What I Saw Campaigning for Bernie in Las Vegas
Two weeks ago – hours after Peace Action endorsed Bernie Sanders for President – I was asked if I had any interest in going to Nevada to join the campaign for a week, from Sunday through the Saturday caucus. My answer sounded something like, “Um… Yeaahhh. Absolutely!” Later that day, I found out that I’d be meeting the campaign in Las Vegas, the world capital of excessive capitalism, materialism, and gambling, and for that week, the heart of a democratic socialist’s campaign for President.
Having grown accustomed to the 8-hour workday, one of my questions for our outreach director Eric was “how long do you think the work day will be there?” He jokingly told me to expect 20-hour days. By day two, it became clear that the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) office where I was stationed had ramped up to a happy middle ground of 12-13 hours of work every day for “get out the caucus” (GOTC) week. Staff at the UNLV office were tasked with GOTC for the heart of the metropolis; the Las Vegas Strip, the area surrounding UNLV, and the neighboring city of Henderson. Like a healthy heart pumping oxygenated blood through a body, the UNLV office pumped energetic staff and volunteers through the city to get people to participate in one of the most complicated election processes known to humankind: the caucus.
The goals of GOTC work in a caucus state are threefold: get voters to commit to caucus for Bernie, recruit volunteers, and recruit and train precinct captains. Precinct captains are critical because they not only commit to show up and caucus for a candidate, they also are trained to help convince undecided caucus-goers to join their side of the room in supporting their candidate and to make sure there’s no funny business taking place in their precincts. With these goals in mind, the team at the UNLV office recruited scores of volunteers, trained hundreds of precinct captains, and knocked on thousands of doors.
— Gabe Murphy (@GabeRMurphy) February 20, 2016
By 6 a.m. the morning of the caucus, the office was packed with staff and volunteers preparing to do one last GOTC push before the 11 a.m. caucus. We took door hangers with peoples’ caucus locations and literally ran from door to door leaving a hanger and moving on so as not to bother people in the morning. By 10 a.m., we all split up to head to various caucus locations as observers with the goal of ensuring a fair process and reporting any problems.
As an observer, I can testify to just how confusing the entire process was. In the room I observed for example, our precinct chair (the person who calls the room to order and keeps track of the numbers) was the chair for several precincts and was thus running back and forth between them to do her job. Elsewhere, certain critical steps in the caucus process appeared to completely unravel. Below is a video of some Hillary supporters being told they can register after they vote, which is of course not allowed.
Other reports point to a whole host of problems from people being turned away from their caucus locations, locations being understaffed, locations running out of ballots, and the list goes on. While none of these situations appeared to be the fault of the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DNC’s failure to properly staff the caucus clearly led to the mass confusion and fraud that took place, and given the growing national story of the DNC’s favoritism, these reports are deeply troubling.
That being said, the results are in and Bernie Sanders came out of Nevada with 15 delegates and 47.3% of the vote, an amazingly close result given that polling had him down 20-30 percentage points at the end of 2015. In a contest between a democratic socialist from Vermont and a moderate politician who’s been in the national spotlight since 1992, the fact that the Nevada results were so close is a testament not only to Bernie Sanders’ broad appeal, but also to the staff and volunteers that poured their hearts and souls into this campaign. Never in my life have I seen people work with as much vigor, dedication, and passion as I saw in the UNLV office in Las Vegas, Nevada, and given the vigorous, dedicated, and passionate staff and volunteers of Peace Action and our affiliates, that’s really saying something. In particular, I had the honor and privilege of working closely with one field organizer who I believe secured the highest number of trained precinct captains per assembly district in all of Nevada (she knows who she is). I’ll never forget the devotion and vivacity she brings to the campaign.
Despite Hillary Clinton’s unsubstantiated attempts to paint Bernie Sanders as a single-issue candidate, he is not. Our campaign is about confronting inequality and injustice head on, and not just income inequality and injustice on Wall Street. Bernie Sanders is confronting race and gender inequality, demanding justice in our criminal justice system, and calling for a foreign policy rooted in diplomacy and coalition building, rather than regime change and endless war. He is the only candidate who has made cutting Pentagon bloat and reducing our nuclear weapons stockpile a priority – not only in this campaign, but throughout his political career. Perhaps most importantly, he is the only candidate willing to admit that the policies he stands for cannot be implemented by him alone. To truly transform our country, we need a political revolution: a sustained grassroots movement of the people, for the people, and by the people. These are the reasons why I support Bernie Sanders for President, and why I think you should too.