Sunday, February 28, 2016

What Hillary Lost In Nevada; What Bernie Won In South Carolina, Part I

(NOTE: This is a two-part posting, the first part is about what Clinton lost in Nevada, and the second part is what Bernie Sanders won in South Carolina. My take on these two contests is contra to what the media having been saying, but the media generally has been wrong all along. My analysis comes from 50 years of political campaigning, dating back to when I was the first woman in California to run a political campaign. Also I am not alone in my views about Sanders' performance. This morning, the day after the South Carolina primary, the vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee, an Iraq War vet, announced that she is switching her support to Bernie Sanders because he will be better on foreign policy and less likely to get us into a war. DNC Vice Chair Resigns to Endorse Bernie Sanders - ABC News. So here now is Part I, the Nevada analysis, actually a crime story right out of "The Godfather II".)

                                                          What Hillary Lost In Nevada

Hillary Clinton did not "win" anything of importance in Nevada. On the contrary, actual data and several events show she lost something really big and gained nothing other than a temporary reprieve from the media and a couple more delegates than Bernie Sanders, a trivial gain in light of the horde of delegates needed to get the Democratic nomination. Virtually the same thing happened in Nevada in 2008. She narrowly beat Obama but he got a couple more delegates than she did. Please note that the media did not jump up and down about an Obama "win" of a couple of delegates in 2008 as they are now clamoring about Clinton's.

The real story is that Hillary lost big in Nevada. She lost the Latino vote. True, she won among African Americans but, given that nationally there are at least as many vote-eligible Latinos as African Americans, that's a poor trade-off for her, especially when we consider that the Latino voters are mainly young people, naturals for Bernie, and they are distributed so as to have more impact state by state. Indeed, without major Latino support, one could question her winning anywhere much outside the South. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

The question is, therefore, will the Latino defection continue nationally?

We know the Clinton campaign itself fears this because it immediately denied she had lost the Latinos in Nevada. On caucus night, Hillary herself denied the loss, claiming she has "proof" she hadn't lost that bloc. But she doesn't have proof. She and her campaign just have a supposition that's actually racist. Her claim is that she must have won the Latinos because she won in Latino neightborhoods. That's racist reasoning, the premise being that all Latinos must be living in the same neighborhoods, what their leaders used to call "ghettos".

Welcome to 2016, Mrs. Clinton! Latinos have been moving up and out of the ghettos for a generation. Here in the West they now generally live wherever they damn well want to. And good thing!

It's these non-ghetto Latinos who voted against you! And who are they? They are young and better educated. They are Sanders folks.

In the Nevada caucuses Hillary's team had to scramble desperately to barely meet this defection of young Latinos. To counteract her loss of Latinos her side took the path of the old days in the big cities like Chicago, Philly or New York.  They used a party boss and tough tactics. And the fix went  in, just narrowly in time.  As the caucuses were about to start, Clinton supporter Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada (READ: CNN exclusive: Harry Reid endorses Hillary Clinton), head of the  Democrats in the U.S. Senate, phoned the head of the culinary union in Las Vegas. This is THE union in Nevada, including in its ranks almost all the workers in the state's main industry: gambling. That's all of the hotel, restaurant and casino workers. (Yes, your blackjack dealer is a union member.)  Reid asked the union boss to send his members to the caucuses, which were—quite conveniently—being held right in the casinos where they work.  He also called the owners of the casinos and told them to give their workers paid time off to go to those caucuses. In other words, to order their workers to go to the caucuses.

And everybody did exactly as they were told. Suddenly those caucus rooms were awash in Clinton supporters, thanks to Reid's clout. Although he boxed as a light-weight in his youth, he is a heavy-weight in politics. (See the footnote about Reid's power in just Las Vegas.) Even though he's retiring from the Senate at the end of this year, he still is wired. He still holds some chips. If Hillary parlays her narrow save in Vegas into occupying the White House, Reid wins big too because he saved her entire campaign bacon from being burned to a crisp in Vegas.

But by saving Clinton like this, Reid unintentionally signaled how fragile Clinton's chances are nationally.  For example, you may be wondering why he didn't just lean on the culinary union months ago to endorse Clinton instead of waiting to come to her rescue at the last minute. Good question. The answer as I see it: Reid was waiting for Hillary to be in such peril that she would beg him to save her. That way his price could go up sky-high.  When he retires at the end of the year, he could be sitting on a huge pile of chips from (he hoped) the new president of the United States. That's a very nice thing to have even if you are out of office. Pardon me — especially if you are out of office.  And it was a safe bet on his part  Not because he is sure she will win the presidency, but because he had NOTHING TO LOSE.  He's on his way out of the Senate anyway, so he's not risking diminishing his power in D.C. if Sanders beats her. Reid had a choice of staying neutral and walking away with nothing, or betting heavily on a possible Clinton win of the presidency for which she would owe him enormously.

And make no mistake. She would indeed owe him enormously. Her squeaking by in Nevada saved her from almost instant thumbs down in the media and possible abandonment by her fat cat donors. Even a subsequent win in South Carolina this week likely wouldn't have saved her. She HAD to "win" Nevada even by a token amount of delegates. Reid understands how fragile her campaign is, and that's why he waited until the peril was enormous.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders did not have to win Nevada. His achievement was stunning without a win: coming from 25 points behind to virtually tie her, as he had in Iowa.  Unfortunately, he had built expectations high in the week before Nevada. His campaign's insider assessment probaby told him he had a lock. That's because he and his campaign weren't figuring on Senator Reid throwing aside his neutrality at the absolute last minute and saving Hillary.

By the way, if you don't believe those casino workers were told by their casino bosses how to vote, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. Remember that in a caucus everyone can see exactly how you are voting. We know the union boss had his reps watching in the caucuses to "help" the workers. Likely the bosses had observors there too.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Reid's phone calls is that they were not kept secret. His phoning was disclosed on TV by MSNBC's Chris Matthews ( It was also briefly reported in the NY Times in an Associated Press story (Clinton Turns Back Sanders Challenge With Nevada Victory). (No sources, however, went beyond mentioning that the phone calls had been made. The rest of what I am saying is mine alone, based on the Chicago-style politics I learned about growing up as one of the Daleys, the famous/infamous political family that dominated Chicago politics for most of the twentieth century.)

So who leaked the mention of Reid making those calls?

My bet's on Senator Harry Reid, that's who. He's the only one to "look good", i.e.powerful, in this little episode. In fact, he looks like a giant! There he is, telling union and management what to do and thereby saving a key race for the much vaunted "Clinton machine".  You now know who's the go-to-guy to get something done, right? Great advertisement for Harry! And the Clintons will owe him forever.

Of course, we should all hope that Hillary Clinton doesn't make it to the nomination. It would be so nice to see a bully-boy like Harry Reid lose his bet and end up with a pile of nothing. Like watching Jeb Bush's fat cats end up with $125 million gone from their pockets and nothing to show for it.

We need a double "political revolution". One is against fat cat money controlling politics, as Bernie Sanders has rightly argued. But we also need a revolution against the kind of ugly political muscle shown by Harry Reid and his cohorts. They cheated in Nevada and perverted the democratic process. It was today's equivalent of stuffing a ballot box. Even worse, they abused their power over those casino workers whom they forced to support Clinton. Nevada has always been corrupt but never at this level, i.e. tipping the scales in a presidential contest. Now we know why Reid worked so hard to get primary caucuses in Nevada instead of a primary. He will be able to control the caucuses from now on. Fun toy in his retirement, right?

Happily, however, this nasty piece of Reid-Clinton work reveals to us how fragile her situation is. You don't sup with a devil like Harry Reid unless you are mighty damn hungry. God knows what price she paid to prevent failing altogether in Nevada and thereby disclosing to full daylight the thin ice she's on.

Thank you, Harry Reid, for letting us know, we old pols who have eyes to see the signals.

Next time: Another revealing moment in the Clinton thin ice saga: how it was Rep. James Clyburn's turn next to rat on Hillary Clinton. No matter the vote tally in South Carolina, Clyburn and his state have revealed a lot about how weak she is in her overall drive for the nomination. Watch for that analysis in the next few days, as Part II of How Hillary Loses Even When She Wins.
Footnote: Harry Reid's clout in Vegas is based on his being the former Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and a former state attorney general. He probably cut a lot of breaks for casino owners and also has dirt on them. Thus the casino operators would be only too glad to oblige him. He will possibly keep control of those caucuses until he dies or gets bored.  On the other hand he's had one bad accident that blinded him in one eye. Will he have others? (Joking, of course.) By the way, note that the culinary union leader got his cut too. Like Reid he held out until the last minute, refusing to endorse in the race on the grounds he was focused on upcoming contract negotiations. (Baloney!) I wonder what he extorted from Reid and Hillary in exchange for sending his members to the caucuses on behalf of the "unendorsed" Hillary. Maybe an overnight in the Lincoln bedroom like they gave supporters of Bill Clinton in his 1992 race? Breakfast in bed?

1 comment:

  1. Great analysis, Dorothy! I always admire what you have to say, and your expertise!! Wow! The first woman in California to run a political campaign! You're Amazing!!