National political attention focused on the Nevada Democratic Party in March when a slate of candidates backed by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter took over all five party leadership positions.
Nevada’s Democratic organization, built by former Sen. Harry Reid, is among the strongest state Democratic parties in the country. This takeover of the party leadership by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders-aligned progressives triggered a mass resignation of the entire staff of the Nevada Democratic Party.
The party’s executive director, Alana Mounce, resigned as did all the party’s employees and consultants. The newly elected party chair, Judith Whitmer, is a dues paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, as are three other members of her winning slate.
Whitmer defeated Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom for party chair, 244-214. Both Whitmer and Segerblom are members of the Las Vegas DSA. Segerblom, one of Nevada’s most left-liberal public officials, supported Sanders in both 2016 and 2020 but was the more “establishment” person in the race.
Founded in 1982 through a merging of “Old Left” and “New Left” activists, the DSA is the largest socialist organization in the U.S.—claiming 85,000 members. Five Democratic House members, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are members.
The battle between the far-left wing of the party and the established Nevada Democratic Party began five years ago, when Sanders organized support for his 2016 presidential run, while Reid was working to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Clinton narrowly won the Nevada Democratic presidential caucus in 2016. But enraged Sanders zealots , claiming a rigged political system, erupted in mayhem at the May state party convention. Death threats were made against Nevada Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange.
During the February 2020 Nevada Democratic presidential caucus campaign, Sanders organizers made vicious and crude attacks on Nevada Culinary Union members with tweets, phone calls and email over opposition to Sanders’ “Medicare for All”. Sanders was forced to express “regret” for his staff’s misconduct and apologized.
Sanders was declared the “resounding victor” of the 2020 Nevada caucus by the media.
Yet , on closer inspection, Sanders won 35,652 (34%) “first alignment” caucus votes , with only 16.8% of registered Democratic voters participating. Fewer than 1 in 17 Nevada Democrats actually made Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist and independent, their first choice by caucusing for him.
While Nevada’s Democratic Party has now lurched left with a Democratic Socialists of America leadership team, Nevada’s Republican Party for more than a decade has experienced a growing outsized influence from hard- right liberty movement activists. Initially, they were the intense anti-government libertarian followers of Ron Paul – “Paulistas”.
In Nevada’s GOP presidential caucuses in both 2008 and 2012, the overwhelming winner was Mitt Romney, with 51% and 50% of the vote, respectively. Ron Paul finished a distant third in both 2008 (13%) and 2012 (19%). Nevertheless, Paul’s hardcore libertarian supporters flooded the state party conventions in both years, took control and hijacked the national convention process.
At the 2012 national convention , 17 of Nevada’s 28 votes were cast for Paul, only five for Romney. Paul’s “outlaw” Nevada delegates staged a convention walkout. Based on the Nevada caucus results and party rules, Romney should have received 20 of the 28 votes.
A bitter and lasting divide between Nevada’s elected Republican officeholders , like former governor Bob List and then-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, with uncompromising liberty movement activists was opened.
Serving since 2012, controversial Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald, has been elected to five terms. He has presided over the steep decline of the Nevada GOP that began in 2016.
In 2013, Chairman McDonald’s re-election was opposed by leading Nevada GOP elected officials, including then-Gov. Brian Sandoval and then-Sen. Dean Heller. In 2019 , McDonald survived a challenge from far-right activist Annie Black.
Political extremes now dominate Nevada politics. For Democrats, progressive socialism is ascendant. For Republicans, it’s the hard- right liberty movement.
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa, NV. His e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org