Ever since Iowa and New Hampshire, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has taken his progressive populist “political revolution” to new heights. Yet at the same time, new challengers have emerged to try to stop the “revolution” from being televised here in Nevada this weekend.
On this last day of early voting, Sanders returned to Southern Nevada to rally just over 1,200 of his party faithful at UNLV, and to remind them, “If there is a large voter turnout here in Nevada, I believe we can win here.”
Is the “political revolution” actually happening?
As I reported last night, Data for Progress dropped a new poll of likely Nevada Democratic caucus-goers showing Bernie Sanders (35%) soaring to a commanding 19% lead over nearest rival Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) (16%), with former South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg (15%) and former Vice President Joe Biden (14%) close behind Warren. According to Data for Progress, Sanders’ overall lead is powered by exceptional strength among young voters, Latinx voters, and voters who consider themselves very or somewhat liberal.
Though we have seen another reputable poll from Telemundo disputing this, we’ve now seen others (including one from billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer) that at least confirm that Sanders has taken the lead here in Nevada. Yet at the same time, with this caucus being a caucus, realignment may yet give Warren, Buttigieg, and/or Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) an extra boost as voters who have non-viable candidates (as in, <15% in their respective precincts) as their first choices realign to viable candidates in Round 2 (or Round 3 if necessary).
At CSN Henderson yesterday, Warren tested her “unity candidate” argument with praise for former candidates and a promise to protect all the historically marginalized communities who’ve been President Donald Trump’s top targets. As Warren put it, “This is how we build a Democratic Party and a coalition that works for all of us.” While Warren and Sanders have mostly stayed very close to each other on policy, they’ve taken divergent approaches to win this Democratic nomination. I noticed this divergence again today, as Sanders focused less on convincing Democrats favoring other candidates to give him a second chance and more on ensuring the 1,214 supporters packing the lawn near UNLV’s School of Humanities to walk to the Student Union to caucus for him.
“We can create 21 million new green collar jobs as we transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. Here in Nevada, you have the greatest potential as we switch away from fossil fuels and move to solar.”
– Bernie Sanders
For the most part, Sanders covered the same policy ground as his rally with Make the Road Nevada last Saturday. Yes, he talked about “Medicare for All” single-payer health care again. And on that issue, he justified it by saying, “The function of a rational health care system is to provide humane care to everyone, care that does not bankrupt anyone.”
However, he didn’t stop with America’s health care. Sanders also addressed the health of the planet: “We have to act in a bold and aggressive way to transition our energy away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy as soon as we can. This is why we’ve introduced the most sweeping climate plan that any candidate has ever introduced, based on the ‘Green New Deal’.”
And in a more specific pitch to Nevada voters, Sanders proclaimed, “We can create 21 million new green collar jobs as we transition away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy. Here in Nevada, you have the greatest potential as we switch away from fossil fuels and move to solar.” This got plenty of cheers from the audience, which shouldn’t be surprising considering Millennials’ and Zoomers’ overall views on climate action.
“We’re also going to end a broken immigration system. As the son of an immigrant, my father came to America as a 16 year old with no money in his pocket and without a lick of English.”
– Bernie Sanders
Continuing with the themes he exclaimed in East Las Vegas last Saturday, Sanders reassured the crowd, “We’re also going to end a broken immigration system. As the son of an immigrant, my father came to America as a 16 year old with no money in his pocket and without a lick of English.”
In a major shift from his past record on immigration reform and his past reluctance to personalize his message, Sanders went further and deeper in explaining why he’s committed to make his incredibly progressive and groundbreaking immigrant rights platform a reality. According to Sanders, “I’m sick and tired of Trump demonizing undocumented immigrants. On my first day in office, we are going to rescind every one of Trump’s racist executive orders. […] Federal agents will not be snatching babies from the arms of their mothers.”
In another break from his past, Sanders built upon his promise from last August to take bold action to stop gun violence. “Our gun policies will be determined by the American people, not the NRA. We will have universal background checks. Anyone with a violent background will not have guns,” Sanders promised. He also declared, “We will end the sale and distribution of assault weapons in this country.”
“In this Nevada Caucus, let us have the highest turnout the Nevada Caucus has ever seen.”
– Bernie Sanders
In addition to his calls for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and “Medicare for All”, Sanders got big applause for his promise to end the “war on drugs”, legalize marijuana nationwide, and end the “school to prison pipeline”. In another contrast to Warren, where she’d tend to explain the intricate details of her “big, structural change”, Sanders painted more in broad strokes as he illustrated the big picture of his “political revolution”.
Towards the end of his speech, Sanders asked the crowd, “In this Nevada Caucus, let us have the highest turnout the Nevada Caucus has ever seen.” He then explained why: “Young people still do not vote in the numbers they should not vote. If young people aged 29 and younger vote at the same rate as those aged 65 or over, we can transform this country. […] If there is a large voter turnout here in Nevada, I believe we can win here.”
According to updated data from the Nevada State Democratic Party, Sanders may get his wish. From Saturday to Monday, over 36,000 caucus-goers have voted early. To put that into perspective, just over 83,000 participated in the Democratic Caucus in 2016.
When I checked in at the UNLV Student Union early voting site just steps away from Sanders’ rally today, the line already stretched out the door. And when I spoke with a campaign staffer who asked to remain unnamed, the staffer explained that many in the line had already been waiting over two hours to caucus as party volunteers were scrambling to accommodate all of them. If this pattern continued elsewhere in the state on this final day of early voting, then Sanders may really be on track to break records and propel his “political revolution” even further.