Just when I thought we wrapped up this series, Nevada Democrats had to make some more news. Though this announcement regarding the 2022 coordinated campaign was largely expected, there was one key twist that is not at all what certain elements are spinning it as.
Regardless, we shouldn’t be too surprised by this coordinated campaign news. Here’s why.
First off, what’s a coordinated campaign and why are Nevada Democrats now squabbling over one?
Before we proceed with this update, let’s keep in mind what we discussed when we closed this “What’s Going on with Nevada Democrats?” series last month: “Voters care far more about what their elected officials do to help them than how their elected officials interact with party insiders who can not be further removed from their everyday lives. […] Nevada Democrats need to focus on how best to connect with voters and how best to prove that they’re fulfilling the promises they’ve made to voters in the last few election cycles.”
When it comes to the overall intra-party drama that’s been catnip for local and national reporters since March, the vast majority of voters probably couldn’t care less. However when it comes to how the party communicates with voters, here’s where this story becomes relevant again.
Back in Part 1, I alluded to the importance of the coordinated campaign in building “The Reid Machine” into such a “lean, mean, Democratic voter turnout machine”. Not only did then U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D) raise millions for his own 2010 reelection campaign, but he and his inner circle directed the Nevada State Democratic Party (NSDP) to join forces with the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) to set up what’s called a coordinated campaign, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) also chipped in for the sake of saving Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas).
Simply put, a coordinated campaign offers dual benefits of providing another venue for campaign fundraising and establishing a shared field operation that at least in theory exists to help multiple Democratic candidates in the general election.
Once more, with extra feeling: This did NOT “come out of nowhere”. In fact, this has essentially been in the works since 2016.
As we explored in Part 2 of the original series, “The Reid Machine” began to diversify their portfolio in 2016. When they realized that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the DNC were moving way too slowly to use the coordinated campaign to launch a robust field operation, they turned to a network of progressive nonprofit organizations to essentially establish a “shadow field operation” and accomplish what the Clinton campaign and the DNC were dragging their feet in trying that year. And despite Reid’s success in keeping his allies in charge of NSDP in 2017, “The Machine” continued to grow their presence outside the official party apparatus in 2018.
This became even more of an established tradition in 2020, especially when “The Reid Machine” looked to the Culinary Union and their insistence on resuming door-to-door persuasion and “get out the vote” (GOTV) activities as Democrats’ salvation amidst the Biden campaign’s abundance of caution during the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially since Biden’s and the DNC’s virtual campaign plan wasn’t properly equipped to take on a much more sophisticated far-right disinformation complex that spread across multiple social media platforms, Culinary’s and other progressive group’s door-to-door field efforts really came to Nevada Democrats’ rescue last year.
Last night’s announcement of a new coordinated campaign outside of NSDP’s purview should come as no surprise. The only mildly surprising element may be that the DSCC and the Democratic Governors’ Association (DGA) chose to partner with the Washoe County Democratic Party (WashoeDems) to launch this 2022 coordinated campaign, but even this is not exactly what some detractors claim it is.
This is not about Bernie Sanders. This is not about socialism. This is not about “destroying the left”. This is about Democrats’ viability in the field next year.
For years, a number of political junkies “in the know” have known that WashoeDems have tended to run a pretty tight ship. Last year they actually managed to gain some ground at the local elected level, hold down losses to just the not-all-that-unexpected loss of then Assembly Member Skip Daly (D-Sparks) in a district that was already beginning to trend away from Democrats, and give President Joe Biden a stronger margin of victory in Washoe County last year than Hillary Clinton scored in 2016.
WashoeDems Chair Sarah Mahler was elected in 2017. She was a Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, and she won as part of a “progressive unity” slate. Looking at the current WashoeDems leadership team, it’s hard to argue that they’re part of some “establishment cabal” that’s out to “destroy the left”.
Simply put, there is no evidence indicating this has anything to do with ideology or policy. Rather, Reid, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D), Governor Steve Sisolak (D), and other party insiders view the WashoeDems leadership team as far more credible and competent than the current powers that be at NSDP and the Clark County Democratic Party (CCDP). Though it’s fair to say that “The Reid Machine” already had axes to grind with the Las Vegas DSA aligned NSDP and CCDP leaders, the current NSDP and CCDP leaders keep finding ways to sharpen those “Reid Machine” axes for them.
If leftists want to succeed, they must prove that they can win.
While I didn’t quite see this specific WashoeDems coordinated campaign partnership coming, it’s been obvious for some time that “The Reid Machine” was not inclined to direct resources to any Las Vegas DSA aligned party coffers. But if the current NSDP and CCDP leadership teams had at least put some effort into easing tensions with the Reid side of the party, and into proving to the larger audience of Democratic Party members and activists that they’re perfectly capable of overseeing the kind of sophisticated campaign infrastructure that Nevada Democrats erect and utilize nearly every even-numbered year, perhaps they could have at least convinced more grassroots-level Democrats that they’re safe to stick with NSDP and CCDP.
But with NSDP still lacking an Executive Director and other key staff, with CCDP struggling to obtain quorum for some of their central committee meetings, and with the recent abrupt departure of Howard Beckerman as NSDP Treasurer, it’s increasingly looking like “amateur hour” at party headquarters. When Las Vegas DSA activists worked to direct more leftists to get involved with the party and elect leftists to take charge of the party, it’s hard to imagine they envisioned a future of mostly empty central committee meetings and campaign accounts that lack campaign infrastructure to invest in.
Across the country, progressive and leftist organizations like DSA (National), Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, and the Sunrise Movement have had to prove themselves by organizing to win on policy… And by organizing to win at the ballot box. When Las Vegas DSA initially got their preferred candidates elected at CCDP and NSDP, it appeared that new possibilities were opening up for leftists to exercise real power and demonstrate their ability to steer the larger Democratic Party into clearer and bluer waters.
Judging by recent events here in Nevada, the outlook is as murky as ever for NSDP thanks to ongoing infighting and the apparent failure to seize the opportunity to prove the critics and doubters wrong. Perhaps there’s still time for them to change course, but even if so that window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking. And before the critics and doubters gloat over the ongoing NSDP turmoil, keep in mind how we began today’s conversation: Regardless of what they call themselves and how they organize, Democrats must have some kind of appealing message to convince voters to keep them in power. Wherever this coordinated campaign goes in the coming months, Nevada Democrats still have to show some real results to voters once they’re knocking at their doors.