Unity vs. the right in Nevada, danger displayed in South Carolina

The Democratic Party caucuses held in Nevada Saturday showed a growing effort between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to protect the White House from falling into the hands of the far right.

This unity will be vitally needed in the November presidential election. The South Carolina Republican Party presidential primary held the same day as the Nevada caucuses demonstrated why: the Donald Trump, neo-fascist juggernaut won. Trump continues to gain power and is closer than ever to grabbing the Republican nomination.

Just as threatening to our democracy is the alternative that emerged as a result of the South Carolina vote: far right billionaires are uniting behind Senator Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., who claims that God demands “free enterprise and a small government.”

Clinton won the vote in the Nevada caucuses by 5.5 percent. She began the campaign with a 37 percent lead.

In her victory speech, Clinton demonstrated she is beginning to feel the impact of Sanders’ call for a “political revolution.”

The New York Times wrote, “[Clinton] used plural pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘us’ more than usual, as opposed to leaning on ‘I,’ a clear attempt to make her campaign about voters as Mr. Sanders has done powerfully.”

In her speech, Clinton said “We’ve heard a lot about Washington and Wall Street. We all want to get secret unaccountable money out of politics … [We want to] protect the right of every citizen to vote, not every corporation to buy elections. … The middle class needs a raise and we need more jobs.”

She quoted Sanders directly, saying “No one can get this done alone, not even the President of the United States. It’s got to be the mission of our entire nation.”

Billionaires uniting

Meanwhile, in South Carolina, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Observers predict that the millions of dollars remaining in his super PAC, Right to Rise, will go to Rubio, as will millions more from Our Principles PAC, controlled by Ameritrade billionaires Joe and Marlene Ricketts. Rubio has already been getting billions from Norman Braman, a Miami billionaire.

Up until now, Rubio has been splitting with Senator Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, money from the oil-rich Koch Brothers, but observers now say that he will get their whole bundle, some $400 million.

Actually, the pundits might have it wrong.

Up until recently, Rubio and Cruz seemed to be joined at the hip – the right hip.

Together, they shut down the government three years ago rather than accepting a federal budget that included ObamaCare. Together, last year they tried to block a budget because it included funds for Planned Parenthood.

It’s still possible that Cruz will be the candidate anointed by the billionaires. The betting is on Rubio because he’s better looking and more personable. Cruz might be too much of a religious fanatic for even the Koches and their ilk. He has the reputation of being “the most hated man in the Senate,” but that probably does not bother the Koches.

Who the Koches and the other billionaires absolutely do not want to be the Republican nominee is Donald Trump, who won the South Carolina primary with a total of 32.5 percent of the vote.

It’s not that they don’t like Trump’s ideas; they do. And it’s not that they object to Trump’s pledge to solve all the problems of the American people through strongman tactics; they kinda like that.

It’s just that the right wing billionaires would rather have someone as President who is beholden to them; not one of them. For one thing, they’re all cutthroats and don’t trust each other. Any given billionaire might try to tilt American policies and programs to favor his or her own industry to the detriment of the others.

Another thing: Trump is a loose cannon.

He shows no signs of being a right wing team player. Instead of making even a pretext of being part of a larger conservative movement, Trump makes clear that he is his own movement.

For example, when Trump wins a race, he is not gracious to the losers. Saturday, he continued to mock Bush even as he was limping off the field. What’s more, Trump has threatened to sue both Rubio and Cruz, who shared second place in South Carolina.

Trump said running for President is “mean, it’s vicious, it’s beautiful.”

The Democratic caucuses

Growing unity might have inadvertently contributed a bit to a drop in caucus participation Saturday.

Most Democratic voters said they would support whoever is the nominee, Clinton or Sanders, so voting may not have seemed as vital to some. (The leaders of all the major unions have said the same thing and unions are very influential in Nevada politics.)

The state’s largest union and traditionally a big factor in turning out the vote, the Culinary workers, with some 60,000 members, had remained neutral. As a result, union leaders did very little until shortly before the caucuses to encourage members to vote.

Almost at the last minute, Senator Harry Reid, dean of Democratic politics in Nevada, urged the union to do a get out the vote campaign and to negotiate with casino owners for time off for their members to vote.

Some casino owners agreed; others insisted that workers take time out of their lunch break to vote. They said workers who were late getting back to their stations would be docked pay.

Caucusing is a very chaotic, time consuming process and many workers had to leave before casting their ballots.

The result? Eighty thousand people voted, down from 120,000 in 2008.

Entrance polls showed Latinos, who make up about 54 percent of the population, favoring Sanders, despite having voted for Clinton two-to-one when she ran in 2008.

However, the African American community, which makes up about eight percent of Nevada’s population, played a decisive role in Clinton’s victory. Only about 22 percent voted for Sanders.

Sanders won among people 45 and under of all racial and ethnic groups, but lost 64 percent to 32 percent among older voters, who accounted for nearly two-thirds of the turnout.

Moreover, Clinton bested Sanders 72 percent to 25 percent among caucus goers who said they want the next President to carry on Obama’s legacy. They accounted for 49 percent of the turnout. Forty-one percent said they want a more liberal president.

The Republican primary: Trump wins racists

A survey released by Public Policy Polling found that 70 percent of those who probably voted for Trump in South Carolina believe that the Confederate flag should still be flying over the state capitol. The flag was removed last year after nine African Americans were murdered while attending church in Charleston. The murderer had photographed himself with the Confederate flag.

What’s worse, a plurality of Trump’s supporters in South Carolina wish that the South had won the Civil War.

Even though Trump’s personal history shows him to be antithetical to just about everything Christian evangelicals preach, exit polling in South Carolina found that he narrowly beat Cruz among evangelical Christian voters.

“There is a shift in the establishment and thinking of Republicans in South Carolina from mainstream, center-right Republicans to angry, hard-right Republicans,” Kaeton Dawson, a former South Carolina Republican Party chairman, told the New York Times. “It’s a monumental shift against the pillars of our society: our government and our elected officials.”

Many of these “angry, hard-right Republicans” are working people who are being mislead into voting against their own interests. In the long run, reaching them is probably the most important challenge that must be faced by people who want to build an America where social justice prevails.

In the meantime, as Hillary Clinton said in her victory speech, “the fight goes on” to block those who are doing the misleading from capturing the White House.

Photo: Donald Trump.  |  AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.