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Nevada Today

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The Revolution Is Now: A Closer Look at How the Nevada Democratic Caucus Went Down

The results are gradually trickling in, and it’s becoming even more obvious that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) won a resounding victory in the Nevada Democratic Caucus. So how did he do it? What’s with former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend (Indiana) fighting over second place? And why are we still waiting for the full results to come in?

Now that I’ve gotten some rest after a historically hectic week, I’ll start answering your lingering Nevada Caucus questions.

Say it with me one more time: Black and brown voters matter.
Bernie Sanders
Photo by Andrew Davey

Between the entrance poll numbers and more detailed analysis from UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, it’s looking increasingly clear that Bernie Sanders won big among voters of color, and that Joe Biden did well enough among voters of color to leave Nevada with a few more DNC delegates in his column. 

The whole time, we’ve been seeing this develop. In a marked contrast from his 2016 campaign, Sanders’ 2020 campaign reached out to communities of color early and often. There’s a reason why Make the Road Nevada Action gave Sanders their first ever presidential endorsement. There’s a reason why other black and brown activists gradually warmed up to Sanders over the course of this campaign. And yes, there’s a reason why Sanders’ rallies and town halls often had the most diverse crowds of this field.

Actual voter outreach matters. While billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer had a ground game here, his otherwise heavy reliance on exceptionally heavy advertising was no substitute for forging and growing real relationships with real voters on the ground. And while other campaigns attempted late publicity stunts meant to convey broad, diverse support, that also was no substitute for reaching out to our diverse communities early and often.

The “suburban strategy” only got them so far.
Photo by Andrew Davey

One thing that really stood out in New Hampshire was how Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) cleaned up in the very white, mostly affluent, and highly college educated Manchester suburbs and Boston exurbs. From there on, it looked like a fait accompli that Buttigieg and Klobuchar would perform similarly well in affluent Reno suburbs like Caughlin Ranch and affluent Las Vegas Valley suburbs like Summerlin and Anthem.

Looking at the overall Nevada results and at more granular views of various precincts, we’re seeing Buttigieg perform well in these very suburban neighborhoods and Klobuchar perform better in these areas than most anywhere else. So far, this strategy is working well enough to net Buttigieg some DNC delegates, and it might even land him in second place statewide.

But in a state as diverse as ours, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and others should have realized that what worked well for them in Iowa and New Hampshire wasn’t guaranteed to work as well here in Nevada. When one picks a fight with the state party over a handful of delegates, that suggests one’s “super-smart delegate strategy” wasn’t really all that smart.

Nevadans like to vote early. That’s all there is to it.
Elizabeth Warren
Photo by Andrew Davey

Already, we’re starting to see Pete Buttigieg’s and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Massachusetts) respective campaigns spin the entrance poll numbers showing late deciders breaking their way as good news for them. They’re also seemingly suggesting the early vote hampered them. Give me a break.

Yes, it was unfortunate that the DNC and NBC scheduled their Democratic Debate to occur after the early voting period concluded here in Nevada. Still, all the campaigns knew that the ABC Debate in New Hampshire would be the final one before early voting began here. Everyone knew this schedule for weeks, so it’s not as if early voting was some wild surprise for any of these campaigns.

Rather, Nevadans just wanted a chance to vote at the most convenient and/or accessible time and place for them. Especially since this was a caucus where the only other opportunity was an hour-plus-long meeting on a Saturday that ended up being a rainy day throughout Clark County, it just feels cruel to scold the nearly 75,000 early voters that they should have waited for the last debate and factored national media narratives over “momentum” into their decisions.

Who and what truly matters here?
Nevada Caucus, Tom Perez, DNC
Photo by Andrew Davey

Since yesterday, a number of prominent Democratic Party leaders have been congratulating themselves and each other over a job well done. Hell, at the Bellagio site I observed, none other than DNC Chair Tom Perez boasted that the state party would post results that night. They did indeed begin posting results. But as of mid-day today, only about 60% of the precinct results are in.

However, that’s not the most important thing here. What matters more are matters like the late processing of early votes, nearly 1,000 early votes being voided after these caucus-goers thought their preference cards were properly cast, volunteers being compelled to sign NDA’s while senior party officials were selectively sharing information with certain media outlets, and volunteers constantly having to scramble to keep up with the post-Iowa Nevada Caucus shake-up while the aforementioned senior party officials were laser-focused on keeping the national media narrative as positive as possible.

As I’ve been saying all along, our voters matter. And as I’ve been saying for some time, this caucus was mostly run by volunteers who just wanted to help our voters and assist the party in putting this together. It’s not fair to volunteers to use them as pawns in this larger media expectations game, and it’s not fair to voters to promise them that “they matter”, then subject them to a process where they have to jump through multiple hoops just to fill out preference cards. It just makes them question what actually matters here and whether this is truly the ideal way to pick a president.

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