As I’m writing this, news outlets are declaring U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) the “huge!” winner of Nevada Caucus. Earlier this morning, I witnessed some democracy in action at the Bellagio caucus site. Suffice to say, a whole lot of national media narratives about the state of national and Nevada Democrats got blown to smithereens right then and there.
Also, we got to see first-hand exactly how and why Sanders scored this huge Nevada victory.
“Looking at what ‘Medicare for All’ is, it’s better than the health [insurance] we have now. […] They’re not taking anything away from you. They’re giving you more coverage.”
– Aranas Walker, MGM Grand worker and Bernie Sanders supporter
Initially, there weren’t many voters at Bellagio, one of seven remote Las Vegas Strip caucus sites designed to accommodate casino shift workers in the area. But shortly after 11:00 AM, the voters began to pour in.
Aranas Walker was among the very first. The MGM Grand worker and Culinary Union member couldn’t make it to any of the early voting sites, so he instead just waited until today. And despite all the national media buzz over the Culinary Union, “Medicare for All” single-payer health care, and the clique of “BernieBros” who sent threatening messages to Culinary Union leaders, Walker went ahead and caucused for Bernie Sanders.
On the Culinary v. “BernieBros” controversy, Walker said, “There’s a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. All of us, people who support Bernie, would not go as far as to threaten people, because that’s not how to participate in politics. I just feel there are more of us who are nice and kind. […] There’s no need for all of that.”
As to why Walker went ahead and caucused for Sanders, Walker explained why he appreciates Sanders’ health care plan. As Walker put it, “Don’t get me wrong: I like my health care. But looking at what ‘Medicare for All’ is, it’s better than the health [insurance] we have now. […] They’re not taking anything away from you. They’re giving you more coverage.”
“Job security. He’s definitely for [affordable housing]. We can’t afford to live if we don’t have job security or livable wages. He’s definitely for livable wages and equal pay for equal rights.”
– Joel Escalante, Bellagio worker and Culinary Union member on why he caucused for Bernie Sanders
Aranas Walker’s sentiments were echoed by Joel Escalante, a Bellagio worker and another Culinary Union member who caucused for Sanders at Bellagio today. As Escalante described Sanders’ “political revolution”, “The movement he has is definitely for change. I think it’s a change we’re seeing in America. The power behind the movement is pretty powerful, so why not get behind and join it.”
Interestingly enough, Escalante support for Sanders only strengthened after he heard directly from Sanders at the Culinary Union’s town hall last December. In addition to “Medicare for All”, Escalante listed more reasons why he caucused for Sanders: “Job security. He’s definitely for [affordable housing]. We can’t afford to live if we don’t have job security or livable wages. He’s definitely for livable wages and equal pay for equal rights.”
He and Walker were far from alone in caucusing for Sanders. Of the total 123 voters who caucused at Bellagio, Sanders earned 76 votes while former Vice President Joe Biden won 45 votes following realignment. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) initially had six votes, but all had to realign once she failed the viability count. Biden picked up three of the Warren voters in realignment, while Sanders picked up one Warren voter and two remained Uncommitted. This then translating into Sanders scoring 32 delegates to the county party convention and Biden scoring 19.
“There are a lot of indecisive people who don’t know who they want as a candidate.”
– “Douglas”, a Culinary Union member who switched to Joe Biden in realignment
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) February 22, 2020
For all the national media speculation on the Culinary Union and “Medicare for All”, actual union members and Nevada voters mostly seemed to tune it out. However, there were some who weren’t too keen on Sanders over his health care policies and the rest of his progressive platform.
A Bellagio worker and Culinary Union member who preferred to be identified as “Douglas” said he voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but he’s ready to vote Democratic again in 2020. He appreciated Warren’s debate performance on Wednesday, so he aligned with her first. But when she couldn’t pass viability, he moved into the Biden camp.
Why? “Since we’re not going to win here, the next best thing is Biden. “Douglas” said he knew “a lot of Democrats who voted for Trump last time”, and he feared a Sanders nomination would compel them to vote for Trump again. “Douglas” then expressed a sort of hope that maybe former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will emerge from a brokered (national) convention because, “There are a lot of indecisive people who don’t know who they want as a candidate.”
So perhaps “we matter”, after all?
As I’m writing this, we’re still awaiting more results from the Nevada State Democratic Party, though entrance poll numbers are pointing to a solid Sanders victory on top with Biden and former South Bend (Indiana) Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the running for second and third. As I predicted yesterday, Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) appear to be running well in Las Vegas’ and Reno’s more affluent suburbs, while Sanders and Biden scored better in more diverse urban core areas.
And as I’ve previously written, Sanders’ supposedly “too far left, too radical revolution” resonated with many Nevadans, including and especially voters of color, far more than most outside pundits initially gave him credit for.
Now that Nevada is done caucusing, the contest moves onto South Carolina, the “Super Tuesday” states, and beyond. But with Sanders likely scoring such a huge victory with our diverse electorate, it turns out that we really do matter in terms of resetting the narrative and clarifying the direction of this presidential election.