On the first day of early voting, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and the progressive activists at Make the Road Nevada wasted no time in encouraging supporters to go to the polls. At Desert Pines High School in East Las Vegas, Sanders joined local progressive activists at Make the Road Nevada and reassured the crowd of 1,200+ supporters, “We’re going to show them how democracy works.”
Will the “political revolution” be televised?
We’ve been saying this for some time, and some of Bernie Sanders’ rivals have been adding extra exclamation points to this one point: Nevada is different. Our voters better reflect the diversity of America, and our voters might not be in the mood to just rubber-stamp the Iowa and New Hampshire results. Just last night, former Vice President Joe Biden rallied about 250 of his new best friends in Henderson and ditched the teleprompter to make that point on Nevada’s chance to send the country a different kind of message.
Meanwhile here in East Las Vegas, Sanders and many of his old and new friends strove to get the message across that he’s the one candidate who can unite the Democratic Party behind a progressive platform and build a winning coalition. To add exclamation points to his pitch, Make the Road Nevada, a progressive grassroots organization powered by activists with a history of organizing in Southern Nevada’s immigrant communities, joined Sanders to tell the state and the nation that they’re ready, willing, and able to make their “political revolution” a reality.
As Sanders exclaimed to the crowd of 1,268 incredibly enthusiastic supporters, “We’re going to show them how democracy works.”
“We are sick and tired of Trump demonizing the undocumented! […] We will bring fundamental change to our border policies so that federal agencies will never snatch babies from the arms of their parents.”
– Bernie Sanders
As per usual at his rallies and town halls, Sanders hit his time-honored high notes on social and economic justice. According to Sanders, “If you work 40 hours a week, you should not live in poverty. We should raise the minimum wage. […] We believe in equal pay for equal work. Women should not have to make 80 cents an hour for the same amount of work.” He also talked about tuition-free college, cancelling student loan debt, and investing in public infrastructure as part of the “Green New Deal”.
And yes, Sanders addressed health care and his pursuit of “Medicare for All”: “We are not going to continue a system where we spend twice as much as most other developed countries, yet 80 million Americans are uninsured and under-insured. […] We’re going to end that system and guarantee health care for every man, woman, and child!”
And on immigration reform, Sanders touted his trailblazing immigrant rights platform that includes new protections for immigrant workers, a temporary moratorium on deportations, and abolishing ICE/Border Patrol and “repealing and replacing” the current enforcement system with a more humane framework. As Sanders put it, “We are sick and tired of Trump demonizing the undocumented! […] We will bring fundamental change to our border policies so that federal agencies will never snatch babies from the arms of their parents. We will do what the American people want, which is to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.”
“If my taxes are going toward helping people in communities and schools, helping people get health care, helping kids get into college, these are all things that I want my taxes to go toward.”
– Heather Dweck, a Bernie Sanders supporter in Henderson
After the rally, Sanders joined the Make the Road crew and a few hundred additional supporters to put their words into action. They marched up the street to IBEW 357, a local early vote site. The campaign apparently gave the union last-minute notice that they’d be marching so many people there, but Nevada State Democratic Party volunteers were nonetheless on site and ready to check in those who hopped into the line to caucus early.
While she opted not to caucus at IBEW 357, Heather Dweck said she and her voting-age daughter plan to caucus closer to home in Henderson. And while she may live in the kind of upscale neighborhood where pundits generally expect former South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) to perform well, Dweck explained that she’s far more motivated and encouraged by Sanders’ progressive ideas, even those that will result in her paying more in taxes.
For Dweck, “If my taxes are going toward helping people in communities and schools, helping people get health care, helping kids get into college, these are all things that I want my taxes to go toward.”
“I’m a small business owner myself. I have seven people back in my city. […] I have a hard time affording health care for all my team. ‘Medicare for All’ will make it easier.”
– Jake Harris, a visiting volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ campaign
That sentiment was echoed by Jake Harris, a Seattle based small business owner who’s visiting Las Vegas for the weekend to volunteer with Sanders’ campaign. He explained how frustrated he was by the end game of Trump’s impeachment trial and the Iowa Caucus fracas, and how he wanted to channel that frustration into positive action.
When I asked how it’s going when he canvasses in neighborhoods like these, Harris insisted that the conversations he’s having with voters here differ greatly from the cable TV pundit chatter and #PoliticsTwitter flame wars. While Harris conceded that some of his own friends and family worry about that one “e word”, the voters he’s contacting in East Las Vegas don’t: “We’re bringing out people who’ve been marginalized, and they identify with the policies of Bernie Sanders. […] Here on people’s doors, people get it.”
On health care, Harris explained he understands why Culinary Union leaders and some other Nevadans fear changing their health insurance, but he hopes everyone will see what he sees as the “big picture” on health care. As Harris put it, “People fight hard for what they have […], but there are better policies out here. The big picture is that under ‘Medicare for All’, unions won’t have to fight for scraps. They won’t have to fight against the owners for scraps of private insurance.”
He then added, “I’m a small business owner myself. I have seven people back in my city. […] I have a hard time affording health care for all my team. ‘Medicare for All’ will make it easier.”
Remember, this is just the first day of caucusing.
So far, Democratic voters have been lining up at IBEW near Sanders’ rally, Coronado High School and Green Valley High School here in Henderson, and elsewhere across the state. As some insiders expected, caucuses have had issues with the post-Iowa/last-minute technological changes. Otherwise, we’re generally just seeing long lines and people waiting to go in and do their part to keep our “small d” democratic system alive.
And so far, it seems like Sanders got the biggest crowd of the day with plenty of help from Make the Road. But with this just being the first day of early voting, much more can change as we wait with baited breath to see whether the Nevada Caucus can work this time.
If you want to try it out and participate in some democracy yourself, early voting continues now through Tuesday at locations across the state. Otherwise, you can wait and try the “traditional caucus experience” at your precinct’s assigned site next Saturday.