Frustration and hope.
These are the currents that rock Democrats in Nevada these days, as longtime professional organizers come to terms with a state party taken over by progressive activists.
Although the former party leader – former Senator Harry Reid – told the Nevada Newsmakers interview program that there was no dissent in the ranks, the signs are everywhere.
Most visible: The Washoe County Democratic Party will host the state’s coordinated 2022 campaign, a joint effort to elect top-down Democrats on the ticket that until now was the state party’s province .
News of this development was denounced by the newly elected leaders of the state and parties in Clark County.
The tension dates back over 20 years, to a prosciutto-thin election that spawned the machine named for Reid.
It was 1998, and the state party was run by committed Democratic supporters, not professional organizers. Reid was running against the Rep at the time. John Ensign, and it was a close race. On election night, the two were separated by only 428 votes.
Reid’s narrow victory led him to make changes, seeking professional staff to transform the State Party. The revamped party developed better voter data, a more aggressive field platform, and a top-notch poll exit device. Separately, Reid tried to keep potential rivals off the field.
It worked: Reid went from a barely won victory in 1998 to losing his 2004 opponent, Conservative activist Richard Ziser, by more than 210,000 votes, his largest margin in the Senate to date. In fact, Reid never had another competitive election after 1998.
Not only that, the party apparatus he built won statehood for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and for Joe Biden in 2020. He helped Catherine Cortez Masto replace Reid in the Senate. in 2016 and helped Steve Sisolak become governor. and Jacky Rosen became a United States Senator in 2018. Democrats hold all but one constitutional office, both houses of the Legislative Assembly, and three of the four seats in Congress.
With a few exceptions – including the unnatural “red tide” of 2014 – Democrats have dominated the election in Nevada since Reid and his people reformed the party.
This is why these professionals were frustrated with the takeover. To them, the new list of progressives seems more interested in upholding progressive orthodoxy and issuing policy statements than in continuing the work that has brought two decades of Democratic victories. It was, as has been said, a descent into “debate clubs” rather than a constant concern to make the electoral machine work. Housing the coordinated campaign in the Washoe party is one way to ensure that the mechanism continues, no matter what happens with the state party.
Certainly progressives have their own frustrations. They think the party supports any Democrat, regardless of their commitment to the platform or progressive ideals. They were offended in 2016 when they thought party leaders had put the package for Clinton on Bernie Sanders, an insult that led to the organizational effort that ultimately took control of the state party. last year.
This is nothing new in Nevada politics. In 2008, the state’s Republican Party convention was abruptly cut short in part because of a dispute over delegates wanted by a faction supporting former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Paul’s supporters organized and took over the state GOP in 2012.
Rather than risk losing, the Republicans formed an organization outside of their state party to do the work of fundraising, recruiting candidates, voter identification and participation, the bread and butter of politics. parties.
Now the Democrats have done the same.
Which gives us hope.
Despite their frustrations, professionals who once lived in the State party believe that this institution still has a role to play in next year’s elections. He will not be leading the coordinated campaign; it’s off the table. But there is still a lot the state party could do, from attacking Republicans to supporting incumbent candidates running for re-election with voter data files and other tools. The passion and commitment of these activists is a powerful force on the election campaign.
The hope is that all Democrats – regardless of their ideology or personal feelings – come together with the goal of winning in a midterm election year that is usually difficult for the incumbent president’s party.
And, if progressives stopped to recognize the hard work and skill that built the incredibly successful Reid machine that has been winning for 20 years, well, that could be a nice bonus.