Nevada Politics & Government: Conservatism in an Open Society

By Don W. Driggs; Leonard E. Goodall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Character and Political
Culture of the State

In the 1970s, Eleanore Bushnell gave the title Sagebrush and Neon to a collection of articles on Nevada politics. 1 The title typifies the outsider's view of a state that is mostly desert and that has an economy heavily dependent on casino gambling. Yet the state contains some of the most spectacular scenery and man-made wonders in the world—from beautiful Lake Tahoe and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and Ruby Mountains in the north to the brilliant red sandstone of the Valley of Fire, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead in the south. Since the 1950s, the scenic attractions and gaming (the name Nevadans prefer when speaking of games of chance) have made tourism the dominant industry in the state.

Nevada became a state "before its time" because of the Civil War and Reconstruction, and it remained the smallest-population state from 1864 until the admission of Alaska in 1959. By 1990 Nevada had passed ten other states to rank thirty-ninth in population and was on track to pass four others by the 2000 census. The growth in population in the fifteen years from 1980 to 1995 exceeded the total population of the state in 1970.


INFLUENCE OF GEOGRAPHY

Thousands of forty-niners traversed the area that now constitutes Nevada on their way to California in quest of gold. Modern freeways have increased the number of tourists visiting the state, which continues to serve as a land bridge between the nation's most populated state and the rest of the country.

The politics and economy of Nevada have also been intertwined with its powerful neighbor to the west ever since the late 1850s when the discovery of silver in the fabulous Comstock Lode in the Virginia City area attracted large

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