Column: Nevada got lucky, and other caucus takeaways

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Motivational speaker Pete Buttigieg is uttering some discouraging words about the results of Nevada’s caucuses. And who can blame him? Nothing would propel a blast of Butti-charged momentum to glorious South Carolina and Super Tuesday victories like finishing second in Nevada, 25 points behind Bernie Sanders, instead of finishing 30 points behind him in third.

Meanwhile, in the reality-based community, Nevada, specifically the Nevada Democratic Party, got the best possible result: A decisive winner.

Hardly anyone who is anyone in the state party’s officialdom seemed to want the winner it got. The highest-profile elected official who endorsed Sanders in Nevada was Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom.

But after Iowa, the last thing Democrats in Nevada, or the nation, needed was, well, another Iowa. By crushing his competition, first in early voting and then on Saturday, Sanders assured the national headlines coming out of Nevada would be about the horse race, and not about another disastrous process.

Pete Buttigieg at the NAACP candidate forum | Andrew Roth

NV Dems were dealt a bad hand, and deserve credit for muscling out caucuses that went as well as they did. NV Dems also lucked out. They should do something nice for Sanders, like sign him up for a dessert-of-the- month club. Or at least send him a Las Vegas dice clock. It would look great in the Oval Office.


Buttigieg isn’t the only person eager to cast doubt on the integrity of the Nevada caucuses, and on the Democratic nomination process generally.

“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada,” Trump tweeted Saturday, adding “Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!”

That last line of course is intended to foment as much internal Democratic distrust and division as possible. Trump is obsessed with superlatives — biggest this, most wonderful that, best ever in the whole history of ever, etc. They’re routinely absurd lies. But Trump can fairly and honestly claim to be the greatest social media content provider to ever serve Vladimir Putin.

President Trump delivers his third State of the Union to the nation the night before the U.S. Senate is set to vote in his impeachment trial. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Trump and the Republicans are sincerely giddy at the prospect of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination, and for good reason. It’s hard to imagine U.S. voters electing a president who advocates a government program to provide health care for all, an extremist notion supported only by the world’s most radical leftists, like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

And yes, while its members caucused for Sanders, the Culinary union’s leadership fought hard to discredit Medicare for All. So to recap, on health care, the official position of the most powerful progressive organization in Nevada is somewhere to the right of the Tories.

Meanwhile, many Democrats are sincerely alarmed that Sanders can’t win, convinced he can’t cater to the middle. They’re terrified that his nomination will trigger carnage all the way down the ticket, allowing Republicans to win the House of Representatives, increase their majority in the Senate, turn state legislatures red all over, and render America a Trump Inc. subsidiary forever more.

The people who say Democrats must appeal to this theoretical middle never seem to care that Trump doesn’t, so that’s weird. And evidence of the existence of an American political middle is increasingly scant. But Democratic trepidation over a Sanders nomination is understandable. 

Sanders wins Nevada, Biden a distant 2nd

The only people who say they fear a Sanders nomination and whose sincerity may be in doubt are Republicans who say they would like to vote against Trump, if only Democrats would nominate someone they could support. 

Their underlying premise is that absent a Democratic nominee who is Republican enough to win Republicans, the continuation of Trump’s presidency is morally and intellectually acceptable. Any Republican who has reached that conclusion is probably going to vote for Trump no matter what, even if Democrats nominate a Republican.


Speaking of Mike Bloomberg, he may not have cared one way or the other about Nevada or the other early states, but he’s going to have to deal with their results now. His campaign slogan is “Mike Will Get It Done,” meaning he will beat Trump. Now that Nevada has boosted Sanders, the task Bloomberg has to get done is beating Sanders.

As Nevada’s caucuses were underway Saturday afternoon, former Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart published a piece on CNN under the headline “Bloomberg needs to take down Sanders — immediately,” saying Bloomberg “needs to use the next $400 million in ad spending to attack Sanders.”

So watch for that.

If it turns out Bloomberg can’t take Sanders down, either immediately or by the Democratic National Convention in July, his campaign is reportedly already plotting how to win a brokered, contested convention.

In the event such chaos comes to pass, delegates, including those representing Nevada, will have to explain what makes them think “Mike Will Get It Done” against Trump in November if he can’t even get it done against Sanders in the primaries.

Bloomberg wants to turn Michigan blue in ‘20 at all costs — literally


Lastly, Harry Reid issued a statement Sunday saying caucuses are stupid, or words to that effect, so Nevada and all the other states should have primaries. Reid is of course echoing what is now an all but universally held sentiment, and even without Reid’s endorsement Saturday’s would have been the last presidential caucuses in Nevada. Who knows how early it will be on the primary calendar, but in 2024, Nevada will have primary, not a caucus.

Assuming there are still elections in 2024.

This column first ran in the Advance’s sister outlet, the Nevada Current.

Hugh Jackson
Hugh Jackson is editor of the Nevada Current, a sister publication of the Michigan Advance. He has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.