Leaving Las Vegas

 In Election 2008, Nevada, Peace Action West News

Our fearless outreach staff from our headquarters in Berkeley just returned from three weeks in Las Vegas. Their efforts complement the work our organizers Noura and Deidre are doing to make peace a priority in the Nevada caucus. They talked to hundreds of people, handing out presidential primary voter guides and gathering signatures on our pledge to only support peace candidates.  The next two months will be a critical time to mobilize our new supporters in NV to show the presidential candidates that America wants a progressive foreign policy. Here’s what Bay Area Assistant Canvass Director and Las Vegas Mobile Coordinator Rony Tal had to say about their experience:

I have been a peace organizer for only one year and some change, and I know that there is no harm in sometimes charging myself with delusional thoughts between moments of valid inspiration. That may explain why I agreed to lead the first two weeks of Peace Action West’s mobile to Las Vegas, Nevada — the city of lost wages that never sleeps. I have been to Vegas several times before, the last time in the late 1980’s, usually traveling through and stopping briefly for the free meal at the Circus-Circus Casino on my way to or from the Grand Canyon or Bryce and Zion Canyons. But this time it was for a prolonged visit and a nobler cause.

Arriving at night with a team of five after a day-long drive, I was reminded by the spectacular search light emanating from the pinnacle of the Luxor Casino pyramid straight up into the Vegas sky, that Nevada will be in the national spotlight on January 19th, the date of both the Nevada Republican and the Democratic Caucuses. What an opportunity for Nevadans, to be residents of one of the first states to choose its presidential favorites. This is our primary goal: to get hundreds of Las Vegans who have committed to supporting pro-peace candidates to go vote in the caucuses. We are working to get the attention of the candidates, and let them know we mean business, and demonstrate that a winning platform includes bringing every soldier home from Iraq, and committing to a nuclear weapons-free world.

The gaudy city lights fluoresced a hundred times more brightly than I remembered, and had a fuzzy ball of cotton quality to them.

As an outsider in an unfamiliar city, I admit I wondered if under all that glitz and blinding super-neon façade I could find a real, breathing, beating heart. Several days into our work I heard that Nevadans have the lowest voting turnout in the nation. A few days later the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial admonishing the locals for not paying attention to national concerns. The piece ended with the question, “Aren’t we part of America?”

But this was no fool’s errand. There are a lot of good, peace-loving Americans in Las Vegas. We just had to find them. We traveled from end to end from old Vegas to North Vegas to Summerlin in the west and Windsor and Paradise just off the famous Strip. After talking to thousands at the door we got about 350 of them to pledge that they will attend the caucus, and vote only for a candidate who carries our message to the White House. We also found 125 volunteers who said they would help us organize at the caucuses. We also created a solid base of about 150 new members and collected 150 letters to District 1’s Representative Shelly Berkley. They will spring to action when we call them and connect them to her office before key votes in the House. Here and there we met the usual oblivious conservative and experts of compartmentalizing, like the thirty something family man who incredibly responded to questions about the war in Iraq with: “Don’t bother, I have no conscience!” I was dumbfounded for just a moment but went on. The next door held much more promise. “We are all in this together,” she said. Much more like it, I thought.

The die was cast in Las Vegas for a better hopeful future. It was cast for a president who is worthy of our trust that will not just restore our values but will also bring a great spirit of renewal to our country. I can’t wait till January 19th.

Many thanks to our organizers Rony, Aaron, Jahsiah, Lainie, Ryan, David, Mike, MelanieBlau and Victoria for putting their time, energy and passion into galvanizing peace voters in this key early primary state.  We look forward to talking more with our new supporters in Nevada to build a strong voice for peace and security in the caucus.

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