Tag Archives: ‘socialist’

Sanders’ socialist revolution sweeps Sin City with Nevada caucus win

What a setting for a socialist revolution: Las Vegas.

Bernie Sanders swept Sin City on Saturday, dominating the Nevada caucuses in a victory that makes the senator the unequivocal 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner.

He even hit the jackpot at the Bellagio hotel.

The casino complex famed for its shooting fountains was one of the most important caucus locations, as one of several on the Vegas Strip where the tens of thousands of people who cook, clean, serve and deal cards for tourists were eligible to vote on their lunch break.

Underscoring logistical problems which have hampered primaries in other U.S. states, some people struggled to find the voting site and were locked out because they arrived late. It’s a sprawling complex. 

To reach the grand ballroom that hosted the meeting, one needs to pass the fountains in the shadow of the replica Eiffel Tower. Once inside, there’s a Hermès store in the entrance that locks its doors for every customer — Hermès sells $ 8,000 US purses. Beyond that, there’s the $ 100-a-hand blackjack tables. Then there’s a long hallway with velvet walls and chandeliers, which oversees a courtyard with cypress trees shaped a bit like the ones at the Palace of Versailles.

By the time lunch was over, Sanders had conquered this cathedral of free capitalism. 

New supporters

When voting finished, Jadira Juarez returned to her shift in housekeeping. She said she supports Sanders for a few reasons — notably his promise to make college free. 

She’s worried about the skyrocketing cost of education: “I have four boys — I want that for my kids,” she said.

While she supported Sanders four years ago, and he lost, she sees the wind turning in his favour this primary season.

“I have all my family, my friends, everybody all voting for Bernie. I hope he wins this time.” 

It’s looking likelier after Saturday.

A mobile billboard advertising democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren moves along Las Vegas Boulevard earlier this month. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

That’s because Nevada was the canary in the coal mine for Sanders’ campaign in 2016.

It was the first place he suffered a clear loss, and it presaged a string of defeats in states with large Latino populations, which happen to include the two biggest prizes this March 3 on Super Tuesday: Texas and California. 

This time, he’s made it into the U.S. southwest — and the canary’s still alive. By the time results were out Saturday night, Sanders had already moved on to campaign in Texas.

Winning minority voters

Saturday’s result blew away the one caveat looming over any prognostication about his chances of being the nominee: Could he win minority voters?

Not only did Sanders trounce the competition among Latinos, he showed strong support among nearly every conceivable subsection of the electorate, according to entrance polls

He won white voters and Latino voters, and nearly won a plurality of black voters. He won a majority of college grads and non-college grads; the young, the middle-aged, and the nearly-seniors; very-liberal voters and moderates; frequent caucus participants and first-time ones.

The one group that overwhelmingly rejected him? 

Voters over age 65.

And this is where lots of Democrats get nervous. Virtually every supporter of a rival candidate interviewed over the last few days said it’s not Sanders’ policies they dislike so much, and all said they’d eventually back him if he’s the nominee.

In this 2018 photo, the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino reflects the last sunlight of the day along the Las Vegas Strip. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

But several said they’ll push the fight against him as far as they can — even into the summer convention. 

The reason they most often cited? Fear he’ll be demolished by U.S. President Donald Trump in a general election.

“So many people are worried about this socialist name tag on him,” said John De La Huerta, a gardener at the Bellagio who supported former vice-president Joe Biden. 

“I believe they’re going to kill him in the election on something like that.”

At a Biden rally, Cindy Tyeskey-Gage said she’d vote for Sanders if she had to. 

But she fears he might cost the Democrats dearly — including suburban districts key to keeping the House of Representatives . “It’s time to start worrying. It’s time to start worrying yesterday,” she said.

It so happens the only group that resoundingly rejected Sanders on Saturday, seniors, is the most consistently active group of voters in a general election.

Medicare for all? U.S. seniors already have it

In the key state of Florida, the Trump campaign is also testing messages designed to repel Cuban and Venezuelan expats on Sanders’ self-described socialism.; in Pennsylvania, Trump will certainly attack his plan to end fossil-fuel fracking.

People wait in line to vote early at the culinary Workers union on Feb. 17 in Las Vegas. Nevada’s first-in-the U.S. West presidential caucus put the spotlight on a state that has swung increasingly blue over the last two decades. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

The Sanders team pushes back hard against any questions over his electability. 

They note that he not only polls just about as well as Biden against Trump, he also blows Biden out of the water when it comes to turning people out, drawing far bigger crowds and a far more donations.

Biden did just well enough to survive into his must-win contest next week in South Carolina. But Sanders keeps cutting into his lead with a vital group sustaining Biden’s hopes in South Carolina: African-Americans.

‘Taxing the rich’

Like most Democrats, Kimberly Carr said she’d vote for anyone against Trump. 

But she wants Sanders. The VIP host at the Bellagio supported Elizabeth Warren, then switched to Sanders on the second ballot in Saturday’s caucuses.

She said the party needs someone with fire in the belly and bold policy ideas to take on Trump. She has two kids in college and loves Sanders’ zero-tuition policy.

There’s one other thing she loves about him. As she listed the policies she likes, one in particular made her burst out laughing.

Carr’s job is to usher the highest-paying casino customers to their rooms upon arrival, and guarantee they’re pampered with the finest luxuries the Bellagio has to offer.

That policy she likes? “Taxing the rich,” she said, laughing. 

With that, she left the caucus area, and stepped into the velveted hallway. In the adjacent courtyard, outside, it was raining — making it an unusual day for a glittering strip in the Mojave Desert.

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Did a ‘socialist’ win New Hampshire? Can anyone but an ‘oligarch’ catch him?

Sen. Bernie Sanders won New Hampshire’s “first-in-the-nation” primary last night and this morning the “also ran” campaigns face existential questions of varying urgency.

Can former vice-president Joe Biden recover in the more diverse South Carolina primary at the end of the month? Is the race over for Sen. Elizabeth Warren? Is “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg still the one on the move, or is it now Sen. Amy Klobuchar — or is neither going anywhere but down in the next vote and then eventually out?

There are questions that the country as a whole might suddenly find of greater interest: Is Sanders really a socialist? Is billionaire Michael Bloomberg really an oligarch? Does any of that matter for the November election?

A couple of weeks ago Sanders interrupted a CBS interviewer when she prefaced a question with “you’re a self-proclaimed socialist.”

“Democratic, put that in there please,” Sanders politely directed her.

Presumably Sanders meant that he’s really a democratic socialist, though some argue he should have said social democrat. The fact is he has also repeatedly described himself simply as a socialist — the CBS interviewer was correct when she said so; that’s a matter of public record.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his multibillion-dollar fortune on his campaign. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

“In Vermont everybody knows I’m a socialist,” he said in a 1989 speech, and mildly chastised progressives who fear using the word.

The ‘socialist’ label

In a 2009 newsletter to constituents, Sanders began with a chuckle about an Alabama Republican congressman. “I bet I’m the only socialist he knows,” he wrote, before going on about middle class life in Finland.

By the end of that same newsletter Sanders was extolling the lessons the U.S. could learn from social democratic countries, which suggests he just wasn’t all that fussy about labels back then. He was happy to associate himself with socialism writ large sometimes, and other times social democracy in particular— just as long as no one mistook him for a communist. He was always clear about that.

WATCH: Katie Simpson talks to New Hampshire Democratic voters after the state’s primary: 

The CBC’s Katie Simpson hears from some New Hampshire Democratic voters at a diner in Nashua after the state’s presidential primary. 0:10

But it’s understandable that journalists would describe Sanders as a “self-proclaimed socialist,” partly because he’s often said so himself and partly because defining him more precisely than that can be fraught.

A deep, dark rabbit hole beckons to those who want to pin down Sanders’s ideology to its 12th decimal point of exactitude solely to fasten the most precise label to it. You get a sense of how fine the argument can turn from Marian Tupy’s 2016 essay for The Atlantic magazine, Bernie is Not a Socialist and America is Not Capitalist.

Tupy argues Sanders is neither a socialist nor a democratic socialist — but a social democrat. You might read it and disagree. (Or you might be worn down by it and just give up trying to figure out any of it.)

In any event, there are plenty of examples of Sanders filling in the blanks about himself in language plain enough that it doesn’t take a political science PhD to figure it out.

Here he is from that same 1989 speech quoted above: “To me, socialism doesn’t mean state ownership of everything, by any means, it means creating a nation, and a world, in which all human beings have a decent standard of living.”

In any case, what’s changed to bring out his persnickety side is less likely Sanders’s thinking about socialism than his awakening to the broader reality that he’s not just running in Vermont anymore.

A Gallup poll released Tuesday shows that of a range of possible presidential characteristics — race, religion, age — only socialism is a turn-off for a majority of Americans. Just 45 per cent say they could support a socialist for president. Even atheists do better at 60 per cent.

Socialist or not, Sanders can read a poll. And so his team has developed an aversion to a term he once promiscuously embraced. Likewise it’s no wonder his political opponents — especially the Republican ones — want to make sure the socialist label follows him around like blackflies at a Vermont campground in springtime.

The Sanders team knows that game too. Lately, as they’ve sped along the campaign trail, they’ve noticed in the rear-view mirror that Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, has pulled into sight behind them. As he’s gained on the Sanders team, they’ve taken to calling him an oligarch.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, speaks at a campaign stop at the Hanover Inn Dartmouth on Sunday. (Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press)

“We should not want the oligarchs or the plutocracy of this nation to be able to buy elections,” said Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner on TV from New Hampshire Monday. She made a direct reference to Bloomberg, who is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of his multibillion-dollar fortune on his campaign.

“Oligarch” derives from ancient Greek and means “rule by a few.” Normally when we hear it these days it describes billionaire Russians who made their fortunes in the fire sale (theft, some might argue) of state assets after the fall of the Soviet Union, and who maintain close ties to the Kremlin. From time to time, Russian oligarchs come up in news reports about Donald Trump and his real estate.

So it’s not a neutral term, it’s a pejorative. And naturally there are no speeches or public letters from Bloomberg proudly claiming he’s an oligarch the way Sanders used to say he’s a socialist.

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., acknowledges Sanders’s victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)

The argument that Bloomberg is an oligarch is really an argument that the United States is an oligarchy, though it’s hard to make a solid case for that conclusion.

But the view that it’s moving in that direction is shared by some scholars who see the political influence of the super-wealthy class — the “one percenters” — growing commensurately with the almost unrestricted flow of their money into politics thanks to the roll-back of campaign finance regulations.

WATCH | Michael Moore on why he’s backing Bernie to beat Trump:

Filmmaker Michael Moore is backing Bernie Sanders and has a lot to say about it (and about Canada). His extended conversation with CBC’s Paul Hunter. 5:34

The mere fact of the billionaire Bloomberg’s self-financed campaign, then, is enough for some to conclude he is trying to buy the presidency, and that his success would be another step along the road to an oligarchy of sorts.

Sanders is not a Democrat and Bloomberg was a registered Republican when he ran for mayor of New York City. That stacked on top of everything else makes it hard to imagine a bigger bonfire of Democratic traditions than a showdown between them for the soul of the party this summer.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders is accompanied by his wife Jane O’Meara Sanders and other relatives as he speaks at his New Hampshire primary night rally in Manchester, N.H., U.S., February 11, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar (REUTERS)

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