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From Karl Rove to the Southern Nevada Water District, it was a year of bubbles bursting

This involves poetic justice, so let’s bump a few lines of John Donne to get started:

Atoms or systems into ruin hurl’d

and now a bubble burst, and now a world

Which brings us to Karl Rove.

Back in 2004, at the apex of the Bush era — that eight-year compost heap that fertilized so much of today’s right-wing gestalt — a Bush aide who turned out to be Rove spoke to The New York Times Magazine about the administration’s awareness of its manifest destiny. He introduced us to the mocking phrase “the reality-based community” …

… which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … That’s not the way the world works anymore … We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (New York Times Magazine)

Smash cut to the night of Nov. 6, and Rove’s meltdown of disbelief as Fox News called the election for Obama. His shock must’ve registered on seismographs around the world. After so long away from discernible reality; after years of taking checks from billionaires in the smoking lounge of the History’s Actors Club on the assumption that the purest application of GOP theology — simply buying the election — would correct the fluke of Obama, he had failed to see that’s not how the world works anymore. So he lacked the tools to cope when the reality-based community burst his bubble, and then his world.

Our own Sheldon Adelson was one of those billionaires upon whom Rove suckled. Indeed, he was the billionaire, rumored to have lavished a boggling $150 million on conservative candidates — with only Shelley Berkley’s scalp to show for it. (He’d can any underling who spent so much with so little ROI.) We have no idea what look was on his face Election Night, as the tatters of his bubble floated around him, but we can guess. It was no doubt similar to his sour demeanor back in February, as his “kosher caucus” came to its unsatisfying — for him — end.

You remember that, right? An unprecedented night session of the GOP caucus, so that Jews, Seventh-Day Adventists and other Sabbath-keepers could participate? Everyone knew it was being done to placate Adelson, who at the time was bankrolling Newt Gingrich. But a contingent of Ron Paul party-crashers barged in to the Adelson Educational Campus, where the event was held, either ignoring or lying on the affidavit everyone was supposed to sign, affirming they were there for reasons of religious observance. There were enough of them to throw the precinct votes decisively to Paul instead of Gingrich. We could see Adelson sitting near the front of the auditorium, in a school that bears his name, features pinched and immobile, silently fuming in a fashionless blue suit, no doubt wondering how these people had managed to ruin his shindig. A few seats away sat one of the Paul ringleaders. They were two poles of magical thinking, each in his way unplugged from reality; any closer and they might’ve canceled one another out. Said one guy, taking it all in, “That’s democracy, motherfucker.”

That’s 2012 for you, letting you spend a little time dreaming in your bubble before popping it. Ask the Paul people. After four years of patiently working within the rules to take control of the Clark County party and largely steer the state GOP, they found themselves repeatedly thwarted. The national party, a bastion of establishment Republicanism, created a shadow party in Nevada to bypass them. And at the national convention, the GOP elite, like a sinister mutating algorithm, changed rule after rule to prevent Paul’s supporters from being heard. The Paulites were outraged, of course, but they couldn’t have been surprised that a party willing to buy the election wouldn’t balk at changing a few rules to maintain their power. That’s democracy, motherfuckers. Now Paul is retired, robbing the movement of its totem, and the Clark County Republican Party is busy issuing really important proclamations against the UN.

That Las Vegas exists as a monument to reality-denial at every level — from a gambler’s certainty that his luck will change, to, on the macro scale, our belief that a city this big and resource-intensive actually belongs here — is nothing new. For much of the ’90s and 2000s, we indulged in the fantasy that perpetual growth was possible, that future growth would cover our costs, and everyone pretended that this wasn’t the very definition of a pyramid scheme. 2012’s water-rate fiasco burst that bubble. In order to pay for projects already put on the credit card, water officials stuck businesses with a hefty rate increase, in some cases as much as 300 percent. It was perhaps the final deflating prick in the single idea — crazy growth will never stop! — that’s passed for “civic planning” in this town.

That’s the story of 2012: Everywhere, atoms and systems into ruin hurl’d, whether you were a school district official who believed the citizenry would come to its senses to support a desperately needed school-upgrade bond; or a Henderson library official who thought people would pay a few dollars to maintain such a civilizing institution. That’s just not the way the world works anymore. Reality is back, and it bites.