggest, “Well, Bernie’s only there to create excitement because there’s so much attention to the Republican side, so they’re going to create some drama there so Hillary has to struggle for the nomination.” Others argue—I thought it was kind of funny—that Trump is a Clinton shill in the Republican Party, that they talked to him, and he agreed to go and work his magic in the Republican Party and destroy it.

The country seems fed up with polarization in D.C. And yet—is Trump insensate? He seems to want to increase polarization, playing people off against each other.

In many ways, yes. He’s already kind of waging war with some of the declared candidates. He doesn’t like them at all, and he’s calling them out. … We kind of sense—both with Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side and people like Donald Trump on the Republican side—that this is a sign of voter frustration. But remember that we deal [in the primaries] with a distorted part of the votership, the liberal and the conservative. And maybe that’s why it’s warping so badly. We aren’t dealing with the mainstream that will show up in the fall of 2016. And invariably they said, every four years, “Where in the goddam hell did the candidates come from? I’m not that kind of Republican. I’m not that kind of Democrat.” The United States has always been a right-of-center society, dating back to the founders. And our political process now is so polarized that we see the dominance of the liberals on one side and an array of conservative types on the right. And nobody participates.

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...