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Nevada as a case study on working together

The prevailing strategy of the Democratic Party’s 2020 campaign was to “vote blue no matter who.” Maybe then-nominee Biden wasn’t your first choice, but everyone from creators of kitschy Instagram slideshows to Angela Davis agreed that Americans had to band together for the greater good. This argument always punched left—it’s better to have a moderate than a crypto fascist, of course—trying to convince the progressive wing of the party, including the ever-expanding Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to compromise with the more centrist members of the party. What happens when this goes the other way? 

Cooperation seemed to be the central theme of Biden’s campaign, and it continues to be at the center of his early presidency. A month before taking office, he proclaimed that he would work with Senate Republicans and “never publicly embarrass them.” The left wing of the party, and the progressives who voted for Biden, have sent some flack towards the administration for its enthusiastic embrace of conservatives. Biden and leading Democrats negotiated down stimulus eligibility, in order to appeal to Republicans, without actually getting a single red vote for the bill. More and more left-wing, often younger, Democrats are urging the party leadership to work with the progressive wing of the party, rather than continually shifting right in futile attempts to appeal to the opposition. If recent events in Nevada are any indication, this won’t happen.

In the recent elections for the Nevada Democratic Party executive positions, Judith Whitmer, supporter of Senator Sanders’s presidential bid, became chair. Other progressives took two vice chair positions and the secretary and the treasurer seats. This placed the left wing of the party in control of the entire party leadership—an outcome entirely unacceptable to the former administration, who pulled out all the stops to scorch the earth of the party they no longer led. 

Instead of cooperating with progressives as they do with conservatives, moderate leadership resisted the will of the constituency and denied a peaceful transition of power. In an effort to prevent progressive advance in a state that overwhelmingly supported Sanders in the 2020 primaries, the existing Democratic Party leadership in Nevada moved $450 thousand of their $521 thousand into a Senatorial Campaign Committee to be spent on Senator Cortez Masto’s 2023 re-election campaign. Once the party election occurred, former Commissioner Segerblom was proven correct: progressives, Sanders backers and DSA members won every single executive position in the party. 

The concept of unity would suggest that the former executives should work with their replacements for a peaceful transition and prosperity for the party. What a moderate conservative might do is try to slow progress, and resign in a bit of a ruckus. What the state party did, then, can only be described as unbelievable cowardice designed to prevent Nevada’s massive progressive—and largely marginalized—population from being heard in any way. Not only did they formally announce the aforementioned transfer of money, but they also announced that every former executive board member would be leaving the party completely––along with every single staff member. At the time of writing, the party’s staff page is entirely blank, so if any West Coast progressives are looking for a job, take a look. After gutting the party’s treasury, the outgoing moderates decided that every single former staff member deserved severance pay, leaving the new executive board to rebuild from scratch with a raided bank. 

In a state where Republicans have been getting more competitive, the Democrats should be willing to adopt whatever ideals will get them a win, and progressive values clearly resonate among the Nevada voters. Beyond the political calculation, though, is the fundamental concept of representation. For a year, Democrats told voters that they needed to rally behind the party and embrace a coalition that would unify everyone. In Nevada, this uncritical support was a one-way street. As Biden and other leading Democrats refuse to call out this cowardly and regressive tactic, it seems more and more likely that what they really want is our unconditional support.

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