Democrats must look to Nevada for hope – and lessons on how to win – D Taylor
Unions played a key role in keeping Nevada blue, while Michigan and Pennsylvania turned red. The party, and progressives everywhere, should pay heed
Friday 11 November 2016 12.28 EST
It’s a tough time for working people in the United States. Many of us are still reeling from the results of the election, in which our fellow citizens elected Donald Trump and allowed Republicans to keep control of both houses of Congress.
There were a few bright spots this week. Members of the Unite Here labor union were critical in keeping the battleground state of Nevada blue and defeating anti-immigrant Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
We won those victories by focusing on the issues that matter to workers – those with a union and those without a union. Reaching out to all working people is the only way to build a big enough base to win. It sounds simple, but requires commitment and a long¬term organization.
Organization doesn’t mean a fancy building or a fundraising machine: it means having the capacity to facilitate lots of people talking to lots of other people. Over 80% of what our union spent in this multi-billion-dollar election cycle went to registering and mobilizing voters through face-to-face communication. We knocked on over 350,000 doors and talked to over 75,00o voters. We shared our point of view and took the time to listen to what people wanted to say.
We often went back to the same person – twice or three times if we needed to. Our members have had doors slammed in their faces, but most voters were eager to talk. So much presidential campaigning is conveyed through television ads and glossy mailers. Real respect comes when another human being is passionate enough about an issue to knock on a stranger’s door and talk.
Our campaigns took shape in three major areas: the cities of Las Vegas and Reno in Nevada and in Phoenix, Arizona. In Las Vegas, our Culinary Union Local 226 is 60,000 members strong. Our members are a lot of different people: white, black, Latino, and Asian; old and young; gay and straight.
Democrats must look to Nevada for hope and lessons on how to win – D Taylor I Opinion… Page 2 of 3
We’re both the largest immigrant organization and the largest African-American organization in Nevada. This year we ran the most robust political field program in the state. But what unites us is commitment to a pathway to the American Dream through the benefits in our union contracts.
There’s no better example of the American Dream coming out of Las Vegas than Ruben Kihuen. The son of a union housekeeper is now the first Latino person in Congress to represent the state of Nevada. Our members also helped elect the first Latina to the US Senate and delivered the state to Hillary Clinton.
In mobilizing our members, their families, and their neighbors, Las Vegas voters said they were most concerned about protecting their healthcare from new Republican tax plans. Our members have sacrificed literally billions of dollars in raises to create the best, most affordable family healthcare in the United States. There are 156 million more Americans who earn healthcare benefits from their jobs. The fight for truly affordable healthcare affects all of us, and we talked about it on the doors.
We couldn’t win Nevada for our presidential candidate if we stayed only in Las Vegas. We had to first transform the state into a battleground, and then work to win it. In 2008, we expanded our political operation north into Washoe County. The biggest city there is Reno, where we have a much smaller membership. In Reno, voters wanted to talk about education and college debt. We sometimes disagreed about the solution, but had the respect to listen.
The people who live in Washoe County are the same people that no one talked to in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida who voted for Trump. We did the hard work and won Washoe County for Hillary Clinton by 2,503 votes.
In Arizona, Unite Here began a commitment in 2012 to oust anti-immigrant and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It took us four years, but we defeated Arpaio on Tuesday. Unite Here is deeply invested in building a broader community movement – including young people – that can win for working people. It doesn’t require a huge membership, but it does demand a bigger vision and a commitment beyond winning elections. Arizona is our newest battleground. Every year we get closer, and we plan to win it in 2020.
These are three variations on how to win. Like all smart campaigners, we employ the latest technologies and respond to local conditions. But without old-school grit and determination to knock on doors, without having enough people to walk precincts, you can’t really win.
That’s what commitment means. As the nation rights itself the wake of the election, our members are bolstered by the fact they we are committed to win. And we can win. For the next four years we’ll keep investing in working people who are ready to tackle state and local fights and return even stronger. We know what works and we will keep doing it.
Democrats must look to Nevada for hope — and lessons on how to win – D Taylor I Opinion… Page 3 of 3
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